John Babcock’s print “Fifty-eight Houses/Fifty-eight Dreams” was included in the CSP 98th Annual Membership Exhibition at the Alameda Library. John graciously offered to tell us about his piece, since many of the Member were intrigued with his incorporation of color and paper in his blind embossed print. Enjoy! -Ed.
I am interested in symbols and hieroglyphics, occasionally using certain ones in my work. I use the triangle or pyramid shape to signify or represent a house or shelter, an elemental and basic human need.. A series of triangles together could be a group of humanity, a town or city. In this print the triangle symbolizes shelter in a document format.
The plate was made from 1/8″ mahogany plywood and I carved out the triangles with a knife. Each print from this series is unique because I make a special sheet of paper for each print.
To make the paper, I first beat a batch of white cotton pulp and pigmented it off white with a small amount of yellow ochre and black iron oxide pigment. In another batch of cotton pulp I added carbon black pigment and black iron oxide to create an almost black pulp. A small batch of abaca fiber pulp was then made to match the off-white cotton.
The paper sheet was poured rather than vat moulded. I used a large screen on a flat table and blocked out the size of paper needed for this print. Then I divided this space with a Plexiglas strip. On one side, I poured the white pulp and on the other, the black. I removed the plexi strip and worked the two pulps together. Last I poured the abaca fiber pulp in a gestural motion. (The abaca fiber pulp will only show up from a specific angle in the cotton base sheet when light is reflected off it.) The sheet was dried overnight.
I ran the dry paper through the press, maximum pressure with no dampening. The un-calendared paper is soft enough to pick up all detail. I size the paper after printing.