Printmaking with Your Pasta Machine

When my husband and I married in 1989, we registered for a pasta-making machine. In a delusional haze brought on by love and the advice of the era's culinary trendsetters (I'm talking to you, Martha), we envisioned having a life in which we grew our own herbs and made pasta from scratch in our own kitchen on a weekly basis. There might have been some mention of having our own vineyard, too. I forget.

collagraph printed with car

A pre-punched metal plate from the building
industry was stitched with soft embroidery
cotton. A car was then used to run over the sandwich of metal plates to make the print.

In an event, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that we have never, ever, not even once, used the pasta-making machine. Not even for making jewelry out of polymer clay.

The machine still sits on a shelf in the kitchen, in it's dusty box, mocking us daily. But I think I may have found a way to actually use it: printmaking.

I discovered this idea while reading through the enormously imaginative and instructive new book Print with Collage and Stitch: Techniques for Mixed-media Printmaking by Val Holmes. The book details the variety of ways you can create plates for collagraphy (also spelled collography), a method of relief printing that involves adding elements to the plate instead of taking them away.

Val also details the ways you can print your collograph print, with and without a printing press. The "without" methods range from using your hands or a rolling pin to rolling over the plate, substrate, and felts with a garden roller or your car.

But the one that intrigued me the most was using a pasta-making machine. Here is what Val has to say about this printmaking method.

Printing a collagraph with a pasta machine

printmaking collograph
Collograph made with many textures, including hand stitching.

You will need a pasta-making machine of good quality to take the pressure required for printing. The base plate of the machine may get in the way when you put a collagraphy plate through, so if necessary, take this off and try to come up with a new way of clamping the machine to the table. Once all this has been achieved, there are a few more useful rules in order to obtain a good print:

  • Use a flexible plate – cardboard, paper, or malleable plastic will be easiest and will help to avoid altering the pasta-making machine too much.
  • Keep the surface of the plate as even as possible. If it is too thick, or has too much relief, there will be problems getting it through the machine or getting a good print.
  • As with a flower press, more pressure is applied, so a little less ink is required on the plate. Experiment to achieve a good result.
  • Use water-based ink, dyes, or acrylics to make for easier cleaning of the press afterwards. Clean it immediately after use, using lots of soapy water, and you may even be able to use it for making pasta! Do make sure, however, that it is scrupulously clean if you are going to reuse it for this purpose.

"Bearing in mind the inherent difficulties of using a pasta-making machine for printing and the fact that it really achieves only a relief print, a flower press seems a more reasonable alternative," writes Val.

But for my money, it would be worth it to try the pasta machine technique, if only to say that I had used the darn thing at least once in my life.

There are so many wonderful printmaking techniques and ideas in Print with Collage and Stitch, you'll want to try more than just printing with unconventional methods. Val's ideas for combining stitch with printmaking are eye-opening, and I plan to work my way through as many as possible.


P.S. Do you have an unusual method for printing without a printing press? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Blog, Printmaking

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