The craft of etching as traditionally practised is a very sculptural process of adding and taking away. Modern zinc alloys make this process more controllable and easier to achieve, but in the hands of Bob Wakefield the etching plate will be drawn, bitten/etched in acid, scraped, burnished, engraved, resurfaced and rebitten a dozen times or more.
The battle for the image is engaged on a field of zinc, but the fruits of victory are enjoyed on the surface of heavy white paper, and each victory is a magical revelation as it is peeled off the press. Despite his regard for the process, Bob makes few concessions to the expectations of traditional etching – no nonsense about grey backgrounds here, every image leaps from the paper. The colours are, in the main, applied to the plate and are an integral part of the printing process; he doesn’t hold with copping out and hand colouring!
By any standards Bob puts in the time for his results. Each etching may take many dozens of hours of work to resolve on the plate, and each book edition over a year or more to finish. His belief that the printing, typography, and binding are essential parts of this creative process means that he generally writes the text, chooses and sets the type, prints both the etching and the letterpress sections of the books, and contributes significantly to the binding.
For all his love of folding plates, his books still look and feel like books, and his love, knowledge, and regard for an earlier age of book making is reflected in his restrained, well crafted, and gently ironic work.