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"I feel most strongly that we constantly take and profit from the sea and put very little of any good back in to it"

The sale of my work helps support the following projects & organisations:

1

Project Seahorse

An interdisciplinary and international organization committed to conservation and sustainable use of the world's coastal marine ecosystems.

2

Shellshock

Aiming to raise awareness of the plight of turtles and tortoises, EAZA brought its fourth annual conservation campaign to life in 2004: 'Shellshock'.

3

The Zoological Society of London

A charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. They aim to undertake and promote relevant high quality zoological and conservation.

4

Natural History Museum

Their vision is to advance our knowledge of the natural world, inspiring better care of our planet.

5

National Lobster Hatchery

Their conservation aim is to promote the sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture.

The Etching Process

Wax Ground

The copper plate is heated and a thin layer of beeswax & tallow is melted and applied with a leather dabber to cover the surface of the plate. I move the plate on and off the heat until the finish is just right. It is important that the wax is exact and even across the surface of the plate.

Smoking the plate

The copper plate with the wax ground is held upside down in a hand vice and flaming tapers (thin long candles) are carefully waved underneath but not too close, the soot from the flames mixes with the thin layer of wax. The smoking of the plate hardens the wax creating a more resilient matt black surface on which to draw.

This creates what is known as a hard ground. A soft ground (using softer wax) is applied in the same way but the plate is not smoked. A soft ground allows for tracing, softer lines and textures.

Referring to my sketches

Having researched my subject, referring to my sketchbook and from life the image starts to develop. I often visit the Natural History Museum in London which is an incredible resource for my work.

Creating the image

The image is created by drawing with an etching needle onto the plate through the hard ground. The lines created expose the shiny copper underneath the layer of wax, and the black matt coating gives a strong visual contrast.

Finishing touches

Adding the final detail. Fish scales take a long time! Stop Out varnish is painted on the surface of the wax (or over any mistakes!) to prevent foul bite. To prevent the back of the plate etching I cover it with strips of brown parcel tape, cheaper than stop out varnish and you do not have to wait ages for it to dry!

Ready to etch the plate

The drawn and stopped out plate is now ready to go in to the acid bath. I use Nitric acid and I dilute it with water. The acid bites into the exposed lines on the plate, the feather is used to remove bubbles which form as the acid starts to bite.

Failure to 'feather' can lead to an uneven bite. The ambient temperature is a factor on the speed of the etching process. I often use a test strip of copper, which has a variety of marks and gradations which I time, stop out, etch, time, stop out etc. This gives me an accurate indication of the time required to complete the etching. During the etching the plate is removed and examined, I may stop out some areas to vary the bite.

Cleaning the plate

The etched plate is washed off in water and the stop out varnish and wax ground is removed using turps, this exposes the etched lines bitten into the copper. A tentative moment! As the image emerges you begin to picture how the finished print will look. Just prior to printing the edges of the plate are bevelled by filing and burnishing the edges. This gives a clean edge to the print and prevents marking or damaging the woollen blankets on the etching press. The burnisher I use was given to me by my art master Terry Currell who was given it as a student by Gertrude Hermes, it is very precious to me!

The next step is The Printing Process

Wax Ground Smoking the plate Referring to my sketches Creating the image Finishing touches Ready to etch the plate Ready to etch the plate Cleaning the plate Cleaning the plate