Mise en place is a concept from the culinary industry. It refers to the process of preparing all of the tools and ingredients for a dish before beginning to cook. The vegetables have been portioned and chopped; the meat is cleaned and proportioned; the spices gathered; the pots and utensils gathered. In short, everything is ready and in easy reach so that when the actual cooking begins, there is no need to run around.
When editioning, a little mise en place can really make life easier and the results more consistent. When prepping an itaglio plate for editioning, I start by going carefully over the bevels on the edge of the plate. I make sure that they are all beveled evenly and carefully polished. Any scratches will catch ink and require you to take additional time to get it properly wiped clean. Too easy to miss a spot. The higher the polish, the easier it is to get a consistently clean bevel.
The next thing is the paper. I cut (or tear) it to size a day in advance, making sure that the individual pieces are evenly sized. Then I dip each piece in a tray of water, let it drain and stack them together in the center of a sheet of plastic. I then wrap it up (making sure that any watermarks are oriented consistently) and place it under some weight for the night. That little package of paper will be consistently damp: one less thing to worry about.
My next preparation step is any registration system. For a single color intaglio print, I use a fairly simple system. The idea is to position the plate and the paper quickly and consistently but without a lot of fuss as it doesn’t have stringent requirements. I start by taking a piece of Mylar and using a find point Sharpie, marking the outlines of the plate (on what will be the back side). Then, based on the margin sizes that I determined when I cut the paper I make two registration lines (at right angles). These will represent the edges of the paper. I then turn it over and tape it down to the bed of the press. Putting the lines on the back side allows you to easily clean the Mylar during the printing without worrying about disturbing the lines.
For this kind of print, I make three small tape stops. Take a small piece of masking tape (about an inch long) and double it over on itself in the middle for about a quarter of an inch. Stick it down to the Mylar with the seam in the tape right on one of the registration lines. The result is a little flexible flap of tape, just enough to catch the edge of the paper. Put two of these on the registration lines for one edge and one on the other edge.
The final step is to cut a piece of mat board in an L shape, with the width of the legs equal to the margin of the paper.
I mix my ink, get my tarlatan and rags handy and start to print. After I ink and wipe the plate I position it by taking the piece of mat board and pushing it gently against the two tape stops on one edge and sliding it gently over against the third tape stop on the other edge.
Then, very carefully lift out the mat board without disturbing the position of the plate (you can clearly see the registration lines in this picture)
Finally, remove a sheet of paper from the damp pack, make sure that there is no surface moisture on it (blot it briefly if there is) and position the paper using the same tape tabs used to position the mat board. Then run it through the press.
It may seem picky, but this kind of careful preparation can make editioning a much more pleasurable experience. And a more consistent one.