I am not, by nature, a very organized person.  One look at my desk would prove it. Nevertheless, organization is important for a printmaker, if you want to produce consistent editions.  So, sometimes I need to force myself to be meticulous about the way I go about something, just to ensure that I stay organized.

I was thinking about this the other day as I prepared some paper for printing an edition.  It is going to be a relatively small print (for me) so I could get several out of a single sheet of paper.  I had several things I needed to keep track of:

  • I had to tear each sheet into 6 even pieces
  • I had to set aside one of the pieces from each sheet which contained the watermark as it would overlap the image
  • I had to make sure I kept the paper oriented so that it was clear which side was the front (hard to tell quickly without the watermark)
  • I had to make sure I tore the paper face down so that the little ridge that resulted next to the tear bar was on the back
  • I had to stack the torn sheets so that the ‘bottom’ of the sheet had a deckle and the ‘top’ a torn edge
  • I had to punch each sheet for registration so that the holes were in the same position near the top edge.

In order to keep track of all this, I started by counting out my full size sheets and stacking them, checking that the watermark was in the same corner on all the sheets. Then, taking two sheets at a time, I would measure and tear, working from the same edge, with the paper in the same orientation each time. The torn sheets were stacked in the same way each time, being careful not to turn anything over. I set aside the sheet with the watermark as I came to it.

Once I had everything torn down, I set up to punch. I measured and marked the surface of the table with masking tape so that the sheets could be positioned quickly and consistently. Then two sheets at a time, I put them in place and punched, and then placed them in the finished pile.

Another example of this kind of thing is something I do when I am printing. When I put a sheet in the drying rack, I pull the next proof to be printed out an inch or so. That way, after I ink the plate, when I come back to the rack I can tell easily which is the next one to print. There is nothing quite so annoying as discovering that you skipped a proof when printing one of the colors in a print. I speak from experience.

Developing these sorts of little methodical practices can really help master the chaos, even if it doesn’t come naturally for you.