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.
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.
Managed to take thirty five prints from these electro-etched collaged (4 pieces) aluminium plates. I only needed twenty five for the 20 x 20 print exchange but the extras were needed to mitigate against producing twenty five mono-prints from the same plate. It didn’t work but it’s near enough! Not sure that I’m allowed ten artists proofs.
The copper plates that these prints were taken from have been both electro-etched and plated. The top of the plate for the first print was roughly plated with steel around the etched copper circle. By combining etching and plating processes the plates are sculpted and are more like collagraphs than traditional etched plates. The initial focus of my research into electro-etching was based on it being safer than traditional acid etching and it undoubtably is but the real attraction is the wider range of the mark making potential of electro-etch.
It is well known that each metal responds colouring media in different ways but probably less well known that the each metal has its own signature response to electrolysis. The next phase of the research is to explore this through the making process.
Electro-etching has been around since 1840 when Spencer and Wilson were granted a patent for it. Gottfried Wilson Osann recommended the process to his fellow scientists to illustrate their own books claiming that it was so easy done on their own desks. Despite the ease of use, the lack of toxic fumes and that the process bites fine precise lines it has not so far been widely accepted within the printmaking community.