Natalie Azzopardi is my first ANU EASS Ampersand Duck Broadside Residency recipient.When I gave the prize to her, she hadn’t officially left the ANU School of Art; they have a strange system where you do three years of study, then you exhibit as a graduate, and then you find out if you are doing Honours, and then you do another year and then exhibit as a graduate again. It isn’t unusual to win an exhibition prize as a 3rd Year graduate, and then be still study when you exhibit as an emerging artist. Of course, most of the time Patrons are warned when someone may be getting into Honours, but that’s not a foolproof system…
Actually, I knew Natalie would do honours, because her work is excellent, but she’d just spent a semester doing letterpress with me in class, and I didn’t want to wait another year and have her go all rusty on me. So I snaffled her when I could. I thought she could make her broadside in the uni holidays and then get on with her year.
That was a good plan, but… she got very interested in the process, and one idea led to another, and before we knew it, four months of Tuesdays had flown by and she’d produced four posters out of the one allotment of paper. I bet her teachers are pleased that we’ve finished, because now she’s really got no excuse but to do her honours work, which has very little to do with letterpress (she’s a Photography student who studied Book as a complementary unit).
Here she is, back in Summer, starting on her Mario design, using grid paper to aid her set-up. The type tray is full of type ornaments not unlike these ones. After doing the Mario set-up, I found a box of dot ornaments, and she liked them so much that all the other prints restraint themselves to a dot matrix, so to speak.
I’m really happy with what she’s done. She’s learned a lot about type and presswork, and that if you plan ahead, you don’t have to print the same colour twice (or even three times, in one case!). But when the work is all intuitive and experimental, sometimes good things happen from the accidents of other things. Some of my favorite work in this project wasn’t able to be editioned, and we have a couple of copies each.
Like this page, where she has offset the ink by pressing one print against another to create a fantastic ghostly effect that works so well with the theme.
So the final editions reflect the planning she put into them. She started by thinking about Mario:
And this was a real learning curve, trying to decide how to make it a three-colour print. In the end it became a two-colour print, because we thought that the subtle patterning in the rest of his shape would be overwhelmed by the dots if his face & hands were printed in a solid colour, so we came up with the idea of embossing his skin.
There are 55 copies of this print, because we’d split the original paper ration into three smaller piles of 60 each, and she’d printed the first colour run of this and the next before deciding to play with the Space Invaders and thus dividing the ration even further!
And so then there is the Pacman print, of which there are 50 copies:
And then we get to the two Space Invader prints:
This one has 20 copies,
… and this one has 14!
The wood type was the last thing printed on all of them. Natalie knew what she wanted, but it was a matter of finding the perfect font and working out the colours. Originally we’d thought of printing all the text in the same spot on each poster, in one unifying colour, but once she looked at all the prints together, it was obvious that they needed individual treatment. Which meant three more colour runs! With letterpress it isn’t just a matter of changing a colour; you have to ink up the press, print, then clean off the press and then start again. It’s laborious, and takes patience and dedication, which Natalie has.
While they’re editioned, each of the prints is really an individual, as feeding the paper through the press is done by a human, not a mechanical process… there are slight variations of alignment which means that your print, signed by the artist and chopmarked with the Ampersand Duck mark, is really your own print, and not a unit in a mass-produced project.
So. These fabulous broadsides are available from my Duckshop (<== on the sidebar, to your left). Don’t miss out, they will hopefully all sell, and that may fund a part of Natalie’s next project, whatever that may be. I’m positive this won’t be her last printing experience!
Stay tuned for a very different broadside experience when Peter McLean makes his edition with me.