Development of the Wood & Wire Matrices for Relief Printmaking with Traditional Letterpress Equipment

In letterpress, I am pursuing process-based research into alternative printing matrices that can be successfully combined with traditional tools and processes. To this end, I have developed a unique composite matrix that allows for nimble and reactive action at the press. Printmaking is valued for the ability to create multiples but equally exciting is spontaneous innovation that happens when standing at the press with no defined outcome. This embodiment of process fosters conceptual and theoretical connections that happen differently from when you approach the press with a fully realized plan. 

The technical research includes the refinement of a composite matrix made from wood veneer, vinyl, and steel shim material. These modular components are rendered type high when placed on a magnetic base and can be printed using standard letterpress equipment. The nature of the modular matrix also allows it to be printed by hand or on a typical intaglio press. The magnetic base was once the standard studio base for printing from letterpress photopolymer plates but with the popularity and ease of plastic backed printing plates, these costly magnetic bases have been languishing unused for years in many studios. The impetus for this research came through printing found steel strips by hand on an intaglio press and considering ways to reuse the components while also creating a stable matrix that would support accurate registration and small editions.

I have a habit of picking up materials and after printing on the intaglio press, it occurred to me that if I could engineer a matrix so that when placed on the magnet would render it type high, then I could use press in a more experimental way. Multiple materials and tests were done to strike upon the right combination that is stable yet easily maneuvered on and off the magnet. I have also attempted to use materials that can be used without special equipment. The wood veneer, vinyl and steel can all be cut with scissors and they are laminated with a double sided sheet adhesive. The wire is a range of gauges from very fine up to 16 gauge which is almost exactly type high when placed on the magnetic base.

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