Of the various printmaking techniques used in conjunction with hand papermaking, pulp printing can easily be considered the most immediate and accessible.
This method merges screen printing and stencil spray art, resulting in the production of photographic prints on paper before it has been pressed or dried.
It is no coincidence that the pulp printing aesthetic resembles stencil graffiti art, as the technique holds a place in the continuum of public art.
In February of 2007, after being inspired by paper and book artist Tim Mosley, Drew Matott developed this method of pulp printing for a street intervention in Chicago, addressing America's perceptions of religion, religious figures, and the roots of personal moral values.
Up until that performance, he had used hand-cut stencils to create images on freshly pulled sheets of paper. After using stencils for the People's Portraits of Bush, he sought a more sophisticated printmaking technique for his work.
Adapting his background in silk screen with his street performances, Matott developed this technique through some experimenting with the silk screen and overbeaten pulp.
The true innovation here is that the developed screen is detached from the frame and laid on top of a newly formed sheet of wet paper, followed by pigmented overbeaten pulp being sprayed through the screen onto the sheet. What he came up with is essentially stencil spray art using a silk screen.
Pulp printing is an exciting method of transferring images onto handmade paper. Because the screen is free of the frame, one can come up with varying compositions and colors with each new print.
The forgiving nature of papermaking is carried through to this process, as any misprints can be tossed back into the vat.
This printmaking technique has been picked up by papermakers, printmakers, and DIY enthusiasts across the globe.
Preparing the materials for pulp printing is just a matter of steps: Selecting your image; preparing your screen; preparing your pulp; and printing.
When considering images to select for printing try to imagine that since pulp is the binder for the pigment, the edges of the image will appear diffuse. Therefore, halftone images are more of a challenge to read than simple high contrast images.
In fact, images rendered through using techniques of copier artists tend to work better. Text should be 16 point or larger. Fine lines make for a tough job. The images and text should be printed using an inkjet, laser or xerox printer onto a transparency to make a positive.
The next step is to select the nylon or silk screen mesh, somewhere between 80 and 110 to stretch on a frame. The stretching can be done by hand and does not have to be as tight as a screen for printing with inks.
Using a scoop tray, the stretched screen is coated with a water resistant photo emulsion (Ulano brand offers many). The screen is placed in a light-tight, dust-free closet and allowed to dry. Once the emulsion is dry, the transparency can be put on top of the screen, exposed to UV light and washed out by spraying the screen with lukewarm water. (Every light source/table varies.) The washed out screens are placed to dry and then cut from the frames.
All the steps so far have been standard photo silk screen processes. The next step is to prepare the pulp with which to print. For this, one pound of cotton linter should be beat in a Hollander beater until the fibers are short enough to spray through the silk screen.
This requires an aggressive beating. The roll and the bed plate work best sharpened, and are brought into contact with each other within ten minutes of separating the linter. The roll will remain in contact with the bedplate anywhere from 1 to 5 hours (it is important to check the fiber length of the pulp every 20 minutes). The challenge is to catch the pulp before it turns grey.
When finished, the pulp is drained into a couple of buckets. The beater should be cleaned, making sure that the waste water is NOT saved and added to the pulp printing medium, which would contaminate the fibers and cause problems printing. The pulp should be covered and allowed to settle for several hours, after which excess water is poured off. The pulp then can be poured into seal-able containers and pigmented using pigments and retention agent designed for hand papermaking. Following pigmentation, the pulps are poured into spray bottles.
At last we are ready to print!
The exposed screen is laid on the freshly formed or couched sheet of paper; the borders should be masked (pellon works well).
Then the screen is sprayed thoroughly with the pigmented pulp of your choice.
The masking material and screen are removed and the pulp print revealed!
Video of Climate Control Blockade, a street intervention using pulp printing in 2007.