Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Many years ago my husband bought me a mezzotint rocker for my birthday. I was thrilled to own such a beautiful and old fashioned tool. For those of you not familiar with mezzotints, they are a very labour intensive printmaking technique which can create some of the most beautiful and velvety prints.

Mezzotints are created by "rocking" an entire copper plate with a mezzotint rocker which creates very small indentations that will hold the ink for printing. Creating a fully rocked plate is very time consuming and it takes a great deal of skill to produce a plate that can print deep and consistent blacks. I was never able to get to that point before giving up. After spending all that time creating a fully black plate, the printmaker goes back into the plate with a scraper and burnisher to flatten and smooth out some of the rocked dots. This helps to create a variety of tones and those areas that are scraped and burnished the most will be the lightest tones. You can probably see how difficult and time consuming it would be to create an image.

From about 1700-1850 mezzotints were very prominent in printmaking, especially in England. In fact, mezzotints were a means of creating reproductions of popular paintings of the time (!). If you would like to be blown away by the abilities of these printmakers, I strongly suggest looking at "The Mezzotint" by Carol Wax. Phew, I'm exhausted just looking at them.

So suffice it to say that my mezzotint rocker ended up collecting dust and I felt pretty guilty about it. Recently I put a call out on Inkteraction to see if anyone would be interested in claiming my poor rocker and putting it to good use. Luckily for me, Brandon Sanderson of North Carolina University answered the call and bought the rocker for his students. Thrilled to pass my rocker on, Brandon also surprised me with two intaglio prints by one of the students. How cool is that? Below are photos of my latest acquisitions.

So I'm very glad to see my mezzotint rocker will see some life and I've learned the hard way to be a lot more cautious about acquiring new tools and hobbies. Encaustic painting will have to wait until I do more research I think.

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1 comment:

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