I love collecting wooden printmaking letters. Their well-used, rustic nature makes them so beautiful. I have tried to print from them a couple of times. Unfortunately, I don’t own a press, nor do I have easy access to one, so pulling a good hand print of these hard wooden letters isn’t very easy.
I had an idea some time ago about making a casting out of clay, then printing with that. I already had Super Sculpey moldable clay (made by Polyform) sitting in my studio and decided it was finally time to give this a try.
I quickly discovered that — of course — I could not use the wooden letters because a casting of them would create a reverse of the letters, meaning that when I went to print them, the image would actually be backwards and unreadable.
Then I remembered that I had a couple of sets of children’s alphabet blocks in my studio, and that was it! I would cast them, and see if my idea would work.
First I set out to create the Sculpey base art. Molding the clay in my hand until it was soft, I then used my marble roller to roll it flat. I positioned the roller between two magazines on each side so that the rolled-out clay would be flat and even, and about a 1/4-inch thick.
Once the clay was nicely rolled, I picked out the word “LOVE” in blocks, and pressed each block into the Sculpey clay (reversed left to right so the print would show the correct way around).
Next, I cut a border around the letters to make a square shape (using a X-Acto knife) to follow the design I had in mind for the card I would create.
Once I had the hardened base art, I brought the piece back to the studio to print. Rolling it with red ink, I followed the printing technique I use for all my prints: I laid the card stock on the block and burnished the back. The printed word LOVE turned out fabulous! Kind of gritty and incomplete-looking, but I loved it. I enjoy trying something new because you never quite know how it will turn out. These are always the best surprises!
The cards went up on my line to dry for about a week — good thing I was planning ahead because the red ink I use really seems to take its time drying.
The next step to complete the card was to add my two love birds. I carved a silhouette of two birds facing each other so that the negative space between them formed a heart shape. This part of the base art was carved out of a piece of soft linoleum I had in my studio (never throw out your scraps!).
Once inked, I stamped the birds directly onto my printed LOVE cards. Typically when I do printmaking, I leave the inked block face-up on the table, then place the paper down on the block … but because I had to line the birds up directly over the printed word, I needed to see the printed card art.
With the love birds on, the cards go back on the line to wait for drying and signing.
The other card “Just Us Two” is a one-color print carved from a linoleum base. It also features birds and hearts (a bit of a theme going here!).
These cards (and my other Valentine’s cards) are now available to purchase on my online Etsy shop for $7 each.
I’m sure I will find more uses for my alphabet blocks. Printing these letters — with the help of Sculpey clay — is just too much fun!