More About Etchings – Mary E. Hutchinson Site

June 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

Bearded Man Etching

This Bearded Man (ca. 1929) is another etching done by Mary E. Hutchinson as a student at the National Academy of Design.  You can see other examples of her work at my digital archiving site The Artwork of Mary E. Hutchinson at http://meh.omeka.net.

A few posts back, I shared a bit of a letter Hutchinson wrote to her mother (Minnie Belle Hutchinson) describing the etching process.  Here’s more from a second letter she wrote a few days later in late January or early February, 1929:

“I had to turn in some work today at school for the exams – all classes.  In the etching class, I finished drawing on my first plate, biting it and cleaning it all ready for printing.  I think I explained to you the preparing of the rosin ground on the plate – heating, waxing, rolling, smoking, rinsing.  If the ground has a good gloss, is thin, and yet thoroughly covers and protects the plate, it is all right for drawing.  First you make a drawing on paper to get your placement and effects of shading (just the scratches on the plate are very confusing to the eye, and besides allow for no change at all).  You finish your drawing, then shave off some fine red chalk like powder and rub onto the back of the paper, very smooth.  You then fold the paper carefully on the prepared plate, and with a sharp pencil go over your main lines, which trace on the wax but do not cut through, of course.  Then you work direct on the plate from the model, and it certainly is confusing.  The model poses three times, in this case last Saturday morning, Thursday afternoon and this morning.  But during that time you have to work on your plate as well as draw.  I finished drawing about the middle of the morning.  Then the complicated process of biting the plate.  The back of the plate, sides, any exposed spot on the plate must be painted with asphaltum to protect it from the acid.  When this is thoroughly dry you place the plate on a string and with that dip it in acid for two minutes, feathering it all the while, to keep air bubbles out of the lines.  After biting you wash the plate in water and blot it.  With more asphaltum you again stop out parts, delicate lines you do not want to go too deep in the plate.  After two or three such bitings in the acid, you clean all the ground off, and the plate is ready for printing.”

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Teaching With Objects

June 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

The best advice I got as a new teacher designing my first syllabus was to teach what I know.  Thank you Rosemarie Garland-Thomson!  I was new to Women’s Studies but had spent many years as a professional public historian – and I knew objects – the material and visual stuff of everyday life.

DBM Trojan condom tin blog

I grabbed the attention of my first class on my first day with an exercise in reading the object – this circa 1940 Trojan condom tin.  It was different enough to puzzle my students and familiar enough to be relevant to their daily lives.

gold trojan back

This single object opened the door to an array of topics pertinent to Women’s Studies from reproduction rights and the science of sex to the gendering of colors.

Etching Featured on Mary E. Hutchinson Site

June 9, 2013 § 1 Comment

Cathedral St. John the Divine

Currently featured on Artworks of Mary E. Hutchinson at http://meh.omeka.net – “Cathedral St. John the Divine,” etching (ca.1929).

As a student at the National Academy of Design in New York, Mary E. Hutchinson learned to work in a variety of media including the art of etching which was very popular in the 1920s.  She viewed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from her apartment window every day and made both an etching and a drawing of it.

Hutchinson began etching in January 1929 and wrote her mother, Minnie Belle, a detailed description of the process:

“I can stay in the etching class all right I think, but I have such loads to learn!  Mr. Leavy came in yesterday morning.  So Friday afternoon I worked, lay[ing] another ground on a plate, and printing the trial plate I had made.  Part of Thursday I worked in the room, biting my trial plate.  I certainly make lot of slips, with no one to tell me much.

You first take a zinc plate, clean it with the finest emory paper and then benzene.  You put the plate on a stone, holding it with a vice.  When it is almost hot enough to sizzle (but it must not sizzle), you rub rosin on it through a silk rag; then with a rubber roller, you roll the wax very evenly, and very thin on the plate.  The heat of the plate must be just right to do this, and your pressure just right, and even the most experienced often have to lay a ground three or four times before it is right.  The coating has to be very thin, yet perfectly cover the plate.  Any part too thin, or a tiny porous place like a pin mark, the acid will bite through.  When the ground is on right, and the plate still warm, it is smoked then cooled.  That is all I had better explain at present.”

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