5 minute read

Today’s blog is brought to you by Amanda Russell, lead signage specialist here at Firespring. Follow her as she finds and captures the beauty of everyday life in the Signage & Display area.

We create beautiful pieces every day with the inks of Firespring.

IMG: ink waste heartSome months back, our Lead Komori Operator Josh Meyer was cleaning out cans of ink leftover from use on the offset presses. As he emptied it into the recycling barrel, I had to pause. Click. I had to capture those brilliant colors as they cascaded in a silky stream into the barrel. It was beautiful, Wasted Art.

He took a stick and swirled in the barrel. He made a heart. Click. And in that moment, I was hooked. All those vibrant colors, flung into the barrel in a haphazard way making unique patterns. It was art. Ink waste art.

I’d always thought the way the ink purged into the tray was beautiful and unique.

I began to appreciate the art in all the inks of the press room. I started taking pics of the ink waste tray from the Anapurna flatbed printer that I run as lead signage specialist. I’d always thought the way the ink purged into the tray was beautiful and unique. I posted the images and garnered comments like, “I love this!” and “This is beautiful.” I saw others felt the same. I take pictures of the Anapurna ink tray and the IMG: trayink waste barrel nearly every day. It’s become my work addiction. I have dozens of “good ones” and hundreds of raw snaps.

Ink Waste Art is simply the snapshot of a moment, as ink sits in the barrel or drains in the tray. A moment that changes in seconds and from one day to the next. When I “find a gem,” I crop it to a certain aspect and saturate the color to enhance its definition. There is no dipping a canvas or paper in the ink. There’s no spilling of the ink onto something. The inks that we use are cured with heat, if I were to dip something, it would basically be wet forever.

My daily images have one constant: No pattern is ever identical.

IMG: Grateful


The Anapurna tray is comprised of CMYK+W+LC+LM inks. I purge the ink into the tray prior to printing to prime the heads. It takes about three minutes from the time I purge until all the ink has drained. It takes about 60 seconds before most of the patterns have broken from their vibrant rush of intricacy. The ink drains down the hole and combines into a tank that gets drained weekly into an orange juice bottle and dumped into the barrel. There is also a grate that covers the tray when the printer is in use or turned off. Grateful captures the beautiful rainbow of color that has saturated the slats over time.

Awash is a snapshot of a process of ink waste that doesn’t happen often and is quite unique.

IMG: Awash


In signage, I also run an Epson roll feed printer that has CMYK+W ink. As the ink cycles, waste drains into a bottle. It combines to a black, but the heavier white ink settles to the bottom. When I dump the bottle in the barrel, the white comes out last, a swirling blend of white and a cyan-laced gray separating and sinking, washing over the black liquid canvas.

Most of the ink waste in the barrel is comprised of offset press inks. It comes in a can and is scooped out by the press operators with an ink knife (looks similar to a putty knife) and spread onto the rollers of the presses. It is mostly comprised of RGB colors. Bold, standard crayon colors and sometimes metallics. The ink is thick and goopy. Excess gets dumped into a 55-gallon drum barrel. About once a year, the barrel gets full, is sealed off and shipped to an ink recycling facility.

There is a bar that runs across the top of the barrel. It’s used to scrape the ink off the knife or set the can upside down to drain. Uncanny is one of my sister’s favorites in the Ink Waste Art collection. She says, “I am the blue in the can, and God is pouring me IMG: ink canout. I’ve touched all of these other beautiful colors of the world. Some have become beautiful combinations, and some are not so pretty. But there I am, pouring out.”

The beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder. Art may simply be beautiful in someone’s eyes, but the best art should make you feel something. Some of the pieces I’ve captured are just beautiful, but some really speak to me:

Transcend: My candle, going beyond the range of limits, as the universe creeps in around me. At any moment, it will overtake me, in all of life’s vibrant glory. But for a moment in this world, my light shines bright.

Fire and Ice: The faces of evil laughing, haunting my life, the struggle written all over the barrel. It’s even signed with an “A,” just like I write my own. Lit up in silver ink, haphazardly flung into the barrel, but speaking my language.

Click. A naturally occurring, one-of-a-kind phenomenon, and in a moment it is gone. Click. The capture of brilliant beauty, collected, created and printed by the same hands, from the same ink that once created the vibrant rush of art.IMG: Transcend

Browse some of the unique images found in the collection of the wasted ink of Firespring. New images and new prices have been released. For less than $100, you can have a beautiful, quality print, delivered to your door. 100 percent of the proceeds from each print is donated to carefully selected 501(c)(3)s through the Firespring Foundation. See more inspiring images from the Ink Waste Art collection on Instagram.