It has been great to start running ‘real’ courses again after lockdown, what a thrill as students arrived for the chine collee course, peeping nervously round the door explaining that this was their first real outing in 5 months! The initial trepidation soon evaporated and everyone felt inspired by being with people again, and sharing creative activities together. Each course has felt like a tonic for the soul and an affirmation of how much we need each other.
Space to spread out
I re-arranged the studio to include the garage as well so the groups of four had space to spread out. Despite this extra room we quickly filled every surface – there must be some law of physics that says printmakers expand to cover every available inch regardless of the area.
This is especially true with chine collee, on the two-day course we created our own papers, printing and painting with abandon, as well as finding pre-printed papers with text and photos. Once the ‘magnetic wall’ was lined with chine collee paper we started using it in prints in multiple ways.
The release from lockdown energy meant that people hardly stopped for a cup of tea – this wonderful burst of creativity produced loads of prints, all exploring different ways of combining various chine collee papers with intaglio prints. The prints shown in this post were all made on the course.
Good ideas from blog readers
I always like to experiment a bit on courses, leaving elements open to chance, and the creative inclination of everyone taking part. So on this course I decided to test out a new glueing method suggested by Robert Finch in his comment on my previous blog post about chine collee. I usually use cornstarch glue and it works pretty well, so adding an alternative option didn’t feel too risky.
In my course preparation I did test out the new method, as chine collee can be tricky at the best of times, I made a few modifications to ensure it worked, but basically it was untested.
Old Chine Collee glue rejected!
On the course I demonstrated the cornstarch glue method (see the ‘basic chine collee’ post) and then threw in the new wallpaper glue method as an option. It was interesting that after the second demo nobody even considered using the cornstarch glue, and the lumpy jelly sat in its jar ignored for the rest of the course.
We thoroughly tested the new method out and found it to be almost 100% successful, for both complete beginners and experienced printmakers alike. The few times the paper didn’t stick were discussed and unpicked so everyone understood the method and the few pitfalls to watch out for. These are described below.
What is Chine Collee?
I am not going to explain chine collee in detail as it is covered in a previous post but in a nutshell, it involves incorporating printed or painted paper in a print as an integral part of the printing process. You can introduce areas of particular colour, text or imagery and totally alter the nature of the prints, producing many different images from a single plate.
Chine collee paper is thin and must be firmly glued to the damp printing paper as it goes through the press with the inked-up plate.
Different glues to choose from
There are several glues that work for chine collee, all have merits and also downsides, here are some we discussed on the course;
- Pritt stick (or any glue stick): can pulls and tear the fragile paper, easy to miss areas and get bubbles where it hasn’t stuck down.
- Pva: this generally sticks on everything making handling the thin papers tricky. It can squeeze out round the edges preventing the ink from printing on the paper and leaving white marks. Frequently needs to be re-stuck after the print has been through the press, which is quite annoying.
- Cornstarch: needs practice to apply it evenly and avoid it splurging out, if you aren’t quick enough it dries before use and the paper lifts at the edges.
- Japanese rice paste: this glue is similar to cornstarch.
- Spraymount: some people use this but I could never get it to stick on the damp printing paper. It is expensive and as an aerosol spray, is bad for the environment.
- Wall paper glue: avoids most of these issues, and works like a dream. We were all biased but wallpaper glue is clearly top trumps in the chine collee glue stakes.
The wall paper Chine Collee method explained
Have a look at the video to see a practical demonstration of this method. Here are notes to help remind you of the different stages.
1. Prepare your glue
Wallpaper glue has flakes in it, I found that larger flakes overlap the edge of the chine collee paper and make uneven white lines in the print. To avoid this, grind the dry wallpaper glue in a pestle and mortar. The aim is to make it like a powder with no big flakes.
2. Devise a method to sprinkle the glue evenly
Put some of the powder in a muslin cloth or piece of scrim and gather up the edges to make a pounce bag, alternatively use a fine tea strainer.
3. Get everything ready;
you need to keep moving once you’ve started so the paper doesn’t dry out.
- Cut or tear the chine collee paper to the size and shape you want it
- Ink your plate up and lay it on the press bed
- Have your printing paper nice and damp and ready to go.
4. Wet the chine collee paper
Lay the chine collee papr on a pile of old newspaper.
Spray it with water in a plant spray bottle, then gently brush it with a soft brush to make sure the whole surface is evenly damp.
Move the paper to a clean dry surface, right side down.
5. Apply the glue
Sprinkle an even layer of powdered wallpaper glue all over the back of the paper.
Take care not to sprinkle too much, or uneven amounts as it can become like a layer of jelly.
Printing your plate with chine collee
Carefully lay the damp gluey chine collee paper on to your inky printing plate. Remember; GLUE SIDE UP. (Everybody gets this wrong at some point!)
Lay the damp printing paper on top, and run the whole plate-chine collee-printing paper sandwich through the press.
Very carefully and slowly peel the printing paper off the plate. If the chine collee seems to be separating try lifting the paper from a different edge.
If some areas are not completely stuck cover the print with tissue paper and rub it to glue then back down.
The chine collee should be well stuck to the paper, and its colour will show through the ink on your print.
Dry the damp prints flat between blotting paper and boards to avoid the paper cockling as it dries.
What can possibly go wrong?
The few times it failed were due to;
- the chine collee paper drying out before it went through the press, meaning the dried glue didn’t stick well.
- large flat areas of ink on the plate which the chine collee paper stuck to (rather than the printing paper)
- pulling the print off the plate too fast
Stress free Chine Collee
The glue never squeezed out, nobody got too sticky, and very little glue was wasted as the dry glue keeps well till next time.
Everyone had time to concentrate on making beautiful prints without the usual stress of rescuing patches of failed chine collee.
If you use chine collee in your prints you must try this out. I am sure your printmaking life will be improved and you may never return to your previous old glues.
As ever, your comments are welcome….