Baker Steps
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Book Arts Workshop

So, as an Art History major, I needed to take one Studio Art class as part of my curriculum. I was SO nervous! I love looking at art, but I could not draw a convincing stick figure to save my life. But, as life at Dartmouth so often goes, I had to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. I knew I wouldn’t be the best or brightest new artist, but I knew I was going to give it my all.

I signed up for Printmaking I: Etching. On the first day, my professor, Jennifer Caine told us that we could come to her if we ever needed help sketching our ideas. “This is a good start,” I thought. 

Professor Caine told us to go out into our lives and get inspired. She never told us “Make an etching of an apple!” or even “Make a print that somehow represents domesticity.” Our artwork would always be about what excited us.

Under the Sea
We really could make whatever we wanted! My dad loves crabs, so I took the chance to make him a homemade Father's Day etching!

I can't count the number of times I scarfed down dinner outside of the studio doors or the number of nights I left the studio after 2am. Anyone who tries to tell you that Studio Art is easy has clearly never done it before! But, I also couldn’t even begin to tell you how proud I was of my first print. I put it up on the wall, amidst prints that were objectively 100 times better—remember, I’m an Art History major so I can say that with authorityand it was so far from perfect.

My first print!

There are inky fingerprints on the paper and ink smudges in the edges. The entire print is off center and askew. But, it’s my print. I made it. I cut the plate. I sanded the edges. I put ground evenly over the metal and baked it in. I took a diamond-point etching needle and traced my carefully-sketched window onto the plate. I gently laid it in a bath of acid for 15 minutes. I retrieved it carefully and washed off all of the ground. I smeared ink all over the plate and then I slowly wiped it off, leaving ink only in the crevices eaten away by the acid. I soaked my paper in water. I placed the plate on the press with the paper on top and I spun the wheel, like I was opening a vault at Gringotts. And on the other side of the press I found my little print, 6x8”. I made so many mistakes, but I also made something.

I was so excited and I didn’t want to stop. I made etching after etching. For my final project, I wanted to make a book for all of the prints I had made throughout the term. I went down to the Book Arts Workshop and learned how to bind pages and crease fancy paper and create book covers. When I put my etchings into the pages, I had in my hands an actual book made entirely by me. I was so happy!

I FaceTimed my mom and said, “Look, Mom!!! I made this!!”