, Newburyport, MA


January 31, 2014

Printer's career straddles worlds of art, business

Robert Townsend is a master printer who works with artists to create original, limited-edition prints. From his business, R. E. Townsend Studio, now in a renovated barn in Georgetown, he has executed work for some of the most important American artists of the last 50 years, including Robert Motherwell, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jim Dine, Richard Diebenkorn, Michael Mazur, Alex Katz, Joseph Goldyne and Bruce Conner.

Townsend attended New England School of Art and started in the etching department at Impressions Workshop in Boston in 1968. He bought the workshop in 1975 and founded his own business.

His prints are on exhibit through Feb. 12 at Salem State University’s Winfisky Gallery. We asked Townsend, who said he is semiretired, about his work.

What printmaking methods do you use?

Intaglio or etching, woodcut and silk screen.

What’s the difference between intaglio and etching?

Intaglio — that’s what I primarily do — covers all the processes that you do to the surface of a copper plate, which includes etching.

How do you make prints?

Typically, the plate is placed on the press bed. You use felt as a cushion between the press and paper, then you run it through the press.

At your website, you list different presses that you own. How old are they?

One of the presses I have is an incredibly good press, built in 1900. It’s a great, big, old cast-iron press that weighs around 10,000 pounds, and it prints very well. The bed is 70 inches by 100 inches, and that’s huge — that’s the size I can print.

How does your studio operate?

I run an open shop or open studio. I open my door to anyone who wants to come in. They can execute works on their own, or I can help them.

How do you charge for your services?

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