here’s another obscure technique to add to the list: linoleum woodblock printing with a laser etching machine. as it turns out, with a little trial-and-error, technology actually may be a great companion to the ancient practice of printmaking. and while laser etching on to a piece of plexi and using it as an intaglio plate is very much possible, it involves a lot more machinery and expensive materials than the good old wood cut.
if you’ve done woodblock printing before, you know that you begin with a piece of material (wood, or in this case, linoleum) and carve away your design, with the non-carved areas (high points) being what will print. this works well for hand-drawn designs, but for precision, even a steady hand can sometimes cut away too much or make an uneven line. so last semester, i sent out some unmounted easy-cut lino and some very precise computer files to see what kind of detail was possible with the laser machine. i chose to keep with my OK Soda theme, since a big part of the aesthetic of the brand was the clean-cut, industrial text and the layering of multiple images (that is, it had to be exact but would be hard to do with a silkscreen unless i wanted to make a ton of different screens with the appearance of randomness).
so i digitally recreated a bunch of logos (each a few inches wide) and lines of small text (1/2 cm to 1cm in height) from the sides of various cans and sent them off. the laser machine will only etch so deep, and it’s not deep enough. it gets the detail lines really well (see the text on the lino– on some of them, it’s only 5 millimeters tall!), but for large gaps, the roller will dip into the open space and leave you a big mess. below are my final blocks, after being used about a million times (sorry about the grime). you’ll see that i had to go in with hand tools and x-acto knives on all of them to deepen the carvings. that being said, all the exact work was done for me. for contrast, the block of the hand holding a barcode was carved entirely by hand. printing was relatively easy, i just used the stamping method. to make sure every detail printed, i used the back of a wooden spoon to press over the whole stamp before removing it. i tested it on scrap white fabric and then moved on to my t-shirts and then, the symbol of the OK era, the flannel shirt.
why OK Soda? the short story is that it was a fruity soda that Coke released and marketed toward Gen-X’ers (grunge kids) in the early 90’s. their marketing focused on being the indifferent choice and, as you could imagine, they failed miserably at marketing to the unmarketable. the failure of the soda was so epic that the soda never left its test markets and it was soon forgotten. but, nearly 20 years later, fan groups are popping up on the internet and vintage soda cans are selling on ebay. so now, the chronically overmarketed soda which is no longer in existence once again has demand because of its lack of availability. sounds like the paradox of an artist and his art, eh? (that is, that an artists work is never appreciated until he or she is dead).
oh, also i really like the art from the cans. i kind of just wanted merchandise of a brand that never made merchandise (but if it had, nobody would have worn it).
ok, enough typing! here are the final shirts (click to zoom):
inspired by the overlapping logo design here:
(printed on the side of a flannel shirt)
(slightly harder to see– hand with barcode on the back of a flannel shirt, framed by plaid patterned text. the hand was taken from this can)
my printing got really sloppy toward the end (especially visible on the 2nd to last one). i was trying to make a deadline on very little sleep and just gave up wearing gloves– my ink-covered fingers were all over the shirts, as were the dirty edges of the blocks. i guess you’ll just have to trust me that printing these is a total dream.
that’s all for now. i promise sometime soon there will be a post about knitting! i’m finally making progress on a bunch of WIP’s and i have a few little FO’s to share. but in the mean time, here are a few of my photos of the 4th of july fireworks this past weekend in NYC. we had an amazing view from the roof. hope you like them 🙂