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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 11, March 12, 2006, Article 18

INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS MADDEN, CURRENCY ENGRAVER

An alert reader forwarded a link to this March 2 article in The
Christian Science Monitor which contains an interesting interview
with an engraver at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing,
with comments by Gene Hessler. The article mentions a new software
system being tested by the BEP to help automate some engraving
work. Here are a few excerpts.

"Chris Madden's job would drive most artists crazy. He works
inches away from his canvas - a blank piece of steel - staring
through an antique brass magnifier with his left eye, hand carving
the lines and dots that form a meticulously detailed picture.
Working this way, it takes months to complete a portrait."

"Mr. Madden is a bank-note engraver working out of a heavily
guarded seventh-floor studio at the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing in Washington. His work is on display, most likely,
at a wallet near you. That's his Treasury building, for example,
on the back of the new $10 bill, set to roll out Thursday."

"An artist by training, Madden joined the Bureau after seeing
an ad at Ohio State University, where he received his fine arts
degree. In 1988, he began the Bureau's 10-year apprentice program,
the last person to do so, although the Bureau recently began
recruiting two new apprentices."

"Traditionally, the engraver's art has been passed from father
to child along with the specialized tools. Madden was the first
apprentice without a family connection: He comes from coal miners.
His upbringing, though, inspired his career choice. The Bureau,
he notes, is an industrial facility, a factory, which is closer
to his blue-collar roots."

"Another item on the desk represents perhaps a bigger threat
to the engravers' art - a computer. Madden is six months into a
test of new software that allows him to draw the fine lines and
dashes of an engraved portrait on the screen. He zooms in to
demonstrate his working view - an unrecognizable hash of lines
and dots - and erases one with the click of a mouse, something
he can't do with a burin on steel."

"Madden thinks the engraver's art will continue into the computer
age. He can't imagine anyone who wasn't a trained engraver creating
the delicate lines that come together to form a portrait or landscape
in miniature. "The more you do it in its classical style, the more
you appreciate it," he says.

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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