The STPI Creative Workshop is a rigorous incubator for artists to experiment with various print and papermaking techniques.
Bolstered by specialised facilities and a highly qualified workshop team, STPI Creative Workshop produces unique collaborations with leading international artists to challenge conventions in art, explore new trajectories in their practice and share their experience with the public.
Relief printing which originated from China in the 9th century in the form of woodcuts, is the oldest method of printmaking. In the 1700s and 1800s, Japanese masters like Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige produced Ukiyo-e prints – a variant of woodblock print with its roots from Japanese paintings during the Edo Period that greatly influenced early and post-impressionists like Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Relief techniques include linocut, woodcut and wood engraving. The most endearing quality of relief print is the simplicity and directness of the method and material used in making the image. As its name suggests, it is a process where only the surface areas of the plate is inked and printed. An image is created by carving away non-image areas from a flat plate and ink is applied onto the remaining surfaces of the plate with a brayer. The recessed areas remain ink free. To create an impression from the block, the paper is placed on top of the plate’s surface and pressure is applied either by hand using a barren or a press machine to transfer the ink to the paper.
Intaglio which means to engrave, carve or cut, is a broad term used to describe any type of printing techniques where the incised areas of the plate are inked. Unlike the raised surfaces of a relief print, the images of intaglio lie below. Techniques classified under the umbrella of intaglio include engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, etching, aquatint and collagraph.
In the intaglio process, the surface of the plate is first degreased and polished to remove scratches, oil and dirt before a thin layer of acid-resistant material known as ground, is applied on the plate. An etching needle, a tool that lifts the ground of the plate is used to create the image. To etch the image, the scratched plate is dipped into the acid bath where the exposed areas of the plate not covered by the ground are etched by acid, forming grooves in the plate. The length of exposure to the acid determines the depth of the groove. The copper plate is washed with vinegar and water when removed from the acid bath to stop the etching process. To prepare the plate for printing, the remaining hard ground is removed before etching ink is pushed into the incised marks with tarlatan cloth. The excess ink left on the surface of the plate is removed thoroughly with newsprints so that ink remains only in the incised areas. Finally, a dampened paper, placed on top of the ink plate is covered with a thick felt blanket before all are pressed using a high pressure-press to transfer ink into the paper.
Today, the intaglio technique is still widely used around the world to create banknotes, currency and passport.
Stone lithography was invented around 1976 in Germany by a playwright who accidentally discovered a way of duplicating his scripts by writing them with a greasy crayon onto limestone, and printing them by rolling greasy ink across the stone. Lithography quickly became a very popular technique by 1830s and was used to create maps and advertising materials like labels, flyers and posters.
Images created using lithography is based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The image is drawn, or painted, on a smooth levelled surface of a limestone or aluminium plate with a greasy material; a mixture of nitric acid and gum arabic. This process chemically separates the image and the non-image areas whereby the positive part of the image becomes water-repelling and the non image areas become water-receptive. To print the image, the surface is dampened and then covered with the greasy ink using a roller. A sheet of paper is placed on the printing surface and passed through a press to transfer the inked image onto the paper.
While aluminium plates are not reusable, the limestone plates can be reused by graining down the top layer of the stone to remove the chemically processed surface exposing unprocessed stone underneath.
With origins in stencilling, screen print, also known as serigraphy or silkscreen printing, is one of the most commonly used printmaking techniques today.
Photo emulsion technique is the most commonly used method to prepare images onto screens. An original image is painted or printed onto a transparent sheet in black and white, which is then placed onto a screen pre-coated with light-sensitive emulsion ink. After exposure to ultraviolet light, the screen is washed thoroughly, washing away the black areas of the image that remain unexposed by ultraviolet light. This leaves a negative stencil of the image on the mesh and the screen is ready for printing.
Using a squeegee, the image is printed onto a flat surface when a controlled flow of ink is pushed through the open areas of the screen. Each pull allows a single layer of colour to be printed.
STPI houses one of the largest papermaking facilities in Asia. It adopts the European papermaking tradition in its methodology. Fibres such as cotton, mulberry, gampi, linen and abaca are the main ingredients used in the production of paper.
The first step of papermaking involves making a dilute suspension of fibres in water before beating them in a beater to make paper pulp. The mixture is stirred to even out the water to pulp ratio before the mould and deckle is submerged in the vat. It will then be lifted out of the suspension in a levelled position where excess water is drained out. The mould and deckle is shakened throughout this process to ensure uniform thickness throughout the paper. The mat of interwoven fibres is couched onto wet felt and more water is removed using a press before the damp sheet is loaded into the dryer.
Various raw fibres can be mixed together to achieve various textures – ranging from thin translucent sheets of paper made from mulberry fibres to thick textured paper made from cotton fibres.