Pressing Comforts

Winter has finally landed in Chicago. The light thought-bubble clouds merged to form a blanket of gray that dumped the first snowfall of the season. And, although I'd been dreading the coming of winter, the hush that enveloped the streets as the fat, clumsy, white flakes tumbled down forced me to pause and look up in reverence.

In winter here, sidewalks turn into skating rinks and my skin turns reptilian. There is something nice about being forced indoors in the first few days of cold, of piling on the layers, making coffee, and gathering up the projects that have been gathering dust when sunnier, warmer days lured you outside. I've been spending a lot of time at my jeweler's bench and have several projects near completion, though they are not polished enough just yet. My other creative outlet has been printmaking.

Ever since coming back to Chicago this summer and reconnecting with a former neighbor and artist friend, Dorian Allworthy, I have been able to produce several etching plates and refresh my memory of the printing process. The element of surprise, an inherent part of the process never stops being a thrill. Cranking the printing press' wheel feels akin to steering the helm of a ship, and I am charged with anticipation of the moment when the pressed paper is peeled from the plate.

My first plates were from photos I'd taken while in Istanbul. After a few sessions of these plates, Dorian suggested that I make plates from life. I gathered objects that I had around the house and arranged them into small still lives, realizing as I did it that the objects were mostly Turkish- a cezve, a tulip-adorned bowl filled with fall apples, a Turkish urn. "These plates have a longing to them," Dorian told me, running a finger on them and reading their lines like a palm. It is true that I've been missing aspects of my life in Istanbul very much of late. She encouraged me to continue to make them and I think I will.

A new technique that I learned about is one called Chine-Collé, a technique by which a thinner paper is applied to an area of the print with glue during the printing process. The first step in this technique was to stir up a glue from rice flour and water, by mixing the two in a heavy metal pot and stirring continuously until the mixture thickened. Then we cut paper of a different color to apply to the part of the inked plate we wanted the patch of color to shine through. The measuring of the paper was very approximative and involved a few pieces of paper mosaic-ed together. We brushed the end that would go on the paper with glue and laid them on the plate that was ready to print. The result was beautiful! A streak of color piercing the black and white. I am looking forward to playing around with this technique a bit more.

And so, as I brace myself for the start of a harsh Chicago winter, I take comfort in the fact that it'll give me the space and time to practice printmaking and metalsmithing. With a warm beverage within reach and a space to play and create, I'll be just fine.

Turkish Urn

Copper plate

Cozy studio

Turkish Coffee

Zinc plate

Chine collé 

Vendor on the Bosphorus

Barbershop at Hadarpaşı Garı

Ginko on snow

Frosty skyline

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