Tag Archives: printmaking

Printing the Planets

The fifth graders at Hannah Gibbons were studying the planets of our solar system in their science curriculum. They had lots of questions. What colors are the planets? What gives the planets their color? What are the surfaces of the planets like?

We projected the various planets on the big screen and it almost felt like we were in the planetarium. For the majority of the students in the class, this was the first time they had seen large full color and up close images of the planets. Awestruck is a great way to describe their reactions.

The collagraph plate seemed the perfect printmaking partner for their artistic investigations. We set out together to create collagraph plates of each of the planets that we printed in limited editions. The students became expert printers and grew quite skilled at operating the etching press as they cranked out their small stack of prints. We also tipped our best prints into a handful of collaborative artist books showcasing one of each planet in our solar system.

Collagraph plate, inked and ready to run through the press.

Students asked and answered their planetary questions in many formats within their field journals. These journals recorded their research, and included further investigations of the textural surfaces and appearances of their selected planet with rubbings, collages, and proof prints in preparation for creating their collagraph plates.

Planetary textural rubbing with the beginnings of watercolor study.

Field Journals

Students showcase their textural studies within their field journals.

Sure, there was a little snickering with an occasional Martian and Uranus joke, but there was a lot more serious inquiry and investigation.

Team Mars, also known as our Martian Men, with their first proof prints of Mars.

Armed with their field journals, which were absolutely packed with their findings, students mined their new understandings to create a collagraph printing plate of their planet. We made test plates of nearly ten different texture gels so that the individual planetary student groups could determine which acrylic gels they would use to create their planet and showcase its unique and specific surface. Students cut their circular planet plates, including rings for several of them, out of thin foam core, and built up their textural surface with various acrylic gels including: sand, pumice, fibers, and glass beads.

Students made proof prints of their planet collagraph plates with a single primary color of their planet to get their first textural read of their collagraphs. This is the magic I most enjoy in my printmaking residencies. We’ve spent weeks together, absolutely up to our eyeballs in both investigations and making, yet when students lift their first print off of their plate that they both created and inked, their eyes alight with disbelief. The magic of printmaking!

Team Earth with their printed edition.

After their first impression has been made, students began blended color relief rolls for their small editions. Lastly, they printed their best prints on rice paper to be collaged into our collaborative books.

Planet Printing

The printing process.

The results? They were out of this world!

Team Mercury, also known as The Mercury Girls, showcasing their prints.

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Screen Printing and Quilting: Creating Magic in the Classroom

mrw_printingOne of the most rewarding aspects of teaching I have found is witnessing the literal “light bulb” moment in the arts-integrated classroom. The third graders at Michael R. White STEM I worked with during the fall 2015 semester were certainly enthusiastic learners, but the concepts of screen printing and printmaking were totally foreign to them. The assignment was to design and draw a life-cycle, which they would then screen print onto a square of canvas. These squares would come together to create a quilt, depicting life-cycles found in our natural world. They were excited about the project, but it was the physical act of screen printing that made students’ eyes truly light up around me. It was like magic for them, seeing their drawings burned onto screens, and then printed on canvas. The students loved moving the ink across the screen with the squeegee, watching it seep into the mesh and onto the fabric. A student who was particularly restless, a self-proclaimed “trouble maker,” became entranced with the printing process. By the end of our first screening session, she was reminding students to “flood their screen,” and demonstrating the proper way to hold a squeegee.


Another “Aha!” moment occurred when we began the second half of our project: sewing. Students were finding personal connections within this project from the beginning; when we looked at pictures of historic quilts, students were exclaiming “my grandmother makes those!” or “we have one at home!” Many of these students had helped their relatives with quilting and sewing in the past, and were very intent on creating patterns with a plastic needle and yarn. As a class, they sewed each other’s squares, working together towards their goal.

The history of quilts comes from bringing together different elements to create a single collaborative blanket, something warm and familiar, something steeped in history and personality. The third graders at Michael R. White took this opportunity to create something educational that also represented each of them as individuals, and as a class. The quilt will be installed in the school during the second semester, and will remain there long after these students have graduated; a little piece of history.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away!

During my fall semester 2014 residency at Hannah Gibbons STEM School with the Preschool and Kindergarten classes, we explored and enjoyed a variety of weather circumstances without ever getting wet–or at least not too wet! Students created weather field books that will house their weather work from science, dotted with several prints to illustrate various weather situations.

Stencil printing–one of the most direct printing processes–was a clear favorite among this age group. Students gravitated to the various weather stencils, including: clouds, rain, lightening, wind, and sun. Students concocted a variety of storms, and chose their stencils and inks carefully and accordingly to created their printed compostitions.


Armed with small foam daubers and trays of ink, students made light work of stamping in their weather stencils onto paper, and yet still seamed amazed when they lifted the stencil to see that the weather item they were printing appeared on the page.  The magic of printmaking allures!


Watching the concentrated faces of the youngest groups of printmakers never gets old!


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Earth’s Moon

Though the earth has only one moon, we made many, many of them during the fall 2014 semester! I worked with the second grade class at Orchard STEM School to create lunar cycle accordion books, as I did with Hannah Gibbons also, that I shared here. After we’d pulled a small edition of moon prints, we went to work creating the circular accordion interior pages for the books.


Once the students had tabbed together a long stretch of paper, they folded it back-and-forth again and again to create an accordion structure. Next they traced their moons, trimmed the pages into circles, and then got to work printing the lunar cycle using stencil relief.


I was amazed at how cautious the students were at this phase–their handmade book was becoming so precious to them–and they studied each panel before printing in the next phase, all the way from waxing crescent to the new moon. The books were displayed at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District PreK-8 STEM Network Winter STEM Showcase on December 16 at the Great Lakes Science Center just before the winter break.

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To the Moon and Back

During my residency with the second grade at Hannah Gibbons STEM School during the fall 2014 semester, students created collagraphs of the moon, and printed them up in both intaglio and relief to compare the surface changes. We learned the eight lunar phases, and students printed them on circle-shaped accordion pages to create a book in which the moon printing plate later became the cover.

The project was huge in terms of printing scope, and the students quickly became experts at the printing press, and wielding their brayers in the ink. Though I’m mighty proud of their accomplishments and their finished books, my favorite outstanding moments in the class are always the first prints pulled.

Students turn the wheel of the press with both hands, and all of their strength, and the paper is pressed into the plate to receive an inky impression. Yet it never fails, the moment we peel back the print, jaws drop and smiles abound, almost in disbelief of the result.


Printmaking is simple enough to grasp but just magical enough to be full of surprise and awe. The moon prints that the students created are wonderful combinations of embossed texture and rich inky indexes of their moon collagraphs. I hope they forever change the way the students see the big moon in our sky.

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Plans in Progress

As the weather changes here in Cleveland, I’ll be up and running with a Weather Book residency at Hannah Gibbons STEM School. Together with the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classes, we’ll be making weather observations and creating a small pile of prints to share our findings as the pages of our field books.

Kindergarten BOOKS spread

Weather monoprint spread from a previous PAA print residency at Orchard STEM School.

Throughout this 10-session residency, students will learn the processes of monoprinting, stencil printing, and sun printing, as well as basic bookbinding techniques to create an album style book. The books will be shared at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District PreK-8 STEM Network Winter STEM Showcase on December 16 at the Great Lakes Science Center.

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