I’m from Tønder, and I moved to Copenhagen in 1985, and that was when I first got involved with making art. I was a trained lithographer, and I found work at several art print-shops where I got to know a lot of the artists that I’ve since worked with: For example, Per Kirkeby, Christian Lemmerz, Michael Kvium and many others.
We spoke with Michael Schäfer of Schäfer Grafisk Værksted about what quality means to him.
When I work together with the artist, he or she either comes down and says, “I’ve got an idea, shall we make it happen? Do you have time?” Other times I’ll contact them if it’s been a while since the last time.
"Typically, we start off with a small meeting where we find out how best to solve the task: What does the artist have and how can we best illustrate this graphically? Should we use copper prints, or would it be ok with some colour in woodcuts?"
Today I mainly work with copper prints - at first, I mainly made linocuts and woodcut prints. Making copper prints is like journeying back through time because it's a really old craft: In the past, you used to cut in copper - I mean, you cut the design into the copper plate with certain knives. Today we can also work with wax that the artist draws and cuts in with a needle, so that's a more freeform way for the artist to work. Afterwards, we apply acid to it, and the places where you've left the copper exposed gets corroded down to the plate so that the printing ink can sit there. Then when you print, the wet paper gets pressed down into the plate and then sucks up the colour - so it takes a few kilos in order to ensure the right pressure.
There's only a small handful of us making copper prints in Denmark - it's kind of a niche thing. I often hear from people who want to work as an apprentice at a copper printer. But it's hard to find the right people - you need to understand the language of colours, and you need to understand what the artist wants.