Her name is Zelda, and she is a 5-year-old tiny press – and I owe her a huge apology. For the past five years, she has been my steady, reliable and loyal printmaking friend. She is the press behind my first photopolymer relief shoe series, four color-flower prints, drypoint print exchange images and countless relief-based holiday cards. And yet, I have been so vain. I never admitted to printing on her (or if I did it was in a limited way). I thought if people saw Zelda, they would not be able to look past her pink plastic and bling exterior.
Then this summer I went full steam ahead with my printmaking dream life. I bought an Ettan Etching Press. It is actually a little more high-maintenance than my Zelda, but that might be another blog post in the care and feeding of larger etching presses.
Happy in my honeymoon phase with the Ettan, I saw a call for a Tiny Press roundup during the Southern Graphics Society International (SGCI) Conference. Side note: going to an SGCI conference has been on my bucket list. Imagine over a thousand printmakers in one place spending three days doing nothing but talking about, looking at and creating everything printmaking. Heaven.
So I answered the call…and for a first time, I revealed the truth about Zelda. I described her as she is: a Sizzix Big Shot (die-cutting craft machine) with an L Letterpress bed. I also mentioned that she is somewhat pink with bling.
Before this, my tiny press was unnamed. As I was filling out the application, suddenly my little press told me her name: Zelda. Of course. And to my astonishment, the good folks at SGCI accepted us.
And so I branded Zelda with her own business cards and matched her with a new apron, rubber gloves and cap.
Using my Holga digital camera (toy press, toy camera), I shot a series of images in my usual “please tell me I am in another century” aesthetic based on the conference theme of Terminus: Arrivals and Departures. Since Terminus (a railroad thing) was the beginning of Atlanta history, my Holga and I spent a few afternoons on the other side of the tracks in Pulaski County.
I originally planned to do Photopolymer gravure for the roundup, but with the advice from Deborah Souser, the event coordinator and consummate printmaker, we decided this would be too time-consuming. So, I turned to Boxcar Press to make my Photopolymer relief plate as too much time had elapsed for me to do my own at that point.
On March 16, Zelda and I printed 150 relief prints in six hours at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Ken also deserves a mention for being driver, cheerleader, table helper and soda provider.
As I set up at table 21, I had to quell the stage fright – this was terrifying. Here I was, about to show my extreme silliness with a pink press in front of potentially 1000 vetted printmakers.
So, I made a huge mess of thin green oil-based ink and my favorite Graphic Chemical process black ink and started running prints. When I looked up, there was a line of printmakers of all ages in front of the table that never really ended.
And the response?
“That is the cutest press I have ever seen,” said a large majority of fellow printmakers.
And so I made prints for them and told the abbreviated story or Zelda. If I were an affiliate of Sizzix, I believe I could have a sold of ton of the Big Shots for the number of people who mentioned wanting one.
For those interested in how Zelda works, I have included a handy dandy demonstration video. To see prints I have done with Zelda, please visit lskingphotography.com/zelda.