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Collagraph prints: Printmaking for all!

Disclaimer: This post has a focus on school teachers, however this is also intended as a resource for anyone looking to get into printmaking, in a studio or at home! Especially, parents who are looking for ways to make art at home without spending a fortune of materials.

Today's post was inspired by a recent purchase at Ikea, well more like the box that the purchase came in :)

We've heard from so many teachers that we've worked with that they find it challenging to integrate art into other areas of study in the curriculum. For many, it can be intimidating, especially when art is not your comfort zone. I think this feeling is natural, and we hope to be a resource for anyone who feels a little nervous about bringing ART into language, science, math, social studies, history. STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) is a way of learning and viewing education that has been gaining popularity in the US and with many Canadian schools embracing arts integration programs teachers are looking for ways to be more fluent in the language of art.

We love printmaking for so many reasons, but a big one is that there are so many different ways to engage with printmaking! Our programs focus on silkscreening and relief block printing processes, however these can require some specialized equipment that not all schools and teachers have access to. Most of the schools we have visited have printmaking brayers - similar to the ones in the picture.

Image source:

e. If you're getting into printmaking at home look into some und but not entirely sure how to best use or care for these tools. If you don't have brayers and want to get into printmaking they are not terribly costly and can be a shared classroom or school tool. Therefore you don't need a full class set for each class, start with a small set that you can share between multiple classes. We've found brayers for as low as $7! For something that, when cared for properly, can used over and over and over again spending $10-$20 for a brayer is quite reasonable. If you're getting into printmaking at home look into some kits like this one, they will do great and you'll have so much fun playing around! With a brayer and some ink you can really do so many different forms of printmaking.

Today's post is going to focus on Collagraph printmaking. This is a great one for the classroom because you, the teacher, do not have to be the one sourcing and purchasing materials. YAY! It can be done with some simple printmaking tools, and recycled materials. Have your class collect materials (another opportunity here to talk about community and collaboration). AND it has a great connection to exploring creative re-use, the impact of waste in our world, what things are made of (organic vs. synthetic), not to mention great classics like geometry!

Making the matrix

A collagraph print is made by attaching materials to a base, or substrate (we often use cardboard) to create a matrix (this is your printing block). Collagraph coming from the process of collage (not to be confused with calligraphy). Ink is applied to the matrix and the image is then printed on paper. You can use many different types of paper for this. We can get pretty nerdy about paper over here, so I'll keep this brief. We consider paper in printmaking is part of the artwork. It is as much part of the artwork as the image composed, and the ink used. That being said consider how different types of paper change the artwork. Have your students consider this as they are making and reflecting on their prints. How do a light vs heavy weight papers take the ink differently? How does the colour of the paper change the way we view the image? What is the texture of the paper (this is called 'tooth' in paper talk) and how does that affect the print? These lines of inquiry around the artistic process help further connect to science. The artistic and scientific processes are so similar!

Matrix after first layer and added more pieces

Check out the video below of the process. The matrix was made using recycled materials, with the exception of masking tape. This example from our studio has 2 matrices that are layered with 3 different colours, green, blue and black. (Note: if you are layering colours and adding pieces for your second layer you have to leave time between each for the ink on the matrix and print to dry or else it will be a huge mess). We hope you enjoy trying out collagraph printmaking in your classroom or in your home!

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