Demythologising electro- etch

“If two plates of copper be connected with the opposite ends of a voltaic battery, in a vesessel containing very dilute sulphuric acid, the plate connected with the copper of the battery will be attacked by the anion oxygen which is released during the decomposition of the acid”.

“By alternately exposing the plates to the action of the decomposing fluid and stopping out parts of the work, the required gradation in tints is obtained.”

Battery 1850
Battery 1850

“Electro-etching has the advantage of being free from the exhalation of any deleterious gas, but the apparatus required involving a battery and an extra copper plate, is more cumbrous, and the process itself more complicated, and does not appear to have been adopted for artistic work to any considerable extent.”

Chattock, R. S. (1883) Practical Notes on Etching. (2nd. edition) London: Sampson Low, Marston, Seale, & Rivington.

Although; the equipment we now have at our disposal is more effective, efficient and certainly can’t be described as cumbrous; the myth of complexity still sticks to electro-etching. Colin Gale and Megan Fishpool offer a key to demythologise the process in their excellent book ‘The Printmakers Bible’. They describe electro-etching as being “A reasonably complicated process and there are very few printmaking workshops with the equipment and ability to host it”. We are currently exploring the possibility of providing the equipment, training, and support fro electro-etching at The Regional Print Centre in Wrexham. If we can make this happen, it will help other artists to explore the mark making potential of electro-etch.


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