I have a white birch tree (betula papyrifera) which produces pads of papery curls of bark. I am always looking for ways of breaking out of the constraints of A4 white cartridge paper, and so of course, I had to try printing on bark. To prepare the bark, I:
- carefully pealed of wads without going too deep to avoid hitting live material
- peeled the layers apart
- cleaned them of loose dust, spiders etc
- pressed under weight for a month between kitchen paper, which I changed every so often, to flatten and dry.
After cleaning and drying, my pieces of bark were mostly fairly small and still pretty curly.
I wanted to print a design that related to my garden and the bark, so a beetle seemed natural. I sketched various sorts of beetles from a reference book, and then created a generic beetle design that I thought I might be able to cut. I selected vinyl for its fine edges. Cutting this 1 1/2 inch by 1 inch block required good light and reading specs.
I wasn’t sure how the bark would accept ink, so I proofed my block in both oil and water based inks. On the left hand proof, I also tried over laying a fingerprint in iridescent green. I had hoped this would look less exact and contrived than painted hand colouring, but I didn’t like it.
Printing such a small plate crisply was surprisingly hard. When I was confident I could do it, I tried it out on the bark, both the inside surface and the outside.
The bark is still very curly even after long pressing, so I have mounted it on home-made paper using pva. This home-made paper has a more organic feel than commercial paper.
I think bark makes for an interesting, if small, printing surface and was fun to try out; a small object of curiosity.
The idea could be developed:
- find other ways of mounting the bark
- this would be great in two colours, if I could register it – challenging
- create 3d objects with printed ‘trompe d’oeil’, a beetle in a match box say (very Christopher Robin!)
- use bark as chine colle
- add slivers of bark to pulp for hand-made paper
- pin the bark down in a box frame, like Victorian butterfly collections.