Embossing is a technique for altering the surface of a sheet of paper by adding sculptural and dimensional qualities. The process works because paper–especially in the early, wet pulp stage–is malleable; it will embrace and retain an image of whatever object is pressed against it. Steve Martin uses different gauges of wire to “draw “a sculpture on top of a plate. The result is to have a three dimensional sculpture transferred into a two dimensional work but retain its three dimensional qualities much like a base relief. Martin’s method of embossing involves running previously made paper through a printmaking press. The pressure of the wire coming into contact with the damp paper creates raised and recessed areas. Thicker papers offer more dramatic effects since the embossing can push deeper into the surface, and varying levels of relief are possible. Experimentation is necessary to determine variables such as pulp consistency, sheet thickness, number of felts, amount of pressure, etc. The manner in which embossed paper is displayed can enhance its unique features. The surface can be inviting to the touch, for instance, if such an experience is appropriate to the setting. Proper lighting should be considered, to intensify highlights and shadows, if the piece will be shown in a fixed display.
“The ancient Greeks and Egyptians carved marble, sandstone or granite with relief depictions of their gods and myths, this was the inspiration for my work in this media.”