34th street penn station
I get on at Utica and hustle to the printshop on 37th. I take out the trash and sweep the studio with Ramona. We are the interns. I work in exchange for studio access. The shop provides a shared shelf, chemicals, and three presses. At 11 on a Monday, the studio manager asks us to coat silkscreens with emulsion.
The screens are tall beyond my body – 10 feet high and 5 feet wide. We stack them against a wall vertically and mask the edges of the mesh with tape. The mesh count is 250 threads per square inch, a high count to print detailed half-tone color images. We print using CMYK color; the image is broken into color parts. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and key black films are made, exposed to screens, and printed on one piece of paper to produce a full spectrum of color. We need four screens coated with emulsion to make one image.
The emulsion looks like thick pink paint. I use a large scoop to apply the substance to the center of the screen, and Romana presses firmly with a smaller troth along the sides of the screen. I find satisfaction in the steady application of the red liquid to the silky surface of the screen. A thin layer is left dry and Ramona and I go to lunch. I eat hummus or cabbage and make conversation at glass table in the gallery with one window. Alice wants to know where in Vermont to go skiing. “The blue squares,” I tell her.
The emulsion has dried when we return. We lift the screen onto the exposure unit. The side with pink mesh faces the glass with a film (read stencil) in between the mesh and glass. The stencil blocks UV light from exposing certain areas of the screen. A rubber top suctions the screen in place. We set the exposure to 4 minutes and flip on the UV light, then leave the room. The black area of the stencil blocks UV light from exposing the screen, leaving the mesh water soluble. Eventually, ink will pass through the blocked areas when the image is printed. After the film are exposed, Ramona and I wash out the unexposed emulsion. The power washer is nice and loud.
I finish the day flatting digital prints of “the Michigan Fighter,” a comic book about a boxer and who buys a violin for a young man. Each page is printed in vivid half-tone color on heavy cloth. I set the heat for 200 degrees and press the prints between the sheets of hot metal, using fusion paper and newsprint inside to protect the ink. I have a natural knack for the heat-press; when the prints aren’t flat enough, I add another minute.
When they cool, I wrap the prints in a clear plastic bag, tape the bag to two pieces of cardboard using paper corners folded from regular printer paper. I sandwich the cardboard between two pieces of Masonite, and use enough packing tape. At 6pm I leave and go Rap.