Sustainable Printmaking

One of the biggest issues for our conscience today, is sustainability. We are now finding ways to ensure every aspect of our lives has a conscience and is not contributing landfill, deforestation, pollution and inequality in workforces across the globe.

The internet has given us a means to research products and services, which has caused a huge shake up in the way a lot of organisations do business. They simply cannot get away with being unethical any more.

So why am I talking about this today? Well, I am trying my best to be an ethical artist. Unfortunately, despite all of our best efforts we cannot be 100% free of contributions to the above, but I honestly believe that it’s the small changes that make the big differences.

The biggest starting point for any 2d artist is your surface. For me, I choose Awagami Editioning papers for my printmaking. Awagami Papers are crafted at a mill in Tokushima, with artistry and knowledge gained over 8 generations of family paper making. The papers are made with natural fibres to yield sheets with an expressive surface and character. They are acid free, made with respect and care of the environment.
The only downside to these papers, is the shipping. Obviously the carbon footprint is always going to be an issue, but like I said, if you can save in other areas it truly does help to offset.

I had a huge crisis of conscience when I was thinking about the inks I use, as they’re oil based. I emailed Cranfield, expecting a stock response. However, the Managing Director – Michael Craine, emailed me back with an internal document used for their shareholders, which details the lifecycle analysis of the inks. This is the method by which the environmental impact of products and services can be described and qualified.

From this document I have established that Cranfield only use reputable suppliers for their pigments, all who follow strict environmental policies
The packaging is all made from metals or plastics with minimal raw ingredients and can be recycled.
The inks themselves are made with linseed as the raw ingredient. Their oils come from Belgium, which means they don’t have far to travel.
The other advantage to the manufacturing process of Cranfield products, is that these inks can be cleaned up in a way that isn’t releasing toxins in to the water supply. I simply wipe some vegetable oil over the surface with a reusable cloth and rise. No chemical content and nothing like white spirit to dispose of any more!

I am ashamed to say that I often fall at the final hurdle and with linoleum its no different! If you use traditional hessian backed Lino, you can pop used blocks and all your cuttings in to your compost! It is completely biodegradable.
I am developing a rather bad case of carpal tunnel, which means that my hands can’t manage the pressure you need to cut these blocks any more. I often resort to using a soft cut alternative, which is is made of rubber and therefore not suitable to recycle or compost yet. I am forever looking for ways to change this and am hoping that a solution will present itself in the near future.

In conclusion, printmaking has taken huge leaps forward in it’s sustainability and ethos towards protecting our planet. If you research and are mindful, you can be an eco friendly artist. There is no need for harsh chemicals any more and that is good for our lungs AND the environment! If you want to know more, I highly recommend contacting manufacturers directly as the vast majority are transparent and proud of their environmental status.

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