VIDEO: Retirement hobby is set in stone

WHEN he moved to Berry in 1988 Frank Gould literally took his printing back into the stone age.

With time out for war service, and spells as a truck driver and rabbit hunter, Frank's printing career spanned 48 years, from 1935-82.

After quitting printing for a living, Frank revisited the art of stone lithography as a hobby and, aged 94, still prints that way.

Stone lithography was discovered in 1798. While it is still practised to produce fine art prints elsewhere in the world, Frank has never heard of anyone else in Australia who does it.

Frank learned stone lithography during his six-year apprenticeship.

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Throughout his career, Frank printed countless articles, but until recently had never produced an image of himself.

Visiting an exhibition to celebrate the Kiama Independent's 150th in July, Frank met artist Philip Cooper and the pair agreed Philip would sketch a portrait of Frank onto stone for him to print.

To step into Frank's printing studio is to step back in time.

The walls are bright, with posters of Hollywood blockbusters and stars of yesteryear - works of art in their own right.

The studio smells of inks and paper and oil.

In one corner is a small, 60-year-old press that Frank gets purring along, almost without thought.

In the other corner is a flatbed printer he has had custom-made for the stone lithography.

The 400-kilogram roller has wooden blocks on either side to prevent finger-crushing accidents.

Using a beeswax crayon, the artist sketched Frank's likeness onto the limestone.

Following the principal that grease and water won't mix, the stone is first treated with citric acid. Once the drawing is on the stone, it is then prepared with gum arabic to allow the part of the stone not sketched on to reject the ink.

A piece of damp archival paper is then pressed on the stone and rolled, with the ink transferred from stone to paper.

Frank was born in Lakemba in May 1919, one of nine children. His father ran a produce store.

"He raised us all on that, he did," he said.

"We didn't have a lot of money but we had plenty of food.

Frank left school at 15 and the next year was apprenticed to the Sydney printing firm of S. T. Leigh & Co, where his brother, Jim, also worked.

"In those days if they wanted French polishers, you became a French polisher and if they wanted a plumber, you became a plumber - you did whatever there was and Jim got me into this," he said.

"It was just a job for a while but I did all the training. It grew on me and I grew to love it.

Frank and his brother also shared a passion for cycling.

Before the start of World War II, Frank raced at State Championship level. At one time he was the Australian Champion over 25 miles on an unposted road.

His brother, Jim, was Australian champion over 100 miles.

The war put paid to Frank's racing. He enlisted for service on Christmas Eve 1942.

After bringing his printing ability to the attention of his superiors, Frank started printing maps with the Australian Army Printing Unit in Toowoomba.

Frank's wife, Dorothy, followed him to Queensland where the first of their four daughters was born.

After the war Frank spent time trapping rabbits and then driving trucks.

The family lived in Peakhurst for 20 years.

After first running a business treating printing plates for re-use, in 1960 Frank started his own business, Stanley Printing Company, in Peakhurst. He sold his share to his nephew, Geoff, in 1982.

But Frank was not quite ready to retire completely and took up stone lithography as a hobby.

Frank has produced prints for artists including Pamela Griffiths, Anna Glynn and now Phillip Cooper, which just happens to be of himself.

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