Today is a printing day. I’m working with a material called Ezy Carve, rather than my usual Silk Cut Lino, because I’m constrained in both the size and nature of what I can print. Having spent the better part of seven hours working on the matrix, let’s hope that it works!
I’ll post more about today’s printing for the book launch later but I wanted to talk about some printing I did in a hotel room in Singapore. A wonderful friend, Simone, had mentioned a “50 prints in 50 hours” printing marathon and asked me if I was interested in joining in. I take an unconventional approach to printing, experimenting with a range of techniques and effectively refusing to do things in a straight-forward manner, and I saw it as a challenge to try and print in a standard hotel room, with none of my usual gear. I agreed to set up Studio Nick over in Singapore, to take part.
I’ll tell you what happened but all of the images are contained in an animated GIF below. Read what happened first, then check out the images.
On the flight over, I sketched out a quick logo for the studio: a stylised MONO for fun. (Studio Nick is fine as a name but the logo would have been a little egotistical, even for me.) This was a working trip for me, which meant that I had to fit all of my supply runs and printing into a very short period. Once I got to the hotel, I ducked out to a local book and stationery store (Kinokuniya) and picked up some brushes, crayons, a little poster colour and ink, some 220gsm paper and some plastic sleeves.
My original plan was to paint some colour onto the plastic sleeves and then print this straight onto paper. This is monotyping, because there’s no actual print matrix. I snapped some pictures from the movie “Alien” that I watched on the way over and that seemed like a plan.
But the I saw the small hotel soap and realised it was about the right size to print my MONO logo, if I could carve it with something. And that’s when it got creative. How much could I get done with those things you find in a hotel room? The soap etching was carried out with a coffee spoon and a brush end. Most of the ink I used I made myself by extracting used coffee grounds and mixing that up with water to make a passable sepia. (I later strengthened it with silver poster colour, as you’ll see later.)
As you’ll see, I managed to get a semi-decent print out of soap and coffee, and then started experimenting with other materials to see what happened. (The less said about faux-intaglio work, the better. Must try again sometime soon.)
I had so much fun doing this. I put a list of lessons learned from hotel room printing on my own FB but realised many people couldn’t see it and put it up on the Marathon feed. Here it is verbatim, for your enjoyment.
The next time you’ve got a trip, it’s actually a real blast to run off some quick prints from soap and coffee grounds. Then, during clean up, you can use what’s left of your printing block in the shower. Total recycling!
Tips for hotel room printers.
- Almost every hotel room has teeny tiny soaps that are almost useless. It turns out that this is because they are designed for print making and make excellent blocks.
- Tea spoons make quite acceptable carving styluses and barens.(If you have a small brush, use the hard end as that’s great.)
- Hotel windows make great light boxes (during the day).
- Soap is absorbent (duh) so watch your liquid levels as you have a limited time to print and, the more you print, the softer the block gets unless you let it dry out. When in doubt, just print.
- Coffee grounds make a tolerable sepia, with 3D effect.
- Poster colours and coffee don’t mix well but they do mix. Use that opacity in your favour!
- Coffee cups and saucers can be used as mixing stations.
- Hotel rooms are full of textures for rubbing, to add background.
- The space above the bar fridge is toasty and makes a great drying rack.
- Work in the bathroom, if you can. Everything in there is designed to be cleaned easily and you won’t make any mess for the cleaning staff.
It’s awesome fun. I’m going to do this again!