Students Get Creative to Mix Old, New Printmaking Technology

Monday, June 08, 2020
Photo montage showing four students working on their art, 3-D printing projects.

Students in a variety of STEM fields learned the art of printmaking this spring while exploring their interests in art and creative expression. The course is being taught again this summer and fall by art professor Soully Abas.

Rose-Hulman students are bringing new twists to the century-old art of printmaking, using 3D technology to create beautiful prints by hand through a first-time class taught by assistant professor of art Soully Abas.

Originally, 25 students across two spring quarter classes were going to use professional-grade and specially designed presses in an on-campus studio setting to make prints from linoleum or wood blocks. However, when course instruction was moved to remote learning by the COVID-19 pandemic, the students created floral and organic designs by hand or digitally, made 3D models, and then sent them to campus for production by 3D printers in the Kremer Innovation Center.

Each student received a package with their block and all the tools necessary to make their relief-procedure prints. Abas posted a video demonstrating the technique to complete the process.

For the floral design project, German designer and printmaker Martin Shneider generously shared files so that students in the class could create 3D prints from a specially designed miniature press.

“Using the mini press allowed the students to experience the press on a much smaller scale. It was a valuable learning experience,” Abas noted.

Second-year computer engineering student Jake Nickel was inspired by shapes commonly found on a deck of playing cards to create the print “Ray of Sunshine.” He featured images found within cornfields near his Illinois home to create an artistic floral print.

“I really liked how the course blended 3D printing with art. I loved 3D printing and had just bought my own, so I was really excited to work on the projects,” Nickel said. “I enjoy engineering and art. As an engineer, it is important to be creative because life isn’t all models and equations. It’s important to embrace art because creative solutions will ultimately be the most innovative.”

Like Nickel, graduating physics student Rhiannon Turner didn’t have printmaking experience before taking the course. She had taken a watercolor painting course from professor Abas during the winter academic quarter.

For the final class project, she combined painting and printmaking to create a composition out of two blocks: one was a print of a cactus, while another was a painted border that drew attention to the cactus image.

“I wish I would have taken more art classes at Rose because it was the perfect way to take a break from all the STEM classes that took up a majority of my time,” Turner said. “I’m really into crafts. It was really nice to have (craft-making time) built into my schedule. It allowed me to exercise the more creative half of my brain. Art can be a great stress reliever.”

She adds, “I loved that (professor Abas) found baby printing presses for us all to get the feel of using a real one. She also introduced us to at-home printmaking and I’m really excited to use the techniques in the future to continue printmaking as a hobby.”

Hand-printing is a vintage method of printing used by the Chinese and Japanese.

Because of the course’s success, Abas is now teaching the printmaking course again online this summer and has two course sections planned for the fall.

“The students’ work was really impressive in terms of design and craftsmanship. Some students went above and beyond to experiment and learn about relief printmaking,” said Abas. “The students’ enthusiasm and commitment made the class a success. This kind of dedication made it easier for me to continue searching for fun and creative ways to teach the class.”

View a gallery of prints students made