Four seasons

These are etchings by my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, who died in 2000.

All four are done with the same etching plate.

Winter is done first. The zinc plate is covered with a protective layer and then she draws with tools, including dental tools. The plate is placed in an acid bath. The acid etches where the drawings are, different depths. The protective layer is removed. The plate is inked. Most of the ink is gently wiped off and the plate is placed on the press. Wet paper is laid on the plate and the heavy wool covers are folded down over that. The press is run. The wool is folded back on the other side and the paper is lifted and laid to dry.

The plate is re inked for each one.

She puts the protective cover back on the plate and adds the buds for spring. These are etched. Winter is now gone, the plate has changed. She prints all of the spring series.

Next is summer. Leaves are added. She prints those.

Last is autumn. Now there are leaves on the ground as well. She does some the plates with more than one ink color. This was one of her largest etchings. She did a small series first, where the etchings were about 4 by 6 inches. This was 18 by 24. She had a really big etching press. I don’t know who has it, my sister took it to California and it disappeared.

I have the etchings and I have all the plates. I can’t run this series, I could only run autumn. I grew up surrounded by my mother doing art, etchings, watercolors, oils, lithography, a constant sketchbook and crafts. I took a painting class a few years ago. The instructor says, “Acrylics are NOT watercolors.” I reply, “I know how to DO watercolors.” I was being quite creative with the acrylics only I automatically used the watercolor techniques that I grew up with.

The photograph doesn’t really do them justice. I will have to take some more. Plus I have her slides in some of the boxes left from when my father died. More cataloging.

Blessings and good memories of my mother.

If

This is one of the ten poems that my mother made etchings for, the year I was just done with college. 1983-4. I wanted to write, but had no idea what to do with the poems that I was writing. My mother Helen Burling Ottaway had done a series of etchings with a family friend’s poems, so I asked if she would do the same with me. She said, “Yes, on one condition.” “What is that?” “They have to rhyme.” She did not like the free verse. Almost all of the poems were about animals, except for one about my sister. Another friend printed the poems on a lead type press and then my mother worked on editions numbered 1-50 of each, inking the plate separately for each one. This one is number 5/50. You can see the imprint of the plate on the paper in the photograph.

If I could be anything
I’ll tell you what I’d like to be
One of those small green frogs
That sails from tree to tree

These frogs can jump, they have no laps
They are not birds with wings
the have parachutes between their toes
And I am sure that they can sing

They spread their toes and jump so high
To float like snowflakes in the air
Frogs fall like rain from clear blue skies
It must be nice up there

Why they jump I do not know
Maybe escaping hungry eyes
Perhaps to catch a tender bug
Or they just like to fly

If I could be anything
I’ll tell you what I’d like to be
One of those small green frogs
That sails from tree to tree.