Graphic Chemical & Ink Company is a world leader in the fine art field of printmaking. We manufacture our own time-tested inks for etching, litho and relief printing, as well as sell screen print inks, papers, tools, chemistry, plates and supplies for all of a printmaker's needs

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Location: Villa Park, Illinois, United States

I have worked for Graphic Chemical & Ink Company since 1968 - with a brief hiatus(almost 4 years) to travel the World courtesy of my uncle. Sadly it turns out it was my Uncle Sam, and I wasn't too thrilled about the places that he chose to send me. My wife and I have run Graphic Chemical for many years, and have enjoyed the travel that comes with the position. We get to meet our customers (and the occasional vendor) from all over the World

Monday, November 26, 2007


Most of you have heard me say many times that our roots go back 1920, and my grandfather, Robert P. Faulkner. He did, indeed begin the company and help it to survive the Great Depression and World War II, but the most notable thing he did was probably hiring my father, Vernon Clark.

Dad was a biochemist by training and an engineer by direction of the U.S. Army and Congress, but he was an ink maker by God! He learned the industry from his father-in-law, his customers and even from his suppliers.
When Dad started working at Graphic Chemical he had just finished his studies at the University of Chicago, was married with two young sons, and from what I understand, was broke. He had retained his Army Reserve commission (not a great decision given that Korea was just around the corner) and he probably saw Graphic Chemical as a short-term employment opportunity. He was here, for the record, for 53 years

While Graphic was not directly involved in printmaking at the time, it did sell to printmakers - engraver's plate inks to etchers, and letterpress inks to block printers. Lithography wouldn't really be a viable medium until June Wayne started the Tamarind Institute in Los Angeles (yes, Los Angeles!) in the '50's.

One of his jobs was to travel around the Midwest calling on commercial engravers. One circuit was driving from Chicago to Indianapolis to Cincinnati, then on to Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and finally St. Louis - and this, I hasten to point out, was well before the Interstate system.

As the story goes, he got out of sync between Indy and Cincinnati, and had a little time to kill in Oxford, OH, the home of Miami University. He walked in, told them he sold printmaking supplies. In view of the fact that at that time nobody sold printmaking supplies, the staff at Miami figured they'd stumbled unto either a godsend or a real nut case. They took a chance and placed an order with him.

Dad was so confidant that he began making calls at other Universities in the circuit: the Universities of Kentucky and Tennessee, Austin Peay, Vanderbilt and several others. The confidence allowed him to convince my grandfather, who was clearly skeptical, to purchase an advertisement in American Artist Magazine, an ad which in 1949 cost $12.50. The ad offered a catalog (which by the way didn't exist until after the ad appeared) at no charge. Dad fired up the old Gordon Letterpress and printed catalogs at night and sold ink by day. After a few weeks the number of catalog requests was in the hundreds and we were on our way to becoming printmaking suppliers.

A couple of years later, my grandfather died unexpectedly and Dad was left to run the day to day operation, now working for his mother-in-law. He probably learned as much about business from her as he did from his father-in-law. Sadly, much of that learning curve was trial and error.

By 1962, he'd bought the business from her (in fact, he bought it twice because she wasn't happy with the first sale amount!). moved the business to our current location two blocks west of the previous location, doubled the space (it's now almost six times the space we originally had in Villa Park) and began focusing predominately on printmaking. In the late '70's, we closed the original product lines for commercial engravers, making us exclusively printmaking suppliers.

The rest, as they say, is history


One of the best moves that we've made in the past couple of years was that of adding the Lascaux line of products to our catalog. It was a fairly long process from start to finish, but well worth the effort.

Graphic had approached one of our suppliers about handling a few specific Lascaux products, and it was clear from the beginning that this supplier did not want handle these products, because it didn't match their customer base. They graciously suggested to Lascaux that we might be a potential distributor of the new Lascaux A.R.E. products.

A.R.E., or acrylic resist etching, products are an innovative approach to the concerns that are persistent in printmaking about the safety of the materials used. With acrylic grounds becoming a viable starting point, Lascaux, with the help of Scottish artists Robert Adam and Carol Robertson, put together a system of acrylic etching resists that has expanded the possibilities for those doing intaglio techniques.

In addition to the obligatory Hard Ground, Lascaux has introduced Soft Ground, Stop Out, Plate Backing resist, Etching Tusches and much more. Susan and I had the privilege of attending a two day workshop on the A.R.E. system put on by Robert and Carol at the Lascaux manufacturing plant about two years ago. (If you hunt around in the archives of this blog, you'll see about two years ago, the plate that we made during the workshop - great art it ain't, but it taught us a lot about the products.)

To me, however, the wonder was at all of the other products that Lascaux manufactures that are appropriate for printmakers. We've added numerous screen printing paints and sundries, both water based and acrylic based, many at the request of individual customers, and most very well received. Now if we could just get the cost of the Euro to come down to reasonable levels....well, that's another blog entry for later.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Another IMPACT show is, as they say, in the can. Our journey to Tallinn, Estonia was interesting, to say the least, eventful, and enjoyable. Our trip began with a flight from Chicago to Copenhagen, Denmark followed immediately with a four hour train trip to the city of Aarhus on the Jutland peninsula. By the time that we arrived in Aarhus, we were pretty well exhausted, but fortunately our hotel was across the street from the train station. This was not a coincidence. SWMBO (pronounced Swimbo which stands for She Who Must be Obeyed) makes the arrangements, and does a great job in making my life easier.

The following day we began the process of calling on our European distributors, starting with our good friends Aart & Kari at Aart de Vos Aps in Aarhus. After a great visit with them, we rented a car and drove to Leiden, Holland to visit Hugo Bos and his wife Marit at Polymetaal. By the time we got to the hotel in Amsterdam, we were thoroughly whipped. Traffic in the Dutch city was nightmarish even after midnight when we arrived. Bicycles have the right of way, they know it and use it with impunity!

Additional stops included Rotterdam, Brussels, and Aartsellar (the current home of our oldest European distributor - J.M. Lesaffre PVBA) A quick drive back to Copenhagen, and a flight to Stockholm and on to Tallinn, Estonia.

We arrived in the capital of Estonia in the late afternoon before the show started. A frenetic drive from the airport was provided by the Hotel Reval Central - a delightful and surprisingly affordable hotel in the center of town. Susan and I hooked up with a couple of the other vendors for dinner in the Old Town. Estonian food, for the record, was quite good. On Friday morning, we set up at the Kumu museum, a very modern museum a stone's throw from the former czar's palace and the current home of the President of Estonia. Over 200 artists were registered for the show, and all of them seemed to make their way to the product fair. The number of vendors was disappointing, but the quality was great. The five of us included three Brits, a Finn and me.

The following morning, Susan and I were off to Lithuania to visit relatives for a week. We also met with printmakers at the Academy of Art in Vilnius, and a number of independent printmakers at a nearby atelier. If you noticed the picture at the top of this post, this was a 200+ year old painting that was being restored by a dedicated group of Lithuanians trying to restore the myriad of churches in the capital that were left to decay by the former rulers from the Soviet Union. You see there the picture as it was when restoration began.

Here you see the master restorer (a phrase I have just made up) at work on the delicate masterpiece. This picture is what I like to refer to as the "After" photo. I have professed for a number of years that I wasn't a talented artist, but of course, you can tell from the after photo that I was just being modest. Of course if you looked really closely, you might observe that the brushes actually have no paint on them. It's a new technique for restoration that I call "don't screw up what the professionals have done", and it works really well in my opinion! This will hang in a cathedral in Kaunas, Lithuania in the relatively near future.

Finally, the trip home was incredibly long (almost 10 hours from Zurich, Switzerland to Chicago), and was highlighted by sitting next to a 14 year old Russian hockey player with what appeared to be a severe case of ADD. I felt like I had played a game against him and lost - badly. His team was coming to Chicago for a series of matches against U.S. youth teams. So, we're back and happy to be so - until the next trip.