Technique

Since 1997 I have been experimenting making etchings with slabs of slate. I kept in mind that such material with it's natural laminated structure and lack of hardness would not survive many presses and would soon be broken under the pressure of the press.

Nevertheless it was exactly this that intrigued me and made me want to continue observing the unique behaviour of this material.

The slate was brought from a quarry in Germany, typical of the region of my hometown, and I looked for pieces of varying sizes and thicknesses.

The first difficulty of working with slate resides in the irregularity of its surface, so I was searching for the most uniform slate pieces.

Later in the same quarry I found , packed and ready cut, slate of varying thicknesses, sizes and prices and was shocked to see it labelled: “Made in Spain”. I need not have travelled so far to find my plates, they came from Spain, in a region near Alicante. They are used throughout Europe to tile roofs.

The slate is treated with with burin and dry pointed, which is quite laborious and needs a lot of strength in the hands, but primarily has the advantage that the natural texture of the material is not lost. The first time that I pressed two worked plates this way was three years ago on Mitsuo Miura\’s course at the Fundación Pilar i Joan Miró.

At this time it did not have my own press and the plates were broken in the second attempt to print them, but we liked the result so much that Miura asked me to give him one of the plates. The plate had almost transferred an image to the paper but the excessive pressure had caused it to break slightly however it left a very interesting result. At this point I began to investigate the idea seriously.

I bought a press and I began to work plates in different ways. The best results were obtained by preparing the plates with a paste, just as the one that is used for colografias and that is prepared with “Blanco de España”, water and glue, which once applied upon the plate, it is possible to be treated in a variety of different ways, with different grafismos or applying collages.

Once prepared and inked the plate, the moment comes for finding the right pressure so that the slate does not break immediately. This is for me the most delicate moment, and needs to be repeated with each new plate since each slate is different and the even the smallest differences make a big difference to the treatment. But this is what makes it interesting.

Ideally it is possible to be print a few times with the slate before the first crack appears. With this first crack, which of course is random, begins the adventure and the chance, since you do not know beforehand in which direction or place it will appear. The plate cracks a little more with each successive pressing until the point is reached, in which it is impossible to remove it from the table of the press to ink it.

Sometimes it is at this point that the best and most beautiful press of all can be obtained. It is completely impossible to obtain a series of identical presses, and because of this every pressing is unique. As time has passed I have become more and more accustomed to this capricious material and the surprising results that can be obtained from it, and I believe, that there are many more possibilities than I will discover as I work.


I presented this technique for the first time in the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid with three pieces of work from the years 2000 and 2001, as well as in the Fundación Pilar i Joan Miró in Palma de Mallorca with a dossier y la memoria en el año 2001 with the purpose of exhibiting a series of presses in the “Espai Cero”.

In addition a work made with this process has been selected for the “IX Premio Nacional de Grabado y Arte Gráfico 2001”, organised by Calcografía Nacional Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.