The Making Of: Madonna & Karl

Monday, December 10, 2007, 4:28 PM

In the long, storied history of labor intensive Pressure Printing projects, our just-released project with Mr. Ryden might take the cake for complexity and craft. With the release of this hotly-anticipated and long-promised project we thought we'd give you a brief tour behind the scenes of a Pressure Printing production and show what went into this project.

The Print

The first thing we had to do, of course, was edition the print. The editioning of Madonna & Karl built upon our years of hard-won intaglio printing experience; from the outset we spared no expense testing and refining etch times and screen resolutions until we couldn't find anything to nitpick anymore. We tested preliminary plates with different colors and ink consistencies until we wore them out out--all told the process involved ten separate sets of plates. Along the way we were also hunting down and experimenting with most of the Japanese papers we could get our hands on, finally settling on Kochi, which proved to have the right combination of sensitivity to ink and a certain unquantifiable "feel." The final print involves two printed plates, both wiped a la poupée (with multiple colors on the same plate) to create subtle gradations of gold, ochre and the perfect aged paper look behind Mark's original image, which is recreated in all of it's stunning, wispy, pencil-drawn delicacy.

The Frame

Once we had a print in hand we needed something to put it in. After selling Mark on the idea of a religious-icon-esque altarpiece (it was an easy sell), Brad sketched and traded designs with both Mark and the carpenter we work with for a few months until arriving on a prototype of the final frame. Our carpenter friend is a craftsman of the first order. He is a soft-spoken and wise old man, who despite his consummate abilities seemed loath to implement each extra detail or refinement that went beyond his first prototype, which was a few steps removed from a kind of a triangle on sticks. Constantly, repeatedly, we would ask if we could put an extra bend in the trim or somesuch only to hear "Oh man, we can do it, but *long, slow head shake* that is a lot of work." However his expert advice (e.g. once while I was manning the belt sander: "Yentle, yentle, like with a woman") guided us through the fabrication and editioning of the frames, which then needed only to be sanded, coated in gesso, hand gilded, coated again in various oils and varnishes, antiqued, and stamped with a few finishing touches (the eye was a particularly inspired late addition), before all of the pieces could be put together into a finished project.

Finishing Touches

But not, of course, before we set up a few more obstacles between ourselves and a release. The certificate of authenticity was a nearly an entire project in and of itself--incorporating both intaglio and relief hand-printing on a fine, heavyweight printmaking paper. After printing it was perforated on our antique perforator, signed, numbered, and emblazoned with sculpted-die chops representing both Mr. Ryden and Pressure Printing. Which is another story--after stamping a few certificates with our old, simple Pressure Printing chop alongside Mark Ryden's immaculate sculpted bee we balked at how we were being beaten at our own game and designed an entirely new sculpted die for ourselves.

We selected the the best glass we could find, "museum quality" glass which exhibits some must-see-to-believe anti-glare characteristics and total UV-protection. As we have for a few projects in the past we special-ordered custom cardboard boxes and packing foam with the shape of the frame cut out of it for a perfect snug fit. When we finally started mounting the prints in their frames we agreed that the wrinkle in the prints, which were intentionally left a little wavy after printing, was a bit much and they were all half-flattened to a more perfect degree of wrinkly-ness. Etc., etc., etc.

If anything could be made better on this project we didn't give the extra cost or effort a second thought--this is the best piece of fine printing we know how to make. We're estatic that we can finally show you the fruits of our long labors, which can be seen over at

Here are some final statistics:

The Print:
• Hand printed two plate plate intaglio print
• Kochi fine Japanese paper
• Each plate wiped à la poupée with multiple colors
• Embossed with sculted bee die and chop
• Hand signed by Mark Ryden

The Frame
• Hand-built custom wooden frame
• Hand guilded with antiqued finish
• Stamped with eye insignia and title
• Museum quality, anti-glare, UV protecting glass

The Certificate of Authenticity:
• Custom designed
• Hand printed with relief-printed type and
intaglio-printed image
• Printed on Rives Heavyweight paper
• Perforated and embossed with sculpted dies
• Signed and numbered by Mark Ryden

The Edition:
• Released December 2007
• Frame size is 10 1/4" x 16 3/4" x 1 3/4"
• Print size is 5 1/2" x 6 1/2"
• Edition of 40
• 10 printer proofs
• 10 artist's proofs
• 1 Bon á tirer


noferin said...

That is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing the process. Well done!

carlos said...

Oustanding work !! Congrats Brad and Mark. Keep up the awesome work.

Danny Roberts said...

you guys are incredible!
i'm really glad to know you guys exist.
your product is something to be proud of.
it's amazing,

Carlo said...

Good Job! :)