November 15, 2016

What's New in the Studio - Mini Prints

        Actually, what’s “new in the studio” has mostly been happening outside the studio: I’ve been carving a lot of blocks at my recent spate of shows, but now that I am back in the studio, I’ll be printing them.  Today’s printing is two mini blocks I’ve designed to be able to pair together or stand separately.
        My mini prints are very small images that I frame up in miniature frames and sell for $10.  They’ve all been very popular.  They’re cheap enough for an impulse buy with cash on hand, small enough to carry away in a purse, the right price for little thank you gifts or hostess gifts, and small enough to fit somewhere on your desk or dresser even if you don’t have any wall space.  At that price I’m obviously not going to get rich from them any time soon, but they’re fun.  They’re my opportunity to explore ideas that don’t warrant a whole big block.  It’s a challenge to think of things that are simple enough to fit in about two inches square, but are still detailed enough to be interesting, and are iconic enough that they’re meaningful and pleasing to people all on their own.
        So, over the past few years I’ve generally tried to have two mini prints available at all my shows.  As one sells out, I think of the next one.  This time I’ve made two at once, so I’ll end up with three until something sells out.  It will be fun to see which sells out first, kittens or puppies, or whether people like to keep them as a pair.
        From a technical perspective, in some ways the little blocks are just as much work as big ones.  The carving is much quicker and easier certainly, but the printing turned out to be surprisingly frustrating.  For one thing, the ink didn’t want to be the right consistency, but I’ve also concluded that with the tiny blocks it works much better to use a thin paper.  The smaller the block, the less surface area of ink there is for the paper to stick to, and this morning the thicker paper I tried kept shifting and leading to smudged prints.  The thinner paper, on the other hand, stayed put and gave a clean print.  I inked and pressed the puppy 45 times, with two complete cleanings of the block in the middle, in order to get a decent edition of twelve.  Oof.  At that rate $10 isn’t enough!  On the other hand, the kitten block, with different ink, took me fewer than 20 tries.  Finally, matting and framing takes about the same amount of time and effort regardless of size, but of course it uses much less material and can be done with the scraps of mat board that are too small for anything else, which is satisfying.  I imagine I have a little while before I sell out of these, but I’ll still be mulling possibilities for the next mini print.

[Pictures: Forever Puppy, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
Forever Kitten, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
A Wish for Peace, rubber block print by AEGN, 2010;
Carolina Wren, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014;
Hedgehog, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
Seahorse, rubber block print by AEGN, 2010.]

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