Here at the Printshop, we have a brand new class called Sintra: A New Alternative Material for Printing, taught by John McCaughey on Saturday, December 15, from 10am-6pm. Sintra is a lightweight, yet rigid sheet of PVC that printmakers have been using in their processes. It’s a much cheaper alternative to copper and wood; perfect for a bunch of experimentation! We had John answer some questions we have regarding his new workshop on Sintra and his own work.
What is your work process like? Do you use Sintra a lot in your own body of work?
On average I will make two or three large bodies of work a year. For a month or two, I spend countless hours in the print shop making my plates, inking, wiping, and printing. Once that series is finished it usually takes me two or three months to start the next body of work. During that downtime, I’m documenting, writing about the work, applying to exhibitions, and planning out the next series. My work tends to be abstract in nature, intuitive, and scale tends to be quite large. I’m really interested in experimentation, but it is not a means to an end. I’m not wrapped up entirely in aesthetic, because my work is inspired by my observations of urban environments and how new technologies are altering them. Sintra is integral to my work. I find it to be a durable, reliable, cheap, and easy surface to work from.
What will students learn and get out of this class?
Students will also get some hands on experience using and working with Sintra. Since it is a one-day intensive, I think it is really important students come to class prepared with materials and ideas for prints they would like to make. Some students may already have experience with printmaking, which is great, but not necessary. By the end of the workshop, the students will have had the opportunity to make/construct 4 plates from which they can print off of via the following processes: Relief, Intaglio, Collograph, and Monotype, all of which will be demoed during the workshop.
What kind of imagery and processes are possible with Sintra?
Sintra is very versatile. It can be used for most printmaking processes and at a low cost. Sintra has a very distinct and interesting plate texture to it. This texture creates a very light and consistent plate tone, which I have learned to love. Sintra comes in different thicknesses and I find ¼ inch thick Sintra to be perfect for Relief printing. If you own some wood carving tools you will find it quite easy to carve through this material and you do not have to deal with chipping or carving against grain. The thinner Sintra is great for drypoint. This material collects marks very well. If you are a diehard etcher, you may be disappointed with Sintra, but drypoint works very well. My favorite use for Sintra is making Collographs. There are a lot of materials that adhere nicely to these plates like tape and modeling paste. Another great thing about Sintra is you can easily cut the plate to any shape you want. Sintra is perfect for embossing and holding textures as well. I see a lot of people using them for monotypes and monoprints.
Who is using Sintra as a material for printing?
There are already some notable people in the field using Sintra in their work. A big name artist that comes to mind is John Baldessari. I learned how to work with the material from Yizhak Elyashiv who teaches at Rhode Island College. He has made some really awesome experimental prints over the years. Also, out in St. Louis there is a guy by the name of Peter Marcus who has done some really amazing work with Sintra as well. A lot of professional/emerging artists are starting to use it now too which is awesome. It’s catching on.
What kind of experimentation is possible with Sintra?
A lot of heads turn when people see me using Sintra for the first time. The look on in horror as I run keys, twigs, paper clips, coins, etc through the press. A lot of instructors say you cannot run these things through the press, but this is not true at all. You just need the right material (Sintra) and the right pressure on the press. Sintra feels like a mixture between foam and plastic so it has a lot of give. I think the ability to easily carve and cut the plate is a huge advantage over copper and zinc and due to its low cost people are not as afraid to do experiment with Sintra. You can also go really big with Sintra. I believe some companies sell Sintra sheets at 48” x 96”. I usually buy smaller sheets and piece them together to form larger works. Other than not being able to etch these plates, the possibilities are endless I feel with Sintra and I encourage experimentation.