At the beginning of this exercise, I felt quite frustrated with both the materials and the technique. I started by mark making on a series of different papers, trying to find one that would produce the effect I wanted. This felt similar to the first exercise I did on pleating, perhaps my preconceived notions were interfering with what I was producing?
Having decided from early experimentation (above) that the answer to the perfect paper for embossing was a thick and sturdy card, I was quite surprised that my first sample used tracing paper:
I rather like the way the marks crease the surface causing a slight discolouration. The translucent quality of the paper suggests the embossed surface could be layered over another surface, fitting quite nicely with my thoughts about using embossing to conceal and reveal. As I handled this sample I noticed how much more dramatically the surface texture had changed in comparison to paper. The fragility of tracing paper provides the additional benefit of creating textures that can really be ‘felt’ as well as ‘seen’.
In my investigation, one paper stood out as being particularly suited to embossing, it held the shapes well without tearing. It also didn’t become shiny in the areas that I pressed, which was a problem I encountered with some of the other papers.
The regular arrangement of circles breaks up the surface quite rhythmically. In my drawing I tried to capture the way light and shadow add to an embossed piece emphasising the form. I found it wasn’t easy to record the white surface without making it look grey.I thought about what secrets this sample might be withholding. Perhaps the circles are like little pills hidden in their plastic strips?
Although Diane Reade’s embossed designs are created with plain white paper, I still wanted to explore the use of colour. I selected some patterned papers and decided to emboss a contradictory design onto them.
I was disappointed with how soft the papers were, they damaged quite easily. I tried to overcome this by sticking two sheets together, which did help a little. I didn’t really feel the patterns I was embossing produced anything meaningful; the samples looked a bit like wallpaper.
On reflection I wonder why I believed that embossing has to be perfect? Perhaps embossing could be used to distress the surface, like sanding, scrapping or scratching? This would be an interesting concept to explore.
Still interested in adding colour, I returned to the ‘perfect paper’ from 4.1.2 and embossed it with two simple designs. I wanted to see what would happen when I added a wash of Brusho over the top. I suspected that the water content of the Brusho would make the paper wet and mushy and that the embossed design would lose all definition. I hoped, however, that the colour would pool in the recesses, in a similar way to shadows. Realising the reaction would be different depending on whether the surface design was concave or convex, I produced a second set.
After producing the first version, I realised the ‘magic moment’ I was looking for occurred only briefly, just as the Brusho was applied. I was able to photograph this in the following samples:
I found the moment in time much more appealing that the samples when they dried:
As it dried the Brusho soaked into the paper in a more ‘all over’ fashion, it is most effective in the second and third photographs. One is the front, one is the reverse, so this seems to suggest this is a trial and error process, rather than one that works particularly better on the convex or concave side of an emboss.
Most importantly, the paper did not collapse, the emboss did hold its shape. It could be argued that the colour detracts from the raised surface but I personally like the effect. I am left wondering how I could incorporate this effect into some of my drawings or prints?
Could embossing add something extra? Would it detract from the marks I made?
Having produced these paper samples, I decided to try embossing with foil, which I will discuss in my next post.