If you are looking for collector’s items and you are torn between metal or woodblock prints, keep in mind your objectives. Are you looking for items that will go up in price over time? Are you looking for items that truly capture the creative process? Alternatively, are you looking for production items that somehow reflect your personal philosophy about how art should be made?
As you can well imagine, these are three different objectives. In many cases, they conflict with each other at certain points. The bottom line is if you are going to be investing in woodblock or metal prints, you should focus on what your goals are. If you are simply looking for an investment because you are looking to either preserve the value of your money or grow it as time goes by, I would suggest that you invest in aluminum metal prints.
Why aluminum? If you buy something that’s made out of iron, it’s going to corrode sooner rather than later. Since the print process involves cutting into the surface of that metal item, you better make sure that that metal is not made up of iron or anything that rusts. Enter aluminum. Aluminum is not only light and easy to work with, it also doesn’t rust. Nine times out of 10, if I am faced with the decision to make metal prints using laser cuts involving stainless steel or aluminum, I would pick aluminum. Indeed, if given the budget, I’d pick aluminum all day every day.
However, if you are looking to buy a collectible item that summarizes or exhibits your definition of art as something deeply and profoundly personal, I would select woodblock prints. Make no mistake about it. if you are going to be making woodblock prints, you better have the time and the patience. There are no two ways about it.
Woodblock printing actually takes many different attempts to get right. Maybe your hands were wobbly. Maybe you held the knife the wrong way. Whatever the case may be, expect the first few prints to be far from perfect. Thankfully, a lot of people who engage in woodblock printing know this fully well. They are prepared for it so they go through the process again and again until they get it right.
As you can well imagine, this takes a lot of personal attention to detail. You really have to roll up your sleeves, make the right cuts, apply the ink the right way, and pay close attention to how everything pans out. If you define art as involving a tremendous amount of personal input to the point where the artist is almost sweating over every detail and physically working the block cuts over and over again, this might be right up your alley. This definitely fits your definition of a labor-intensive type of art.
Make no mistake about it. For the longest time, woodblock printing was very labor-intensive. To make matters worse, wood can only handle so much punishment. After a while, it would start to crack or it would start to soak up too much ink. Whatever the case may be, you would soon have to replace it with other woodblock cuts. This added level of temporariness makes it look more valuable to a number of collectors.
Finally, if you’re just looking for an expression of art, either selection would work for you. It doesn’t really matter how you get there. What matters is the actual results. If you look at the debate, if you want to call it that, between metal prints or woodblock cuts from this perspective, then either option will get us to our destination. The key is to focus on the process. If you look at art as simply a process that requires things that happen before, during and after the final product, then any of these options will get you there.