Printmaking has long tradition of collaborative art.   When making an original print, there are two distinct roles: artist and printer.  For many printmakers these two roles are combined.  The artist is also the printer.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  High quality printing requires a lot of skill and often a significant investment in space and equipment.  Consequently many artists will work with a dedicated fine art printmaker who has the equipment and brings the skills necessary to control and execute the chosen printmaking process.

The printer in this situation must walk a fine line.  On the one hand, they need to allow the artist full artistic control of the work.  In the simplest terms, the artist needs to be making the decisions.  On the other hand, since the artist may not be familiar with the processes, they may not know what the possibilities are.  So, as a printer, you need to understand where the artist broadly wants to go and then lay out the alternatives that may allow them to get there.

In the end, the artist is the one signing the work but, clearly, the printer has a hand in it.  Thus many print studios use a printers chop.  This is most commonly an embossed mark of some sort that is applied to the finished prints, usually near the edge, although in the case of a bleed print (where the image completely fills the paper and ‘bleeds’ off the edge) it may be placed in the image itself.  It identifies the print studio where the work was done.  For larger studios, each printer may have their own chop (usually a ‘double mark’ of some sort) so that the both the press and the printer can be identified.

When someone frames a print, they have the choice of showing the chop or covering it up with the mat.

For artist/printers like myself, the use of a chop is less common.  I had not been using one until recently when I worked the L.A. based artist known as Retna.  Over a period of a week we produced 10 plates, which then took me another solid week to edition.

Dean and Retna discussing the possibilities
during a work session at Copper Plate Press, Loveland CO

Since I was acting as the printer here, I got myself a chop which was applied to the finished prints.  Now that I have one, I have started to chop my own work as well.

The embossed chop for Copper Plate Press