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Ochre’s Artists in Residence, Alex and Ros were both lucky enough to attend Mai’s course in February.

We had both created work using this process before, but not using the BIG safe etching process and we had a very enjoyable weekend with Mai learning this technique along with a great group of fellow artists.

We were given a copper and an aluminium plate. We bevelled the edges of these to make them safe to go through the press and we degreased them, not with the normal- and quite- revolting ammonia, but with soy sauce and whiting.

Applying the ground was easier than the traditional process too – the ground comes ready in a tube and is rolled out and applied like ink on lino. It has to be hardened in the oven for a short time and, after cooling, is ready for etching.

As ever – give 6 artists exactly the same materials and you will still have a huge variety of output and this was the case, of course. People used a range of etching tools and methods to mark the plates and a variety of methods for stopping out such as wax crayons, sharpies, and aquatint paste.

Aquatinting itself traditionally involves applying and heating a rosin ‘dust’. The BIG method is much kinder: an aquatint solution is sprayed onto the plate from a small air spray.  Mai had an excellent range of examples of work and timings so that we could see how to create the tonal values we wanted depending on the amount of time we etched for.

We also had time to try using coffee lift – literally instant coffee and hot water. What we found most interesting was that, regardless of how thickly or thinly the solution was applied, there was no difference in outcome and to create a greater variety of tone would require further processes.

There is much more, but suffice to say, it was a great weekend which resulted in much enthusiasm for the process and some great pieces of work. Thank you, Mai!A Happy Man by Alexandra Sivov