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Last Thursday, January 6, in Jennifer Rice's Innisfree office at 729 East Boston Street in Covington, the inaugural meeting of the Louisiana Engravers Society met. This is a landmark event because engraving for print is almost a dead art. Nancy Sharon Collins of Covington and Yvette Rutledge of New Orleans have banded together to formalize the growing group of engraving enthusiasts whom they meet and who practice here in south Louisiana. Together, they have made it their mission to not only keep this venerable, exquisite art form alive but also encourage its growth by introducing it to younger generations. Highlights were meeting and networking, learning and sharing information and resources, especially sharing technical innovations. Sam Alfano demonstrated the work he has been doing creating digital translations of ornate engraved scroll designs, a process that took him three years to perfect (you can see some on his website.)
Engraving is the most beautiful form of printing known; think of Old Masters prints, those portraits and landscapes made-up of thousands of tiny lines, that's engraving. Albrecht Dürer was a master engraver, Raphael and Rubens allowed master engravers to copy their work thus increasing the market for their famous paintings. While etching has come to be the prevalent form of intaglio printing practiced in the fine art, printmaking world, engraving has fallen out of favor because it takes 6-10 years to become a master! (The difference between etching and engraving is that in etching, acid is used to make the “cut” while engravers literally cut into the surface of the metal to form designs. The similarity is that the printing process is then the same; ink is worked into the “cuts”. the excess wiped clean, and a print then pulled. Several etching artists are represented at the St. Tammany Art Association where their work can be seen). These days, engraving is best known on the currency carried in our wallets, all our postage stamps used to be engraved, and fancy social stationery and wedding invitations are still engraved. However, we have master engravers right here in our community and several students locally who want to learn.
Participants included Yvette Rutledge and Vince Mitchell, co-directors of the New Orleans Center for Lettering Arts and Mystic Blue Signs (Rutledge is herself a master letter and engraver), Nancy Sharon Collins, bespoke hand engraved social stationer (who also teaches graphic design at SELU), the Alfonos (Sam is a master gun and jewelry engraver), Cordelle Louvier, master printer, Emily DeLorge (graphic designer and engraving apprentice) and Skye Jenkins and Alex Babbit (enthusiastic students wanting to learn.) Noel Martin, local master stationery engraver, was unable to attend at the last minute but was present in spirit. Alfono offers engraving classes for jewelry engraving and Rutledge will be offering an engraving class for print, jewelry and metal work this coming fall.