One of the things I like about etching aluminium with saline sulphate is the great depth of etch that it is possible to get. I’ve wasted an awful lot of research time trying to get the same depth of etch on aluminium with electro-etch. I’ve now found I can get the depth of etch I want by electro-etching mild steel, it takes a while but it is worth it.
I made a silicon mold from one of my old plates, coated the inner surface with conductive paint and placed it as a cathode in an electrolytic cell using copper sulphate as an electrolyte. Copper formed on the inside of the mold making an exact copy of the original plate.
Some more prints from the current series.
I took four prints from each plate. The textures achieved with electro-etch respond best to being treated the same way as collagraph matrix. I’ve also been using a technique that Andrew Baldwin describes as ‘double drop’, a plate is first printed in one colour then over printed in a second colour from the same plate.
The plates that these prints are made from started life as electro-etch test pieces. They are all made from electro-etched aluminium. It is a soft metal that etches deeply and in the areas of open bite provides a tooth that holds ink really well. Peter Wray, in his article on saline sulphate etching in Print Making Today, describes it as a natural aquatint. Although aluminium is soft the depth and quality of the etch achieved with electro-etch appears to hold out really well against the pressure of the press. I have plates that have been through the press thirty times with little effect on the quality of print obtained.
I have been spending a lot more time in the print studio recently and have had two insights:
- Printmaking requires a level of mindfulness that I aspire towards rather than have achieved.
- Life is far to short for editioning.
There were others of a more personal and negative disposition about competence but…
This zinc plate has been allowed to corrode all the way through in places. The original batteries made to produce electricity in the 1830s were made by hanging a plate of copper and one of zinc in a solution of copper sulphate. Thomas Spencer observed that copper was deposited on the copper plate (the cathode, negative pole) and that the zinc (anode, positive pole) was etched.He and John Wilson patented this process in 1840.
This plate was made by shorting out such a battery.