When the intricately-detailed illustrated flamingo graphic passed through our platemaking service, we were eager to learn more about what was to become of this plate and the resulting final pulled print. The printer behind the design, Dana Kadison, let us in on how the illustration project came to be and how she turned a long-mused-over concept into reality.
Dana filled us in on beautiful (and long-term) project details: “As a photographer and collector, I have built a library of images and ephemera that is the foundation for an ongoing series based on the Mexican bingo game Loteria. Currently there are eight Loteria images. Each one exists in more than one “state”: my CMYK proofs, which will eventually have reverses and be printed as cards in a boxed set; monoprints, which I produce whenever I want to work out an idea or a reverse (like the Yeats Mariachis); soon, the editioned prints which include letterpress layers; and finally, Ofrendas, of which the Flamingo is the first. The Ofrendas, or offerings, are simpler statements of the ideas in the Loteria card series.”
“The Flamingo Ofrenda is casual and references Jose Guadalupe Posada’s work. About two years ago, inspired by a set of Players cigarette cards, I was thinking about, and scratching, all kinds of birds, particularly finches, but also hornbills, crossbeaks, frogmouths, macaws, etc., and finally settled on a flamingo for card #2. The flamingo, for Americans at least, is undeniably iconic and the males and females look alike.”
“Now there is a suite of 8 images ready for editioning on 18×24 sheets of paper. Each one synthesized from a myriad of “stuff”: you know, the words, texts, images, objects, conversations that make up a life. And the first thing I wanted to add to each image is the text that will be on the reverse each of card when they become actual cards. For the viewer the text would be a clue to what I was thinking. Of course I wanted it in my own handwriting. And this is where letterpress comes into play. It all started with the idea of plates of text in my own handwriting.”
“So I took a class at Robert Blackburn on a Vandy 4. The flamingo, my first plate from Boxcar, was for that class. Using that Vandercook 4, I printed the flamingo two ways, straight and then over monotypes. All the prints have the same degree of impression. I like the straight prints, but am still deciding about paper. The monotype backgrounds please me the most, perhaps because I did not try to register them with the plate. Knowing that, once set, the Vandy would take care of itself, part of this exercise was to let go of the urge to register. While all of this is happening, I did press my first image with Pilar Nadal at Pickwick Independent Press in Portland ME.”
“Letterpress is an aesthetically and physically freeing experience. We all know that paper is not really 2D, that it has depth. Letterpress layers add visible texture that can be seen with or without ink. And a letterpress registers. It is a little unsettling to use a press, completely unlike pulling the screens myself. Atmospheric conditions in the NYC studio are so variable and water-based inks misbehave in such interesting and frustrating ways that achieving consistency in CMYK prints takes great physical and mental stamina.
With letterpress I can imagine more and physically achieve more. For the editions of the first 8 images, I chose to set the 6.5×10.25 card faces on 18×24 sheets of paper and handwrite the text from each reverse below the screenprint of its card face. The handwritten texts are becoming letterpress plates. And there was more beautiful white space available. So parts of the reverse images are now finding their places as letterpress in that white space. For example, #2 will be embedded in the enlarged body of my scratchwork flamingo.”
A large heaping round of thanks out to Dana for letting us get a sneak peek at the brilliant flamingo designs!