smoke proof
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Smoke proof.   1. A method used by type cutters to judge the accuracy of their work as it progressed. The cutter would first heat the punch in the candle flame to remove moisture and finger oils left from handling it. The candle was then extinguished, and the punch held in the smoke. When the punch was blackened, the cutter would moisten a piece of paper by breathing on it and would then gently press the punch to the paper.

The idea of the smoke proof appeals to me for several reasons. The type of enameling I use most frequently, champlevé, is closely tied to methods of printmaking. A copper plate is etched to produce low areas (which are filled with enamel) and raised fields (or, in French, champs levés). I enjoy the acts of drawing and etching and the lines produced in the copper, and have for some time played with the idea of printing the copper plates on which I later enamel. I’m drawn to the temporal nature of that initial line drawing, which becomes increasingly obscured as I apply the enamel. By printing the plate in ink the image can be preserved indefinitely, but the choice to print it in soot allows the print to retain that feeling of temporality. Along with soot prints, I have also begun using pyrography to print the plates. The image of the plate burnt into paper or wood is a memory of the hot metal.

I began this series of work thinking of the pieces simply as playful experiments in printing an image from one material to another. Recent events in my life have led me to look at the work in a more melancholy light. The pieces in this series commemorate the materials used to print them, the burnt or etched areas referencing both the visible material and the absent one. The marks left speak about what is not present. The processes used to make them are temperamental and difficult to reproduce. Each “ghosting” of the image is different from the next, and each is produced by a state of the copper plate which is transitory: the hot plate, the sooted plate, the wet plate. The heated plate acts like the brief flash of heat that turns powdered enamel to a solid glass surface. It imprints a memory, and that memory then becomes a piece of jewelry. The progression to jewelry seems logical to me both because of jewelry’s historical role as a commemoration of a person or event, and because the wearing of jewelry is (like memory) an intimate experience.