December 12, 2011

Fog Harvesting

When I agreed to contribute a poster for a collaborative poster series about Water, I had no idea what my subject would be. The series organizers had created an informational webpage about different aspects of water: consumption, pollution, climate change, history — sobering, if not grim, views of the future of our water needs and usage.

And then, under 'Innovations', I saw the phrase 'Fog Harvesting'. What was it? I envisioned people gathering armfuls of cool, puffy fog, and collecting it in baskets, in the style of peasant folk from paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

(Actual fog harvesting is less romantic. It involves setting up large mesh screens for fog to condense on, and then collecting the water.)

I decided to go with the more fantasy-oriented depiction and, for inspiration, looked at retrofuturistic and sci-fi styles as well as old propaganda posters. I invented a workflow for the fog gathering process and came up with way more backstory than necessary for a project of this scope.

Paper: 280 lb Magnani Pescia (smooth texture)
Size: Half-sheets (15"x22")
Hand-printed on a 1959 Reprex flatbed cylinder press.

To keep the printing simple, I used a technique I had used before: printing twice using the same sheer ink color. Unfortunately, that was the only simple thing about this project. This was my first time printing something this large, and I ran into a slew of setbacks:
  • To improve the chances of the solid areas (sky, blimp) printing evenly, my printing partner and I dampened the paper. Pescia is a fairly smooth, dense paper that can take a lot of water, and will expand quite a bit when damp and cause registration problems if allowed to dry (and therefore shrink) at all between passes. Because my registration was tight, I lost some prints to horrible registration when I put them on the drying rack between passes.
    Solution: I kept the remaining prints damp between passes by putting them into a plastic garbage bag, layered between sheets of newsprint.
  • Even though the actual printed area was only 11" x 15", the 15-inch-wide paper was at exactly the press' maximum limit, and any time the paper wasn't fed into the press at exactly the right angle, or if it had deckles that extended beyond 15", the print would end up with ink tracks all along the sides.
    Solution: I later scraped out each stray ink mark, on each print, with an x-acto blade, erased the area with a white eraser, then burnished the fibers flat with a teflon bone folder.
  • The circumference of the ink rollers was shorter than the height of the printed area, leaving my prints with "ghosting" and a very conspicuous horizontal band where the ink suddenly ran out.
    Solution: hand-ink with the largest roller I could find in the studio, which I had never used.
    New Problem: I botched several prints while trying to figure out how best to use it.
    New Solution: Luckily, I had extra paper.
    Newer Problem: The roller's surface was uneven and left light spots in the print.
    Learn to Live with It:
    The texture and noise in the design help camouflage it.

The one happy accident?

so unbelievably cool. must make more.

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