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Potato prints in a modern age…

February 28, 2011

Bok Choy Flower, Brian Lockyear, 2010

One of the simplest forms of printmaking is the “potato print”, or “d’impression de pommes de terre” for all you francophiles out there.  Potato prints are great because they can be successfully executed by anyone, from children to adults.  You slice the potato in half, cut a stamp image into the surface (remember to do it in reverse!), and use whatever grungy paint you want as ink to stamp with.  Potatoes are cheap, the cutting is easy and doesn’t even require sharp implements.  The potato’s starchiness helps by acting as an additional binder in the ink.  Don’t go for detail.  But if you are feeling both broke and green next holiday season, buy some potatoes, cut up some paper bags, gather the family, and make potato print wrapping paper to your heart’s content.

Given this clandestine love of potatoes and printmaking, imagine the joy I felt this week finding an article on Boing Boing entitled “3D printing with mashed potatoes“!  3D printers normally extrude a curable plastic, but in this story the 3D printer makers at Bits From Bytes are printing “food” using mashed potatoes as their medium.  Wonder how often they have to clean the print heads?

These are not the first folks I’ve heard of abusing their 3D printers with unusual print materials.  Just last week Virginia San Fratello of Rael San Fratello Architects gave an excellent talk at UO’s White Stag building describing printing using liquid ceramics, concrete, and even simulated blood as mediums.  Their organic planter brick walls are quite lovely, check them out.  And yes, Virginia did say that their printer jams frequently.  Clearly a technique not for the faint of heart.  Or equipment risk averse.  Or average architecture firm.  Yet.

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