Melanie McCarthy

Sustainable Printmaking

A hypothesis about sustainable printmaking followed by

a virtual exhibition and online encyclopedia about home printing.

After firsthand experience discovering issues of waste and toxic chemicals in printmaking,

I found that water-based inks and fabric scraps are viable substitutes for oil-based inks and newsprint. I had other printmakers of varying skill levels test and accept this hypothesis.

To communicate my findings, I developed a virtual exhibition of the prints I collected and created during the testing process, had a socially-distanced home printing workshop, and created an online encyclopedia with varying resources.


The biggest challenge I faced was the system established in the printshop at Parsons.

I wanted to tackle it head on initially but found that I made a bigger impact by directly addressing the printmaking community rather than the school’s administration. The next big hurdle I faced was pivoting my project when social distancing was in place. I decided to hone in on home printmaking, as that can actually be much more sustainable.


The outcome of my project was my website, complete with a virtual exhibition of works entirely made on fabric with water-based ink, a sustainable printmaking step-by-step guide, a resource encyclopedia of a variety of tutorials and supplies for at home printing,

a contributions page where anyone can add the work they made sustainably or at home, and a thesis journey description. I hope to publish all of this information in a book as well.

Parsons School of Design has offered students innovative approaches to education since its founding in 1896.  Today we’re the only American art and design school within a comprehensive university, The New School, which also houses a rigorous liberal arts college and a progressive performing arts school. Our undergraduate and graduate programs, offered through Parsons’ five schools, immerse students in focused training, interdisciplinary inquiry, and practice-based collaborative learning. Here creators and scholars master established art and design fields and advance emerging ones while studying a range of university disciplines.

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