Collatype Printing: Project 11: making a test collage block

Collatype Printing


This is essentially using collage to make a contoured surface for printing with. Some of the pictures in the coursebook are already reminding me of paper plates with macaroni stuck on them, brought home proudly by kindergarten kids and stuck on fridge doors! Well, as that comment might have implied, I’m not a fan of collage, actually, at least not as part of a finished artwork. I know that sounds like a sweeping statement, but as I have commented elsewhere, this, along with “taking a line for a walk”, were the staples of primary school art classes. I know too, that they were in the interest of democratisation and freeing up creativity from the constraints of traditional rule-based drawing and painting. But frankly, they produced a lot of rubbish on a friday afternoon. And, what actually happened was that far from being democratic, I always ended up being praised for my “taking a line for a walk” because I coloured in best, i.e. not going over the lines. Praise was nice, but even at this level, it was a brain-numbingly unchallenging activity. So, in retrospect, why not just teach us ALL something, instead of not teaching anyone anything, and just praising those who had some sort of skills already which then weren’t developed at all?

Rant over.

In fact, to be fair, the example of the landscape in the course folder is nice.

Project 11: Making a test collage block

I made two of these while I was still in France. The drying time of the glue meant having to bring them back to HK cling wrapped in my suitcase, but that was fine.

I used two bits of corrugated cardboard, the wrapping from books on printmaking I ordered from the internet, as it happens. (Recycling brownie point)

The first was all natural objects, the second man-made. There was quite a long wait to see how these would turn out when printed, and by the time I got this done, I had already made some other experimental collagraphs.

Test  Block 1: Natural materials

Reindeer lichen



Wild flowers Young leaves catkins Moss- small flat moss Seeds
dry leaves Lichen- finer than reindeer type leaf from box hedge grasses bark dry twigs

Test Block 2: Man-made materials

bubble wrap aluminium foil couscous grains lace plastic stretchers from canvas washers
cord cuttings of nylon string rice grains jute string small nails, paper clip and cotton buds 2 elastic bands, one thick, one thin

I was able to use a printing press for this one, so ran the boards through the press to flatten them before inking them up.

Test Print 1: Natural materials


Test Print 2: man-made materials


Of the two blocks, the man-made materials work better in my opinion, because they create clear abstract shapes, whereas the natural materials have created texture, but not very clear shapes. Where they do create recognisable shapes, such as leaves, these are easily interpretable as what they are, and they do not lend themselves to any ambiguity. They suffer from being obvious in other words.


Technically, it was much easier doing this using a press than it would have been, I imagine, by hand. It would have been very difficult to get an even amount of pressure on the back of such an uneven surface.

It is suggested to wet the paper. I found this didn’t work well, as the paper then stuck to the PVA glue, which dissolved slightly. I’m not sure why the course book says “PVA glue does not dissolve.” It is water-based. This may be a problem because of humidity in Hong Kong- the PVA glue becomes sticky quite quickly, even just at normal room temperature. I was doing this in school after hours and the air-conditioning was off.

Embossing- this should be an attractive side effect. There was embossing resulted, though in the case of the small nails, they tended to make holes in the paper. I used reasonably heavy cartridge paper.

I got a lot of ink on the cardboard as well, and this created competing textures to those of the experimental objects. Dabbing on might have helped this. There’s just a limit to how much time I can spend after school, since the janitorial staff are waiting to lock up the art rooms (where I’m an interloper!) so I did have to make decisions in the interest of speed.

All images are printed on approximately A2 sized paper. This creates a bigger margin than the paper I have been using up to now, which is much more attractive. It creates problems of storage though!