Plants of the Printmaking Studio

Maggie Wiebe
Senior, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design

Medium

Handmade book made with laser engraved etchings printed on lokta paper and kozo paper, using handmade indigo pigment etching ink

Abstract 

Often we forget that many of the things we use on a daily basis come from natural sources, and that we rely on our natural environment to provide for us. The goal of this book is to recenter the plant products I regularly interact with in my art practice as a printmaker. The book is made using hand drawn illustrations of each plant, that were then scanned and laser engraved onto plexiglass so they could be printed as intaglio plates. The ink used for this book is made from indigo pigment, which was mulled in combination with linseed oil.

Often we forget that many of the things we use on a daily basis come from natural sources, and that we rely on our natural environment to provide for us. The goal of this book is to recenter the plant products I regularly interact with in my art practice as a printmaker. Each page features a plant, it’s common and scientific name, a brief description of it’s use in the printmaking studio, and a small drawing of it’s processed form. The book is made using hand drawn illustrations of each plant, that I then scanned and laser engraved onto plexiglass so they could be printed as intaglio plates. The ink used for this book is made from indigo pigment, which I mulled in combination with linseed oil.

The process of making this book helped me better understand which parts of each plant we use and why. Mulberry and gampi papers are made using the bast fibers of their stems, also known as the phloem. These fibers are long and strong, which allows for thinner, stronger paper. On the other hand, cotton paper is made from the seed fibers of the plant, which are much shorter, resulting in thicker and more absorbent paper. Each of these papers have different properties and uses because of the part of the plant they come from. Another process I learned about is the way resins and gums are harvested from trees. Very thin pieces of bark are removed from the trunk of the tree, and the resin drips from the tree and is collected in a bucket. The excretion from the Senegalia Senegal becomes gum arabic, which is vitale to lithography because of it’s ability to dissolve in water. Pine resin is refined into rosin, whose ability to melt and reharden is used for aquatint. The stretchy quality of the refined latex from rubber trees is how we have rubber gloves, which are used in the studio to protect our hands from solvents. Though these aren’t all of the plants included in my book, they give an idea of the different scientific processes and properties that are the reason plants are used in the printmaking studio.

Making this book has changed how I think about the tools and materials I use in my art practice, as well as in my day to day life. My hope is that by showing others how many plants are necessary in this one studio, they will begin to think about how many plants and natural resources they rely on in their everyday life.