Electrolytic and electrochemical methods for etching are traditional, in the public domain, and can replace acids and produce original effects. Conclusions from GREEN PRINTS by Cedric Green published by Ecotech Design, Sheffield, UK. - a handbook on new methods for non-toxic intaglio etching and metal plate printmaking, featuring the technique of Galv-Etch, a modern development of the 19th century electrolytic technique of Electro-Etching, and introducing Fractint and other new alternative methods avoiding the use of solvents and chemicals harmful to health and to the environment.
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The alternative methods described in the preceding pages are in one sense traditional, in that they can be used to make conventional printing plates from copper, zinc and steel, using methods and materials that have been around for more than a century. In showing for how long electrolytic plate-making processes have been used, and how modern, inexpensive, everyday equipment and materials can easily eliminate what is clearly the most noxious etching process, I have tried to demystify and simplify galv-etch to make it as accessible as possible, and to communicate the results of my experience and research as freely as possible. The electrochemical method of using copper sulphate to etch zinc plates (Bordeaux Etch) was not documented for use by etchers before Semenoff, Bader and I researched it independantly, but the chemical process involved is obvious and I would be surprised if it was not known and used during the 19th century.

I have found from the feedback that I get on the internet, that interest in electrolytic processes extends to many other crafts that use metals, and I have tried to extend my research and experience to describe ways of using galvanoplasty for instance. The use of the linked methods of ink-ground and fractint, salt tint and sugar lift tint, have the same effect, of using economical, quick, and simple means and safe materials to remove the barriers and inhibitions to creativity that the traditional"cuisine" has imposed. I hope that the new possibilities that the combined techniques offer will stimulate, even perhaps galvanize, other artists into creative discoveries that go way beyond those I've described. Even if the additional possibilities offered by ink grounds are not taken up, galv-etch can be used with traditional grounds and aquatint, or with a few other substitutes to produce a safer working environment.

Once the process of making and experimenting with plates has become simplified, clean, safe, agreeable, and can be done in a normal studio environment without special ventilation, masks, goggles, or anxiety, then imagination is liberated at the point where it is most important in printmaking, in the creation of the matrix.


Cedric Green demonstrating electrolytic printmaking techniques at his exhibition at L'Atelier in Perigueux in December 1999 (photo Hans Riedl)

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