Discussion with Matthieu Coulanges, designer of printmaking tools

06/07/2021 - Between two impressions

You have been an engraver and printmaker since 2013. Can you share your background with us ?

I entered the world of printmaking quite by accident. Originally, I was a computer engineer. I discovered woodturning first, then woodcutting and then printmaking in general. One day, I made myself a tool to please myself, but the point I was using didn't suit me at all. So I started looking for materials and made tools for friends, etc ... it all started like that, through personal research and word of mouth.

Your relationship with wood has followed you for several years now. Have you thought about making tools with another medium ?

I have always loved wood, trees in general, this contact is precious to me. I have always hated plastic tables, for example! So yes, wood is a very important material for me and I don't see myself working with another medium.

To meet their needs, some printmaking professionals can suggest ideas for optimizing your tools.
Do you have a real collaboration with engraving artists ?

I quickly had contacts in the world of engravers. First to find out if my tools liked and if they were functional. This first contact allowed me to have validation, or in any case feedback, that's a big plus! Some feedback is more technical, specific to each burner.
Some artists will see printmaking as a craft with a very technical approach, and others will be more spontaneous and experiential.
I am in between.

Are you an engraver yourself, does this allow you to test your tools ?

It allows me to have creative ideas above all, I see what I may miss depending on the achievements I undertake. This is a first validation from my experience and my needs at the time.

Your tools have a refined and elegant aesthetic. What are your inspirations ?

At the beginning, my objects were original, like bases for lamps. I realized that the simple and sober shapes were the most popular.
For the sake of ergonomics, printmaking tools cannot have extravagant and original shapes. So I mainly play on assemblies of wood to make them unique. Then it's my personal requirement that does the rest.

Approximately how long does it take you to create a tool ?

There are a lot of small steps before you get to an end. Often times I do these steps in series like gluing, drilling, turning, etc. The filming part is pretty quick in the end, but everything around takes a long time. For example, the technical research part, the search for suppliers… Each tool has its own time of creation.

Precisely, concerning wood, do you have a local supplier in your workshop in the North of France ?

There are specialist woodturning suppliers in the area, so sometimes I get my supplies from them. But since I don't live far from England, I was going to supply myself there. Now with Brexit and containment it may be more complicated.

Joop Stoop's customers praise your products. Between us, are there any new things coming for 2021 ?

I am in the process of reworking the range of "scrapers". I am not yet completely satisfied with the blades for large formats, but I am on the right track to (re) offer them quickly in the catalog.

Despite the general context due to the health crisis, are you going to participate in trade fairs, where we can hope to meet you during 2021 ?

There is still the Contemporary Print Day in Saint Sulpice (Paris 6e) which has been postponed, but which should be held in September 2021. I participate every year. What I particularly like is being able to meet engravers, advise clients, but also and above all, to see how a tool reacts to the problems of engraving. These are always important moments both in human terms and in improving my work.