May Day [intaglio print]
In 2005, Louisiana Bendolph and Mary Lee Bendolph were invited by Paulson Press to create a suite of intaglio prints in Berkeley, California. “At first when I did it, I felt nervous,” Mary Lee said. “I had never before held a paintbrush or painted with acid.” Louisiana recounted, “When I put on that apron that was covered in paint, and I picked up the paintbrush, I kind of for one moment felt like I was an artist. . . . It was clear that so many artists had worked in it and . . . I couldn’t help but think about those work-clothes quilts that were made back in Gee’s Bend when I was growing up. . . . The whole thing made me feel a very strong connection back to my family and home.”
Each of them created a suite of six prints of varying size, using softground aquatint and spitbite to bring their visions to the medium of fine art prints. Each struggled with how to adapt their working method for piecing full—sized quilts to making prints ranging from two to four feet wide, with materials they had never before used. Their solution was to create fabric maquettes—miniature quilt tops—from materials brought from home or purchased from a local thrift store, and then each maquette was laid on a copper plate coated with beeswax to produce the impression of the fabric, its seams, textures, and nuances. Next, the softground was etched in acid, transferring the impression of the maquettes to the copper plate.