Project 12: Collatype collage prints – ‘silence. is’ series

Further to my last tutor report she recommended I look at a website about book arts. She was not saying I should produce an artist book but more felt it was a useful resource to discover  contemporary printmakers’ work but after looking at this I felt inspired to create a book, considering it fits with the ideas of text and narrative that are filtering into my work.

I scanned in a number of my sketches that I had previously produced in my sketchbook and manipulated them into a square format. I also added in the first two lines of text from the EE Cummings poem.

These I traced onto 10cm square pieces of mountboard and produced plates utilising different methods.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE


I knew that I would have difficulty cutting the letters out at this small scale. Luckily the friend who lent me her embossing machine also recently acquired a cutting machine, so I was able to scan my image into her system and cut these out. I wanted to try both embossed and debossed versions of these.

The ‘looking bird’ was hand cut out of card then covered with gloss medium.

I decided to add the graph which signified the decline of the yellowhammers’ population – one using card and wire and the other with embroidery thread. I did them both way around not knowing which way was best.

The egg I made using various thicknesses of paper and card overlaid and adding textured elements using sand and glue.

The dead bird with wings outstretched was made by tearing the mountboard to reveal the shape.

The hanging bird was made using plaster, engraved with different tools to create texture.

To symbolise barbed wire I  made a plate with wood glue which had carborundum sprinkled on.

The next bird shape was created by cutting the shape out of card and sticking that on top of a mountboard plate that had been covered with clue then carborundum.

I wanted to try drypoint so produced an image of a bird in the hand.

Finally the last bird shape was made by using a stencil to block out the shape and glue was placed around this – the stencil was then removed and the carborundum was then sprinkled on top of this.

I first printed these blind on dampened cartridge paper without ink to produce embossings.

I was surprised at how well some of these turned out, even without ink. Then I used ink .

This was a challenge and took a long time to master. There were lots of variables to consider in this process: pressure; consistency of ink; dampness of paper; quality of paper; quality of plate. There was lots of trials and errors and many days of work before I got to some of a reasonable standard, here are some of my failed attempts and some towards the end that were starting to improve:

I was interested by how the carborundum in particular printed much more densely on the dampened printmaking paper rather than cartridge. I wonder whether some of the atmosphere is lost in that process? Something I would like my tutor’s feedback on.

To make the ‘book’ I decided to attach the pages together with a bulldog clip, unfortunately I noticed that the back cover sheet had been resting on another surface and had left black inky residue on the blind embossing which is a shame. Hopefully if I have time I will be able to run another of these off before I send.



What worked well?

  • This set of images conveys the ideas of loss, absence and presence that I was aiming for. I think in particular the blind embossed covers are reflective of this theme.
  • I have used a large variety of processes and a number of materials to produce this series.
  • A few of the plates were very successful: barbed wire, looking bird, egg shell, decline graph alongside the blind embossed versions.

What was challenging / didn’t work well?

  • There were many challenges with this set of prints. Initially I practised using dampened cartridge paper and realised that using specific printmaking paper had a very different outcome. Unfortunately due to financial limitations I only had one sheet of the somerset satin available so was not able to practice and produce as many prints as I would have liked.
  • The inked words are possibly a bit heavy in retrospect and could have done with some further wiping.
  • The dead bird with wings outstretched was possibly overwiped – I used cotton buds so this became more of a monotype than a collagraph ( for this image I think I prefer the relief printed version above).
  • With the 2 ‘bird shape’ prints I have tried to create works that are on the border of figurative and abstraction (referencing Prunella Clough’s negative space prints) I am not sure these have been completely successful in terms of outcome.


  • I am hoping to be able to invest in some more printmaking paper and then can revisit some of the weaker prints.
  • I would perhaps make some new plates with some added textural elements in some areas.
  • When I have produced a set that I am completely happy with I intend to learn how to bind them together. I have read that Japanese stab binding would be the best method for making a book out of loose leaves.
  • For this project I chose to stick to use monochrome  as I felt that this reflected the two oppositional forces, negative space and hauntology in the best way; however I would like to have an experiment in using multi-colours in these prints at some point in the future when I have time before assessment.