Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Durer? Lame.

"Tired of people borrowing your things, then forgetting they're yours? Wish you had a way to instantly identify things that belong to you?" Do you ask yourself these questions once or twice a year? If so, then Engrave-it may be for you! I was perusing an end-cap display at the Target everything store and this particular end-cap was dedicated to "as seen on T.V." products. Awesome? It gets better. My eyes settled upon this great hand held engraving tool. In printmaking world, I've heard this tool called a vibrograver (although that may be a janky term used only in that shop). It makes a terrible noise, and works basically like a very small and not so powerful jackhammer with a "hardened carbide oscillating micro-tip", which enables you to "engrave" words, or anything you like, into almost anything: tools, lamps, your wood floor, bikes, cans, your face. The possibilities are endless and amazingly cool. After two months of ownership, I figure that people probably realize that all of their stuff is now covered with names and stupid pictures in an incredibly messy, barely legible, scrawl. It takes some pretty intense control to have proper "penmanship" with this tool, therefore everything looks like it's been touched by a second grader. I'm also pretty sure that it will not take long before some misguided youth jerry-rig this bad boy into a makeshift tattoo gun. (don't do it kids, you'll have that picture of "insert video game hero here" on your buttox forever).

I must say though, it's pretty cool that this tool is encouraging people to "engrave" everything. For a mere $6.99 at Target, or more dollars on T.V., everyone on this planet can be one step closer to being a master engraver. Now, I've got to run so I can go engrave a copy of Melancholia onto the side of my car. I suggest you do the same.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the mr. potatohead of the printmaking world

It's about time someone said something about the new look of the Speedball Cutter. This tool, commonly used for carving relief matricies, is inexpensive and has always been super reliable. As the picture above illustrates, it is possible for one to own multiple cutters and still have money left over for eating, ink, and paper. It is made of a plastic handle and a little doodad at the bottom, which can be tightened and loosened, to accommodate specially made gouge cutters of various sizes. The dome top of the cutter can pop off to reveal a hollow interior where the blades may be stored when not in use. It's brilliant, like Mr. Potatohead for Printmakers. Many moons ago, this cutter was bright orange. The company switched the color to the maroon color, pictured attached to the two leftmost fingers. When this switch from orange to maroon happened, the integrity of the tool was kept fully intact. Recently however, Speedball has changed from the classic maroon color to a variety of new and "hip" colors like blue, hot pink, neon green, and yellow. I like colors, so I purchased a few to try them out, and here is what I think.

The new tool is total garbage.

The metal part at the bottom, which adjusts to fit a blade, now has a rougher exterior. I suppose the reasoning behind this was to provide more tooth so a person's finger does not slip while carving. If however, you are good at what you do, you won't slip anyway, and with this new added tooth you will wind up with some big old blisters all over your hands. The old maroon cutter was slightly textured, for a non-skid quality, but apparently it was not good enough, so they made it even worse. In addition, this rougher texture rubs against the fingers more and actually causes the fixture holding the blade in place to loosen as you are working, making for a more dangerous situation. I never had a problem keeping the blades tight in the old maroon cutters. The second thing I would like to point out is that the dome lid to the hideaway compartment is now a screw top. I think this is numero uno on the lame list today. What was the point of doing this? Printmakers are generally rustic people, capable of popping a top off of a plastic tool. Now, I suppose, this tool is more friendly for the younger users. I guess this makes sense though, since the only place where relief printing exists is in high school. Don't get me wrong, I think it is important that people of all ages make prints, but perhaps they should market this cutter as the "arthritis friendly version", or "kid tested", and still sell the old faithful for us diehards. Perhaps if the person wielding the tool cannot pop the lid off, they should not be in charge of an implement that can cause so much destruction, for danger of hurting themselves or others. My last complaint is that instead of the nice curvy logo and the word "Speedball" in block letters stamped in relief into the side of the tool, the word "Speedball" is now the only thing stamped, in a wussy script, into the side of the tool. Nothing about their font choice represents the essence of printmaking. 

Now, I don't know if anyone else is up in arms about this disastrous feat of engineering because not many people are all that into relief printing anyway. It's probably a moot point. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the best worst poem EVER.

If you are fortunate enough to own a "Stupidest Things Ever Said" page-a-day calendar, then perhaps you already noticed this. I'm banking on the fact that you don't, and haven't. A dear friend of mine alerted me that today's stupidest thing ever said was a poem, titled The Sprig of Moss, that contained a stanza about lithography and its inventor Alois Senefelder. I was not satisfied with a mere stanza and sought out the poem on the world wide web navigation system (the thing we use until computers fail and printmaking takes over the world). I found not only a few more juicy quips to accompany the first, but an entirely huge poem written about the discovery of lithography. It is simply craptastic. If it were a taste, it would taste like cat toes and caviar, or perhaps better yet, eggs benedict drizzled with a toe jam hollandaise. 

Unfortunately, I can not include the entire text of the poem here. I could, but it is long, and it's best you read it on the official website because you will definitely want to peruse more of William Topaz McGonnagal's ensnaring and delightfully terrible works. Arguably the worst poet to write in the English language, I believe McGonnagal has rightfully earned a spot in the prestigious "Stupidest Things Ever Said" page-a-day calendar. I will leave you with a sampling of this poem, sure to whet your palette.

P.S. - I especially like how he rhymes "day" with "Lithography", which insinuates that we are to pronounce the word "lithographay", which is just plain ridiculous. I'm sure this is some sort of writer's trick, "creative license" type schlop. William Topaz McGonnagal, hats off to you my friend, for you are truly a terrible writer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Printmaking is Everywhere

I got home today and checked the electronic mail, only to find an email titled "Printmaking is Everywhere". A friend of mine, who is a freelance proofreader, sent me an image from her "Dover samples email", which I can only presume is some sort of proofreading related thing. This friend, although all English on the outside, moonlights as a printmaking revolutionary. If printmaking has infiltrated things like proofreading, then I can begin to restore my faith in humanity.

I think the text in the image may be unreadable, in that case this is what it says:

Woodblock-print craftsmen. Perhaps the best known product of the Edo period in the Western world is the woodblock print, or ukio-e ("floating world picture"). The townsmen of the day liked to see the subjects dearest to their hearts: actors in roles, beautiful women, famous places, wrestlers and entertainers, scenes of everyday life. Much of what we know about the period we have learned from such pictures (and a number of the illustrations in this book are based on them). The artist painted a design in black outline on thin paper. The blockcarver (background) affixed the design to a woodblock and followed the artists lines, cutting through the paper. A different block was carved for each color wanted (unless a given color was designed from a combination of two others). The printer (foreground) pulled the prints from the blocks after pigments had been applied to them. 

Please note: this description includes craftsMEN and townsMEN. I was beginning to believe there were no women in the Edo period. Thankfully though, it seems as though they existed as beautiful objects, as depicted in woodblock prints. Whew. I was beginning to think this culture was sexist.