Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Long Do Wood Blocks Last?

Occasionally I get asked how long a wood block lasts, or how many prints can be pulled from it.  There is no clear answer to this question. It depends on a lot of factors like how hard of a pressure is used in the press, what type of wood it is, or how well it is taken care of.  I had a print commission for the rooms of the St. Regis Hotel a few years ago, and was surprised that I was able to pull just over one hundred and seventy prints from a set of blocks. 

This is my favorite wood block that I carved about ten years ago when I still lived in Durango. The design I carved in it was inspired by a book I have of Indian wood block patterns used for printing on cotton. I found a scrap of high end plywood to use, planned the design as a repeat from edge to edge, and carved it as a demonstration at the Durango Art Center. This wood block has been used for thousands of printings on so many things; my prints, fabric for my art bin and handbags, on my suede day planner I made, paper covered light switch covers, notebook covers, and note cards I have been selling since I first carved this block. After ten years of printing this block, the plys in the wood have begun to crack and peel.  It is de-laminating, and the top layer is barely attached any more. Despite all of the wear and tear, it still actually prints pretty well.  I just used it tonight to print some cards for the HART sale at the Foothills Art Center, and the Open Studios Holiday Sale. The poor thing needs to be retired, but I keep using it anyway, hoping I can pull just a few more prints from it before it falls apart completely. Every time I pull it out, I wonder if it's wise to use it, or if today is it's last day to be printed. So to answer the question to "how long does a wood block last?" My answer would be - until I can let it go.

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