Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Late Bloomer

Piccolo Fiore, Hand-colored etching, edition of 46, 2007
 I have great respect for artists that come to work with us at Flatbed.  They come from their studios where for the most part they work in solitude to Flatbed where they work in collaboration with a master printer who guides them in their mark making through a maze of technical operations.  The objective is to create an image that can be printed from a matrix such as a copper plate in the case of etching or aluminum plate when creating a lithograph. Because this can be confusing or unfamiliar, when we work with an artist for the first time we do a small “test” plate. This initial step helps both the collaborating printer and the artist know what to expect from the technique they have chosen and how to proceed with the planned project. Occasionally our “test” plates have been so successful that they have become the finished matrix for printing an actual edition!  Terry Allen’s Caged, Suzi Davidoff’s Escobilla Study and John O’Buck’s Arcadia are three exquisite, small jewels that began as “tests.” 

Dan Rizzie signing "Piccolo Fiore"
However, there is one that almost got away from us.  It is the test that became Piccolo Fiore by Dan Rizzie.  Dan came to Flatbed for the first time in February, 1993.  He was experienced in making prints, especially monotypes and was full of enthusiasm at trying his hand at an etching at Flatbed.  Since we wanted to try an aquatint process called “sugar lift” we chose a tiny 3” x 4” copper plate for him to test the sugar-ink solution.  It was a rough plate with a few scratches.  Dan used a small brush to paint a small flower with the sugary ink onto the plate. We applied hard ground over the drawing and “lifted” the sugar ink drawing off the plate in a hot water bath.  It lifted beautifully revealing the drawing as clean copper surrounded by the dark hard ground.  Next, the plate with its image was covered with rosin powder and heated until the powder melted (aquatint.)  The prepared plate was put into the acid bath to etch the flower now seen as open copper areas. We left it while we worked with Dan on a larger plate with the same sugary ink since it had proved to lift so well. Some hours later, when we went to etch the next plate, the little Piccolo Fiore plate was discovered still in the acid, having etched for seven hours instead of one.  The acid had eaten away the edges of the plate and even through some spots on the plate, but Dan’s aquatint flower was surprisingly preserved.  We printed a few proofs of the plate, admired the “organic” quality of the plate and turned our attention to the larger print in progress. Dan kept the proofs of the little print and we put the plate away.

Fast-forward 14 years to 2007.  Dan and I had a phone conversation about our new project, Blackberry Thieves, which was in progress at Flatbed.  Dan had found our old flower proofs and wondered if we might try to print it for a small edition.  Of course we did have the plate, since we keep every old plate for our archives.  The editioned ones are struck (cancelled in some way) and a few uneditioned ones are stored and often forgotten.  Thus was Piccolo Fiore found, resurrected and printed.  Dan hand colored all the final impressions in the edition.  It is a jewel.  It is our favorite late bloomer.    
Veronica Ceci, Editioning Printer and Katherine Brimberry 

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