A Klischograph

I was lucky enough to be invited to the MOTAT 3 site this morning for a tour of the new storage facility. MOTAT moved storage sites about a year ago and the new storage facility is still a work in progress. MOTAT’s entire collection was inventoried during the move (a considerable feat!) but further work is needed to assess every object. MOTAT for so long was a bit of a dumping ground for donations of objects the general public think is important (which is a special attribute in and of itself). So there are a lot of duplicates, and a considerable sample set of particular objects (lawn mowers and christening gowns are apparently the most common donations). I loved the sample range of sewing machines and typewriters. It was incredible to see the extraordinary breadth and depth of the MOTAT collection. It will be very exciting when MOTAT’s collections online goes live.

As a member of MOTAT’s print team, I was especially interested to see what print gear was in storage. The highlight of the visit was discovering we have a nearly operational Klischograph.

 The Klischograph is an engraving machine – it produces half tone printing plates ‘cliches’ for letterpress printing. It was initially intended for small newspaper printing houses in place of larger and the more involved 3 step processes of producing photo plates for printing. The Klischograph combined the three step process into one machine: process camera, glass screen, metal printing and etching. It was developed the early 1950s, and we expect the version we have at MOTAT, the K150, was from the mid to late 1950s (we know that the the K151 was produced in 1959).

Today we use photopolymer plates in place of klischograph produced plates in letterpress printing. But if we can get this machine back into working order, we will be able to demonstrate how photo and image plates were made before photopolymer plates in our print shop – it is a question we are so often asked!

But even more exciting – we will be able to make new printing blocks to print!


(Photo from the manufacturer’s website – when our klischograph moves into the print shop, I can post a picture of it)


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I am like your grammar

A couple of weeks ago we finished printing ‘I am like your grammar’ by Lisa Samuels and I was able to hand over copies. I really love this photo because usually there’s just a quick process of handing over the printing. But I was able to spend some time with Lisa as she saw the print for the first time.

I had a really great time printing this one. Lisa’s poetry opens up so many opportunities and my initial ideas for the design completely changed as the print developed. More pictures below of the print and the design and printing process.

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I’ve been trying my hand at Japanese marbling, aka suminagashi. It is a lot more accessible than Turkish marbling (ebru) which requires a lot more preparation and many more ingredients. Suminagashi really needs only the water bath, ink and a dispersant. But not any old ink and dispersant will work. And as I discovered, the type of paper you use has a huge effect on the results.

I first learned about suminagashi while taking a futurelearn course on Japanese Paper (a course I highly recommend). The course linked me through to a youtube video, and so for my first attempt I followed the instructions in this video. The first time I followed the instructions in this video:

I don’t remember which ink I used (probably the magic color – I’ll come back to this) and some dish washing liquid. The results were a little muddy – the white areas were a bit too grey, and the darker areas were also a light grey, so there wasn’t much definition. I printed onto a 110 gsm cartridge paper.

My second session with suminagashi was far more productive. I found a practical guide by Anne Chambers (a master at ebru Turkish marbling who learned suminagashi in Japan)

In it she has a section called ‘Suminagashi for the Western World’. Her instructions called for turpentine as the dispersant. I didn’t have any. But earlier in the book she desribes the work of Takaji Kuroda who uses ‘skin tonic’ in his marbling. I had some micellar water, so I tried that and it worked a treat!

As a dispersant though, the ink dispersed better than the micellar water, which contracted once dabbed into the water. It produced good clear results, but I wondered about what else might work.

I also had to experiment with inks. I used a sumi ink stick I got from Daiso used for calligraphy which did not work at all! When I pulled the paper out of the bath it just looked like I’d wet it. There was no ink to be seen. I didn’t have any black indian ink, but I did have some colour windsor and newton inks. But they dispersed so fast there was no way of getting the colour to form those lovely rings. In the end, it was Speedry Magic Color liquid acrylic, black, that produced the best results with the micellar water.

But the biggest discovery of that second session was about the paper. I had a go with a number of different papers, and largely the results were poor. Until I tried Japanese Rice Paper (sumi-e paper from Gordon Harris). The moment I dropped the paper onto the design, and saw the design come through the paper, before even lifting the paper back out of the bath, I was blown away by the difference!


(I think the lines – two on the left of the left image, and on at the top on the right image – are from how I laid the paper into the bath, so I’m working on my technique to avoid that)

Today, my third session making suminagashi paper, I tried out some more options.

The windsor and newton black ink worked better than the colours. It produced a very fine, somewhat faint print. The magic color in blue didn’t work well. It didn’t hold its shape on the water very well. The turpentine was disastrous!

I tried out Global colours high flow acrylic indigo. Like the magic color blue, I didn’t hold its shape well, so I added some magic color black with a separate brush. The combination worked adequately. But still my favourite was the magic color black with micellar water.

Until I tried to add some Global colours yellow mid. I thought I was just adding some colour like in the indigo above. But it turns out the yellow works as an excellent dispersant.

The results are still drying, so I’ll have to post photos later!

What I am enjoying is the influence of ambient air movement on the surface of the water. The design makes itself to a degree. There is such a huge element of chance! But there are also a lot of opportunities to experiment (aside from the different ingredients). From the way you add the ink and dispersant – thick or thin rings of each, where you place it in the bath, and how you encourage movement in the water – with a stylus or by blowing gently on the water.

The plan is to combine suminagashi with letterpress printing. watch this space.


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asemic letterpress

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20/08/2018 · 9:36 pm

BNZP17 poetry reading @ Te Papa

This is happening next week: Monday 20th August. If you’re in Wellington, please stop by. I’m only in Welly for the day!

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Another wonderful LOUNGE poetry event.

We dedicated the reading to my late brother James, who died in June of this year.

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Questions for answers asked

for James

I haven’t really been here before
at your house. I just waited outside, usually in the car
for you to get in, or to drop something off for you.

But I’m here now and this is the detritus of your life
and I don’t know what’s important – so everything’s unimportant
until we give it meaning.

Carole comes for Delores the stuffed donkey,
and two childhood clocks
Hannah finds a linen napkin you kept from her wedding
Tarei has the longest drink in town and
Richard has your Tin Tin comics
Andy and Clinton have the heavy black vase
And Dad’s got your records.
When Mum came, her heart shook
but she counted the dinners in the freezer
and kept close the memory of cooking them for you.

I take particular care with the rocks I find in your room
smooth round overlarge pebbles, sharp angles or broken stone discs
and I build a pile, a cairn, in the garden
between the front steps
and the blue skip that we filled twice over.

You had been reading Real Fake White Dirt
by Jess Holly Bates
a bus ticket marks your spot, a cash ticket
from the 30th of May
page 23 is where you’re up to
and I can’t read any further

I take Real Fake White Dirt
and a book of recent paintings by Gretchen Albrecht
you were always well read – why didn’t we talk about poetry together?

Hannah and I sold your car to the scrappers
A teenage boy came with a tow truck
he looked at us like meat. Whose car is this? He says
Are you sad? He says chewing gum and staring at our tits
Please, just take the car
with its overstuffed bear filling the back seat
and a boot we can’t get open.
He took the car and left a sour taste in our mouths.

Later, when I imagine the end, which I don’t do voluntarily
I forget there was car here
and I imagine you on the concrete in front of the house
in your dressing gown.
Andy said your hair was soapy
when he left earlier that morning
and I imagine you here – I forget there was car
I hope you didn’t feel alone

I’m here now and this is the detritus of your life
and I don’t know what’s important – so everything’s unimportant
until we give it meaning.

And much later, when the skips have been emptied
and the cleaners come to remove the last trace of you
I start to think of all the things we threw away
and I give it all meaning
and my heart hurts that I didn’t keep the things that were yours

So I read Jess Holly Bates
and get stuck
“building questions for answers asked”
and I look at the Gretchen Albrecht paintings, which
are not my favourites
and I sit at the table that you had in your kitchen
that me and Hannah sanded down
and I instil these objects
with answers and with questions
though they never match up

and I think of you

sometimes, I can hear your voice
your laugh
your breath
and if I’m lucky, in the depths of the night
I find another memory I’d lost hold of
and I wrap it, thin and delicate as a hair
around these objects
so that I will not lose hold of you again.

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Ears Wide Open

In association with the Deep Surface event at The Open Book, Anna Livesey interviewed me about poetry and letterpress and everything else!

Me: A lot of maps are quite cold, there are maps like the map of the islands of New Zealand or a road map, and I think all of these are held up as the truth, but I think they’re actually quite false or that they don’t quite fit our experience.

Anna: And what would a better version of a map look like, or a richer version of a map?

Me: A richer version of a map would be a poem!

You can listen to it here: Ears Wide Open #17



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Deep Surface: Letterpress & Poetry @ The Open Book

Last month Ya-wen Ho, Jo Giddens and I were involved in an event called ‘Deep Surface: Letterpress and Poetry’. We performed and read poetry together, chatted all things letterpress and had a good ol’ time at The Open Book on Ponsonby Road. The main part of the event was of course a reading at 3pm. But before that, I brought out an adana desk top letterpress printer from MOTAT and a couple of trays of type of people to have a go at printing. One of the cases I brought out was the case layout I designed for typesetting in te reo Māori.

Here are some photos of the event

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bnzp 2017


I am so pleased and so proud to be among these fabulous poets whose poems have been chosen as the best poems published in NZ in 2017!

Click on the picture to go to the bnzp 2017 contents page and enjoy the wonderful poetry!

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waterlines: a letterpress print

Early in April I printed one of my poems – waterlines – at MOTAT. I designed and handset it, and it was printed on a Heidelberg Platen by Ian Barnes. It is a limited edition of 37 copies which I am selling to fundraise for a number of photopolymer plates for some other letterpress poetry projects I have coming up.

I’m selling the prints for $10 (a total bargain for a letterpress art print!) plus postage. Get in touch if you’d like a copy.

Thank you to New Zealand Pacific Studios; this poem began while I was staying at Normandel House as the Ema Saikō fellow in Nov/Dec last year.

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