Emoji Calling Cards is a contemporary spin on Victorian Calling Cards, taking social cues from French 19th century socialite culture and incorporating collaborative block printing.
Victorian Calling Cards are an example of printmaking as a democratic art-making platform because they serve the same purpose and use the same print techniques across all classes of society in 19th-20th century western culture.
Beginning in France, and traveling throughout Europe, then the US, Victorian calling cards were carried and distributed by upperclass women and men to arrange “social engagements”. Victorian calling cards have a "call and response" engagement similar to texting today. The print quality of the card often determined the wealth of the carrier (feathers, fringe, gemstones, and full-color chromolithography printing were common attributes for the rich). The middle-class adopted the custom of exchanging Victorian calling cards to experience a taste of high-society, using printmaking techniques available to them at the time (letterpress, lithography).
This activity takes the "call and response" purpose of Victorian calling cards and incorporates the contemporary language of emojis that we use to communicate a point.
- Block printing ink
- Speedball Linoleum cutters
- EZ Cut linoleum
- Speedball brayer
- Baren or wooden spoon
- Plexiglass sheet
- Acetate pad
- Strathmore printmaking paper or French Paper
- Self healing cutting mat
Make the registration:
Your paper can be any size you like. For my activity, I cut the paper down to 4.5” X 6”, and the blocks to 4” X 4.5”.
- Place the paper to print on under a sheet of acetate and using a sharpie, draw the border of the paper (it helps to use a self-healing cutting mat for this part)
- Removing the paper underneath, register two blocks of linoleum side-by-side in the center of the acetate, leaving a little more room on the bottom. Make sure to draw the vertical line dividing the two blocks.
- Label the first block template “call” and the second “response”
- At the top of the registration, right “FRONT” backwards, right to left.
Making the emoji blocks:
Choose from an assortment of emojis (6-10), that you and your participant enjoy.
- Cut the linoleum blocks into even shapes (mine are 4”X 4.5”), using an x-acto blade and self-healing cutting mat.
- Using one block as a template, trace along the perimeter on regular copy paper. Repeat as many times on the paper to design your templates. Afterwards, cut them out and compare them.
- Using a sharpie, draw your emojis onto each block. Be sure to dedicate the bulk of each block (70% or more) to the shape of the emoji.
- Carefully carve the blocks out using linoleum cutting tools. You can choose to carve around your lines or onto of them-just don’t carve towards your hand!
Printing the emoji blocks
- Arrange the following on the sheet of plexiglass: left to right: emoji blocks, brayer, block printing ink, the template, and the stack of printmaking paper above the template.
- Spread a band of ink across the middle of the plexiglass, and place your brayer (roller side down) a few inches above. Roll the brayer down, through the ink until a second band begins (the second band indicates a full revolution of the brayer), then back up through the ink until a third band appears. Continue to roll back and forth inside the well of ink, listening for a sound like sizzling bacon.
- Roll the charged brayer across the first block to ink up and down, left and right, making sure the ink is even throughout. You may need to recharge the brayer in the inkwell for a second pass.
- Place the first block on “call”.
- Holding the paper in your hands, register the paper using the template. Gently press onto block to secure it to the paper.
- Using wrist pressure, print using the baren (or wooden spoon) in an up-down, circular motion.
Give the card to your partner and have them repeat the process!
Share your cards
Share with Emoji Calling Card users by tagging photos of your prints on Instagram with #BlockPaperPrint and #BlockPaperPrintEmojiCallingCard