Mokum A: Ed Catley at LetterpressAmsterdam

In 2018, Shropshire based artist Ed Catley travelled to the Netherlands three times to develop a process that enabled him to rework his large scale woodcuts and mini-prints.

‘I was aware of William Blake’s relief etchings – a method of etching in which the parts of the design that take the ink are raised above the surface of the plate rather than incised into it. You just need to apply the image with a resist, drop the plate in acid and the negative space just fizzes away’.

In April, Ed discovered that magnesium plates can produce a very crisp image –– and that he could take prints from the plates in the same way as from a woodcut.

In August, Ed returned to Amsterdam with a more ambitious project. James, 2018 was built as a four-step relief etching exploring tonal variation and simultaneous contrast. This new project enabled him to develop more tonal variation in his work, and progress from the simpler compositions realised in April. This time four plates were etched and then printed in three shades of grey and a solid black.

 “I loved the way the one-step relief prints flipped from black to white, but in this four-step relief print, flips also happened between tints, shades and mid-tones.”

It was the hottest day of the summer, and a set of states and progressive proofs were made in just a few hours - no one had ever seen ink dry that fast!

In October – after a couple of month’s evaluation and reflection - Ed spent an entire week in Amsterdam. This time he prepared an ambitious print schedule for the manufacture of five variants. The main event was a two-step relief etching, printing opaque white and solid black inks on Landor Grey paper.

“Rather than mixing ink for a mid-tone, I decided to use a mid-tone paper. I had seen this done in Renaissance Chiaroscuro Woodcuts. The Landor Grey provided the mid-tone, then I just printed the highs and the lows.”

The extra time was spent printing one-step relief prints. Firstly, solid black ‘positive’ plates on white Zerkal paper. Secondly, opaque silver ‘negative’ plates on black Arches paper.

“I would like to recommend travelling to new places to create new work. The prints I have produced this year have a bit of magic about them”.

All printing was done on a Vandercook Universal I at LetterpressAmsterdam.         instagram: ed_catleystudio