Open Letter to a Sceptic


Nothing in this world is Non-Toxic, neither the air we breathe, the food we eat, the medicine the doctors prescribe or the materials mentioned in this book. Toxicity is a relative term.

When despite of this I have still chosen the title „Handbook in Non-Toxic Intaglio“, it is because the ‚baby‘ was already named „Non-Toxic“ at its birth in the mid-1990s. Furthermore, the authorities officially use the designation „AP Non-Toxic“. Thus „Non-Toxic Printmaking“ today is a concept or trade description covering a range of health and environment-friendly working methods which all printmakers have at least heard of – hence the title „Handbook in Non-Toxic Intaglio“.

Although the book should rightfully be called „Handbook in Less-Toxic Intaglio“, I like the name „Non-Toxic Printmaking“ nonetheless, the reason being that this apparent provocation has occasioned a sometimes hot debate between its adherents and opponents and created a focus on what we do as printmakers, what we do not do, and what we should be doing. For 500 years, nobody has questioned the materials and methods used by printmakers. It was not until the launch of these new techniques that the consideration we must show ourselves, each other and the environment became an issue.

Today, no sensible human beings can defend working on with the conventional methods and materials, not even the schools, where safety and exhaust systems are state of the art – because what will Eve do when she has completed her education, which has only taught her the toxic methods, and she cannot afford the necessary safety equipment?

We all know that this is not an individual choice, but a common responsibility, to the person standing next to you as well as to the environment in general, and we all know that „Non-Toxic“ or „Less-Toxic“ printmaking is the future. Let us appreciate that and continue a healthy debate. But let us not forget to make some art – at the end of the day, that is what inspires us to a better life; not only spiritually, but, as the pursuit of art makes us push boundaries and develop new, healthier techniques, hopefully this better life will be physical as well.

Henrik Bøegh