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I made a gigantic leap: an etching press adventure

The adventure begins – the original home of my Ettan MS-18 – Studio Two Three in Richmond, Virginia.

The adventure begins – the original home of my Ettan MS-18 – Studio Two Three in Richmond, Virginia.

Velvet blacks on the crisp whiteness of a torn piece of heavyweight printmaking paper. The smell of certain inks. The moment of lifting off the first print on a charged etching plate. The grainy, atmospheric image quality prevalent in early 20th century Pictorialism photogravures – the kind that pulls out emotion like taffy.

These notions seduced me and propelled me forward into printmaking bliss for the past five years. And I have finally, completely, totally given in to their temptations.

Mine is a familiar story – art major enjoys a medium, but is too young or lacking in proper mentors to inspire further exploration. She then tries to submerge the desire in other ways (hat making, hypnosis and digital fakery of older photographic processes). As it turns out, the story does not have to end there.

I could not let it go. Like many, there comes a time in every starting out printmaker’s existence when one turns from lusting after Takach presses and practicing patience with community ones, and makes a leap of faith.

I made that leap yesterday.

Inside the original home, Studio Two Three in Richmond, of my Ettan MS-18 etching press

Inside the original home, Studio Two Three in Richmond, of my Ettan MS-18 etching press.

After all these years of looking for used presses, debating about Dick Blick’s and Jerry’s Artarama versions, finding none that worked out, the world shifted after some due diligence on Craig’s List. I found a used press in Richmond, Virginia. A community printmaking/photography space called Studio Two Three was selling one of their etching presses. They had run out of room for it and sold it to us for a reasonable price.

So, after a three and half hour trip to the Commonwealth capital, we loaded a 90 lbs. Ettan MS-18 etching press into the back of my car (special thanks to the lads who did the lifting). It looks like it is in amazing shape, and is more of a press than I could afford (if you look up presses, afford is a relative term).

Studio Two Three is a very interesting place. They have most any kind of printing press available for use, offer workshops and have open studios and a gallery. After exploring and getting to know its offerings, we moved on with the day.

We stopped for lunch and I celebrated with a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich at Strangeways Brewing, which features a creative selection of beers. We shared a flight during lunch, hung out and decided buying a press was enough excitement for one day. Then we headed home.

Sadly, I did not spent the day printing, as I might have liked. Turns out my apparent lack of physical strength (not being really able to help Ken in moving it) means waiting until we can figure out a way to get it upstairs into my studio space. That and the cart I ordered to house it has yet to arrive.

When you know it is yours – the Ettan Ms-18 etching press in the back of my car.

When you know it is yours – the Ettan Ms-18 etching press in the back of my car.

But somehow this will work out. No doubt I will share the results here in the near future.

For those of you with presses, please share your stories about incorporating them into your life. We would love to hear about your experiences (or blog about them and leave a link in the comments – we like other bloggers).



The Unwinding Path is the blog of L.S. King – photographer, want-to-be printmaker and sometimes hypnotist. By day she is an arts communications officer at a rural university (translation: photographer, writer, and media content provider), and most of the rest of her time she is an MFA graduate student at Radford University.


  1. yeah! glad you scored you’re dream machine, can’t wait to see some of those dreams in ink.

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