How to Try Lithography in Your Kitchen at Home
All you need are a few common household items.
Until now, lithography was a printmaking process seemingly only accessible in the world of fine art. An image is drawn with oil, fat, or wax onto the surface of a lithographic limestone plate, treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, and the oil-based ink transfers to a blank sheet. Enter kitchen lithography. With a little creativity using household ingredients, crafters can create their own buttons, bags, pillowcases, cards, and other custom artworks. Two proponents of the technique are Laura Sofie Hantke and Lucas Grassman of Studio Lula in Darmstadt, Germany, who wrote the book on the subject (Kitchen Lithography: Hand Printing at Home) and host workshops dedicated to teaching their craft to others.
"We love kitchen litho because you can easily make high-quality prints at home," authors Hantke and Grassman share with Martha Stewart. "There is no need of a printing workshop, special chemicals or machines. Most of the needed materials you have already at home, because you use simple household ingredients like aluminum foil, cola, and vegetable oil."
"Kitchen litho" wasfirst invented by the French artist Émilie Aizier. Compared to the traditional technique, it's a quick, simplified, non-toxic process. And you likely already have the supplies at home: aluminum foil, vegetable oil, and soda. You can simply take the glass from an old picture frame to serve as the glass plate. The surface for rolling out paint can be an old piece of wood, cardboard, or glass. Nixing toxic chemicals makes kitchen lithography more eco-friendly, too: Turpentine is replaced by plain vegetable oil and cola is used to etch the printing plate (as opposed to pure acids).
You can print on paper, wood, or fabric. And you can make all sorts of goods: adhesive labels for kitchen containers, T-shirts and tote bags, postcards, posters, notebook covers, party garlands and buttons, textile wall-art, and dishtowels. "Kitchen litho is also very fast," Hantke and Grassman explain. "You can easily make one printing plate after another, so it allows you to experiment a lot and to make many drafts in short time." This lends itself well to printing series of your motifs, such as invitations or a set of postcards.
Kitchen lithography is a sensitive technique. For your first attempts, start with simplified drawings so you will not be discouraged in practicing your first printing plates and work carefully in removing the residual ink. "So, just try to wipe the plate very carefully and never wipe it completely dry," they suggest. "Either it should be oily or wet. You are better off leaving a few oil pastels leftovers rather than rubbing the printing plate too long."
The biggest advice they offer? Simple: "Have fun," they say. "Keep your joy of experimenting even if the first attempt does not work. Kitchen litho is a craft. Little unexpected surprises in your print makes your work unique. That's the special feature about handmade prints, what is very important in a digital world like today."