The Ann Arbor Art Center is a nonprofit arts center that hosts rotating exhibits in its gallery, various classes for children and adults, as well as an art shop. Located on W Liberty Street, the art center is one of the oldest community arts organizations in Michigan as it was established in 1909. Upcoming classes include sketching, comics, calligraphy, and perspective drawing. However, this weekend, my friend and I stopped by the art center to pick up some ArtBoxes.
The art center’s ArtBoxes are effectively art supplies in a box for the purpose of at-home art projects. The box this time around was designed for at-home copper plate embossing. An embossed pattern is raised against the background of the plate, whereas a debossed pattern is sunken into the surface. This project encouraged both methods. This was a perfect socially-distanced activity for me and my friend, who has a balcony. The box comes with a copper plate, a frame, stickers to stick the plate to the frame, a wooden stick for embossing, a piece of paper for you to sketch your design on, protective packaging, and instructions.
The process is very straightforward. You sketch a design on the piece of paper provided (it fits to the size of the copper plate) and trace it onto the plate with the wooden stick provided. My friend very carefully traced out the symbols for the four nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender onto hers, complete with very straight lines to divide the square into four. I started tracing a celestial design, but just ended up freehanding it directly onto the plate. I thought it was cool that by both embossing and debossing, you can end up with really interesting textures, from small Braille-like dots to angular spirals. Another enticing aspect is that due to the nature of embossing and debossing, if you flip your plate over, the design is still there, but the raised surfaces are now sunken and vice versa. So, if you don’t like one side, just flip it over. Furthermore, what’s nice is that any mistakes can be incorporated into the design or they can create new textures.
The overall process is very quick – my friend took more care with her design whereas I was just improvising as I went along, but neither of us took more than an hour. That being said, you can take as much time as you want, but being less meticulous doesn’t detract from the quality of the final product at all.
The ArtBox is available for free with a Passport to the Arts voucher, which can be found at the Union, the League, or Pierpont Commons!