Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Really Big Prints!

I work really small.  Always have.  It's a comfortable size for me, and I love creating tiny cuts in the linoleum or wood.  But I do admire my friends and fellow artists who can work big.

Or in this case, REALLY big! This past July, my friend Bonnie deArteaga, a phenomenal printmaker who lives in Green Bay, asked me to be her assistant for this really fun event at UW-Manitowoc - Really Big Prints!

Forty-one prints were made for this event.  They were ENORMOUS - 5 feet by 3 feet!  That's 12 times larger than what I normally print (3"X5")!

And how, pray tell, might one print these large-scale prints?  With a steamroller, of course!  :D  That was one of the most fun parts of the day - seeing this road vehicle run over the prints!  Each time one would come up for printing, there'd be a crowd.  Fascinating!

Ben Rinehart, professor at Lawrence University in Appleton,
looks comfy on the steamroller.  :D

Because Bonnie is a total pro, she had the process down pat.  I helped by ironing these immense sheets of muslin that she printed on.   I also helped roll the ink, which was a workout in and of itself!

Bonnie and I doing a little pre-roller baren work!

Here's me, Bonnie (on the right), and Bonnie's husband Julio!
Such a fun day.  :D
I've saved the best for last - a peek at Bonnie's finished print!  It was inspired by her trip to the Alhambra in Spain, and the pigeons on the piazza.  Isn't it gorgeous?!

I am so lucky (and honored) that Bonnie asked me to be a part of this really fun day!  I learned a lot, met some great people, and got to spend a beautiful July day outside with some very dear people.  It doesn't get much better than that.  :D

If you're interested in learning more about the day, check out this half-hour documentary, created by UW-Manitowoc!  :D

Monday, September 15, 2014

Collagraphy - where have you been all my life? :D

Happy Monday, everyone! WOWIE - I can't believe it's been TWO MONTHS since I last posted! That's so wrong. This summer was so fun and busy - MANY printmaking adventures to talk about, so I'll be jamming my blog full of blog posts in the coming weeks! I've also taken a position as an artist-in-residence at Sheboygan North High School here in Wisconsin (Thanks, Frank Juarez!)! It's such a great gig - I get to practice my art in my own studio, and the faculty and students learn how to apply school subjects to a career in the visual arts! I'm having a blast, and I'll be blogging about the works I'll be creating during the next 8 weeks! :D

Because it's been so long since I've posted, I have to do a little backtracking - to late June. For two weekends in a row I was able to participate in fun classes at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. I've already talked about the APA Wayzgoose, which was SO fun, but the following weekend I took another class, called Chipboard, Linoleum, and other Simple Reproduction Techniques. It was taught by Dafi Kuhne, a Swiss printmaker who spent his summer touring the States and doing various artist-in-residencies all over the country.

Dafi likes to print with chipboard. And you should see some of his posters! When you view them, you just assume he either used wood type or he carved his own blocks.  NO!  They're done mainly with chipboard!  Check out this short video, where he shows how he locked up the design for his "Nachtschicht" poster!

One of the first questions he asked us was, what kind of answers were we looking for in the print? Did we want texture, full color, odd shapes? I'll be honest - it took me a while to get in this groove! Since I'm used to either using letterpress blocks to print or just carving my own images in lino or wood, it was a strange question. And like many classes I take, I don't fully grasp the concept until way later. (Does this happen to anyone else? It's probably why I learned the most from classes I nearly failed in school!)

I spent the summer ruminating on these questions.  Then, just last Wednesday, I realized from the books I'd been reading and art I'd been seeing that I'd actually been thinking about collagraphy the entire summer!  (See, it just takes me a while sometimes!)  Of COURSE!  So I did what I normally do when I have these "eureka" moments - I search on Pinterest and check out videos on YouTube!

There was one video I discovered that, despite its age, was extremely helpful.  It was done at Virginia Commonwealth University sometime in the early Seventies, and it's called "Harvey McWilliams: Collagraph Technique in Printmaking".  If you can get past the hilarious warping of the soundtrack in the beginning (and the fact that you'll have that music going through your head for a week), it's a low-key tutorial that's really easy to follow.  One of the best things about it is that there's no instruction - just that soundtrack.  It's so enjoyable that I keep it as a tab on my computer.

After seeing that video, I was inspired!  I set to work the next day, as I knew I had an entire day where I could just work in my studio.  I kept Dafi's questions in mind, and I also watched and re-watched the Harvey McWilliams video about 20 times to see his inking technique.  Sometimes, though, you just have to forge your own way, so I just got to it.

I knew I wanted to make a design for one of the bulletin boards in my classroom studio at Sheboygan North, so I made shapes that were much bigger than I'm used to creating.  I really enjoy ovals, for some reason, so I made a hollow oval and a smaller solid one, and printed them on regular old chipboard using both oil and water-based inks.  The photo at the top is just one part of the bulletin board, and it's my favorite part.  I can't wait to do more with this technique!  It's SO freeing!

Friday, July 18, 2014

It started with a thumbprint.....

WOW!  It's the middle of July!  How did that happen?  Time does indeed fly when you're enjoying every moment of it.  And this summer has been one of the most delightful in recent memory!

When the summer began, I told myself that it was going to be a summer of experimentation.  No idea or medium or color was off limits.  I also made time for some reading, which has been extremely beneficial!

One book I found was "Drawn to Stitch" by Gwen Hadley.  I've been doing quite a bit of free-form embroidery this summer and incorporating printmaking into it. One of the exercises in the book was to take things found in nature and magnify them - the author used various rock walls and markings found in her native U.K., but I thought a bit differently.  What's the first print most of us make in our lives?  It's an easy one - our fingerprints!

I took this thumbprint and magnified it, like so (I'm still in the process of darkening the whorls in Photoshop for some sun printing):

I then traced this design onto a basswood block - 

After inking and printing the block on my backpack press with Akua ink on a very thin unryu paper, mounting onto a vintage 1939 Wisconsin survey map and having the prints professionally matted by the wonderful folks at Gallery & Frame Shop here in Fond du Lac, this is the final print!  I call it "Tributary", because it reminds me of winding riverways.  You can find it in my shop on melkolstad.com!  :)

I challenge you to take something in your house or backyard and enlarge it - you'll be surprised at the difference it makes!  It's like a whole new object, and it's really fun to play around to get different results. Hooray for experimentation!  :D

Monday, June 23, 2014

APA Wayzgoose, Baby!

wayzgoose (ˈweɪzˌɡuːsn
1. (Printing, Lithography & Bookbinding) a works outing made annually by a printing house
[C18: from earlier waygoose, of unknown origin]

Oh my heavens!  I went to my very first wayzgoose this past weekend!  What an amazing experience.  I attended the Amalgamated Printers' Association's wayzgoose right in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, only about 60 miles from me, at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum!

It was actually a four-day event (Thursday-Sunday), but I only went on Friday and Saturday.  On Friday, I took a wonderful class called "Weaving Type, Structure & Image" with Jessica Spring of Springtide Press in Tacoma and Jen Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago.  We created three wonderful projects!  The first was a little collaborative "meander" book, which is printed all on one side and then cut to make pages. There were 8 of us in the class, and we all chose a synonym for "wander", the name of the book. We were free to experiment with about 12 cabinets full of beautiful vintage wood type.  HEAVEN!!  I chose "ramble" as my word, and found a gorgeous type and border for my portion of the book.  Here's the uncut print:

I love how everyone's word is completely different!  We each had to "lock up" our own word, which was a new experience for me.  I had to measure picas and use "furniture", which was thrilling.  I felt like a real printer!  :D  Here is the back of the print, which would become the two "covers" of the book (sorry for the not-so-great photo!):

How cool is it that all of our names are included?  :D  Once we all had our words in place, Jessica measured the final piece and began inking.  As you can see, she did a beautiful two-color process.  Here is the finished book - it turned out SO cool!  What a lovely memento to have from the class!  :D

Our second project was to weave prints we created. Once again, we were given free reign over all of the available wood type!  I played with the letters and numbers, mixing up sizes and fonts for each line of type. Jen Farrell suggested that I experiment with the bottom of the wood blocks, for a fantastic effect.  Here are two of my finished prints, each printed with violet ink but using different paper colors.  The results were SO different!!

I didn't get around to weaving my prints.  Why?  Well, because Jessica wanted us to all take turns printing our book pages on the Vandercook press, just to get a feel for it.  Since most of the people there already own their own Vandercooks, I volunteered to help print the majority of the prints for the books.  I was happy to do it!  I've already done weaving with my prints, so this way others got to experience something they might not otherwise do (these folks are SERIOUS printers).

Our last project was a folding exercise - Jessica and Jen had printed out some great prints and then cut them down to about 6X6" squares.  We then made a little folded piece out of them!  You can see what I mean, here:  

As you probably have guessed, this was an all-day class!  We were all pretty pooped by the end of it.  All of the wonderful folks I met during my class (hi Erin, Nancy, Marjorie, Laurie, Gary, Mary Alice and Carol!) were from somewhere else - Phoenix, Tacoma, Cincinnati, Virginia, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, CA - and one other Wisconsinite, from La Crosse - so they all stayed overnight.  I went home for the evening, but returned on Saturday for the...drum roll....swap meet and auction.  

It was FANTASTIC!  I bought a lot of wood and metal type, some awesome vintage blocks, some ink, some vintage trays, a couple of wonderful vintage books....and this beautiful little toy press for the ridiculously low price of TWENTY BUCKS!  The description says it's an Elm City toy press and by all accounts, I guess it really works!  I can't wait to try it out!   :D

I also got to meet Michelle Walker, who's the creator of the "Lovers of Letterpress" group on Facebook!  She and her husband George came all the way from Toronto (my fave city in the world!) to be at the event.  We were able to have lunch together and hang out during the auction!  How lovely!  :D

Now that I've got my first wayzgoose under my belt, I can't wait for Hamilton's very own, which is held every November!   But next up:  "Chipboard, Linoleum and other Reproduction Techniques" workshop with Dafi Kuhne this coming Saturday!   :D

Monday, May 19, 2014

Plein Air Printmaking!

This past weekend, I participated in a plein air event at the Friends of Horicon Marsh Educational Center in Horicon, Wisconsin.  It was SO much fun!  Five of us each took our materials out on the patio of the gorgeous center, and created works based on this view:

It was a pretty chilly day - a high of only 54° (or 12°C).  And the minute I set up my carving station, press and tools, it started to rain.  :/  Not to worry, though - it only sprinkled and after that, we just worked in the wind and clouds!

You may be wondering why I'm talking about carving at a plein air event!  That was the beauty of this specific gathering - it was an all-medium day!  Sue Hoehnen, the founder of Wild Goose Fine Arts United, wanted it to be open to anyone who wanted to participate!  And since only one of the five of us came armed with paints, I'd say that this is a new rule whose time has come!  :D  (For those of you who are unaware of what "plein air" means:  It's a form of painting [traditionally, only oils or watercolors] outside.  Most events do not allow any other mediums, such as printmaking, collage, needle felting or photography, which is what we did on Saturday!)

My goal was to sketch my design, carve my block, and print the block right there.  I didn't make it as far as the printing, but I did get the whole block done!  I was really happy I got that far, and it's probably best that I stopped when I did - I forgot sunscreen.  :)

Carol Toepke, the photographer at the event, snapped this great photo of me working (you can see the center in the background, and the sun had peeked out at this point!):

Photo courtesy of Carol Toepke, owner
of Collections by Carol

It was SO fun to actually carve what I was seeing at the time!  I made sure the design was simple enough to be completed in the 3 1/2 hours I was working.  I also allowed enough time for socializing with my Dodge County friends!  

Even though I didn't get to print on site, I finished the print this morning!  I inked the block using two separate brayers so that I could get two different colors at the same time.  After the ink dried, I embellished a little with some watercolors.  This is a real departure from my normal work, but I like how it turned out! This will be an edition of 10.  I call it, "Stormy Day on the Marsh".   :)

If you've never experienced carving en plein air, I highly encourage you to do so!  It was a truly fun experience.  :D

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Childhood Inspiration who Still Inspires!

Throughout my adult life, I have kept coming back to those things that held a deep fondness or interest for me when I was a kid.  From my second grade stamp collection to my burgeoning collection of old labels when I was 14, to my desire to own any and all manner of tiny "printing press" toys - I am of the firm belief that what you loved when you were young is what you come back to as your passion in adulthood.

Speaking of childhood inspirations - growing up, Ed Emberley was one of my favorite authors!  I pored over his "Make a World" - the simple shapes and tininess of the drawings allowed me to draw small worlds. Since I first checked it out of the Ashwaubenon library in 1977, I've owned several copies.  I STILL own a copy, as a matter of fact, and thumb through it often (about those thumbs - remember "The Great Thumbprint Drawing Book"?).

I didn't realize until recently that Mr. Emberley was the also the illustrator (and his wife the adapter) of Drummer Hoff, a book that has left an indelible print on my heart (and for which Ed and Barbara Emberley won a Caldecott medal in 1968).  I read this book, ad nauseam,  as a very small girl.  I remember being somewhat terrified of the psychedelic colors and designs of the beautiful woodcuts, and yet I couldn't stop looking.  There was something magical about those illustrations!

Then, in January of 2013, as I was just discovering the magical world of relief printmaking and woodcuts in general, I found this glorious book:

I was at the Milwaukee Public Library's book sale, and felt like I was committing a crime - I got this book for one American dollar.  I was smitten with the cover immediately, but then I looked inside and found pages like this:

The Story of Paul Bunyan, by Barbara Emberley and woodcut illustrations by Ed Emberley, 1963.

Those TREES!  They're just so....woodcutty!  So simple, yet so gorgeous.  The whole book is chock full of incredible woodcut illustrations.  My copy is one from the fourth printing, in 1966 (the book initially went to press in 1963).  Every illustration almost feels like it was printed directly on the page - it is somewhat embossed!  And if you notice, there is some bleed-through from the proceeding page!  I don't know how this happened - maybe it's just the fact that it's a 48 year-old book, but it just feels so real.  This book inspired me to start carving my own designs - once again, Ed Emberley gave me the courage to create, just like he had 36 years prior.  :)  

So imagine my utter delight when I got this notification in my e-mail yesterday:

Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?  Ed Emberley, following ME?!?!?  This news made my whole week, month and year!  :D  

To all of my fellow printmakers and other artist friends - do yourselves a favor and discover (or rediscover) Mr. Emberley's work!  You won't be disappointed.  :D  And thanks for following me, Ed!  :D

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Plethora of Printmaking!

Image  ©Fuzzy Door Productions

Is it just me, or do you feel as though there's a resurgence of printmaking?

Of course, art + craft goes through trends, and right now it appears as though all manner of prints are all the rage.  Case in point:  I belong to a Facebook group called Linocut Friends, and when I joined about a year ago there were around 75 people in the group.  Today, there are 493.

Have you caught the latest incarnation of the TV show "Cosmos"?  If so, you've noticed the breathtaking animation (like the still, above).  The thing that first struck me about it was how "woodcutty" it looked!  If you haven't caught an episode (and live in a country where you can watch it), check it out.  I think you'll see what I mean.

I live in Northeastern Wisconsin and I'm so lucky to say that there are at least two fantastic exhibits that will be running now through this summer - MOWA on the Lake's (Milwaukee) fantastic "Fresh Impressions: Contemporary Wisconsin Printmakers" (which just so happens to include two of my friends and fellow WVA colleagues' work!), and The Paine Art Center's (Oshkosh) "Matisse as Printmaker" exhibition, which will feature his monotypes, etchings and linocuts!  That runs June 28-October 19.  I can't wait to see both!

A few weeks ago, we had our Wisconsin Visual Artists - NE Chapter meeting at The Mill Paper and Book Arts Center in Rhinelander.  I am the chair for our chapter, and chose this venue last fall when we didn't have a program chair.  And while it's quite a hike from Fond du Lac and other points around the state (three hours for me), we had a great turnout.  I've taken classes at The Mill previously (remember this post?), and knew how great Daniel Goscha and Debra Jircik are - and they didn't disappoint.  Debra talked about the myriad ways to make handmade paper, and Daniel led us in a letterpress project, reminding us to "MAKE" every day.  Many of the artists had never done letterpress before, and all had a great time!  Here's the piece we were able to take home:

I hope more folks discover the joys of this varied and wonderful medium - there's a lot to learn and appreciate and drool over.  Even the season (in French, anyway) calls for it - Vive le Printemps!  :D

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letterpress + Embroidery = Pure Fun!

A little over a week ago, I wrote a post about using my backpack printing press with some of my letterpress plates, but on fabric.  You may recall how it turned out:

Well, I've had a BLAST using this template, and I just finished the piece this morning!

I worked right from the hoop, and just used the lines in the print as a guide. My friend Lori had recently given me a bag chock full of beautiful threads, so I pretty much used those exclusively (thank you, Lori!).  I used some organza for the skirt and as you can see, I also used the "movement" lines to highlight the texture.  I also created "earrings" from beads I had left from a project I finished in about 1996.  :)  I chose not to backstitch her face or hands, lest it look "cartoony", but I did make her a brunette.   :)

I had this fat quarter of vintage-looking fabric that I thought would complement the print nicely, and just used fusible webbing to adhere it to the fabric.  I thought about embroidering the flowers but then decided it might look too busy.  

I am WAY psyched about this piece!! I mean, I really like how it turned out but even better than that it that it even worked in the first place!! I don't know where this new medium is going to take me, but the possibilities are endless!  WOO HOO!!  :D

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Print Exchange Print!

About three months ago, I wrote this post about participating in Print Exchange 2014, which is put on by the Sketchbook Project people.  I thought it would be a good way to get my feet wet in the print world.

Well, I'm happy to announce that my prints are finished and already at their destination in Brooklyn!  Here's my print:

The theme for the exchange is, "Let this be a Sign....".  I grappled with this idea for a while - at first, I was going to take this more literally and create a print with a bunch of street signs.  But then, I saw an article about global warming, and got the idea for my print.  I call it, "....of Climate Change".

The size of the paper could be no more than 5 X 7", so I thought a 3 X 4' block would be a nice uniform size. I had so much fun carving this block!  To some it might have been tedious - there were a lot of teeny-tiny spaces to carve - but I realized that this is what I love to do the most!  The detailed work is my favorite. It's a linocut, and I used my Craft + Concept backpack press to print the edition of 12.  But I wanted to incorporate some mixed media into the print as well, so I sewed the border of each one and then added some chalk pastel to the horizon.

This print will go to 10 more participants, plus one print for their archives and another will go on the traveling exhibit.  I just hope the recipients enjoy it!  :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Returning to my (Embroidery) Roots

I recently read somewhere that those things you loved to do when you were a kid are probably hints of what you love to do as an adult.  I have found this to be more than true!

So, what did I like as a kid?  I loved playing post office and collecting labels and stamps.  These things have manifested themselves into my first medium of collage (and you can find much of my collage work on my other blog, Ephemeraology!).  I also loved to do cross-stitch patterns, and spent hours with my Fashion Plates toy (which I recently bought again on Ebay).  As a matter of fact, I was embroidering up until I discovered knitting, in 1999 (which turned into collage, in 2006).  I recently returned to embroidery for a project called The Exquisite Uterus Project, which highlights women's reproductive rights.  You can see my entry here.

I was further inspired by "Stitch", an exhibit that was recently held at our two-year state school, UW-Fond du Lac.  All of the artists were from my alma mater, UW-Green Bay!  As I saw all of their beautiful work, I began to wonder....

What would happen if I took my vintage letterpress plates and put them through my press - with fabric?

My fab friend Amy Jarvis had given me two vintage plates of very fancy ladies in furs - a PERFECT beginning.  This one in particular struck my fancy.

I attached it to a wood block to raise it to type height, mixed a creamy brown ink, and placed some linen atop the plate.  Now, the moment of truth - would my backpack press work?

SUCCESS!!!!  I am SO excited to begin embroidering/embellishing this image today!  I will post photos when it's done!

Oh my gosh - the possibilities with this press and my blocks!!  I can't wait to experiment further!  :D

P.S.  Remember when I mentioned my Fashion Plates toy in the second paragraph?  Well, I got to thinking - how would the texture side of the plates hold up under pressure?  I affixed one to a wood block, and PRESTO!!

So - what ELSE can I use?  :D

Monday, March 24, 2014

Things I Learned in Grand Marais

Hello all!

Wow, it's been a busy two weeks!  I'm finally getting caught up after being gone for four days to the Hinterland, AKA Grand Marais, Minnesota, where I took a very intense 3-day woodcut workshop at North House Folk School/Grand Marais Art Colony.  Here's what I took away from the weekend:

1.  Grand Marais is my Shangri-la.
I've always been a cold-weather person, but I never realized how much until this visit.  While my region of Wisconsin had melting snow, it showed no sign of spring in Grand Marais - quite the opposite!  It was like a friendly, beautiful, non-evil version of Narnia.  Oh, and if you're ever in Grand Marais, do yourself a favor and visit the two aforementioned places - you won't be disappointed!  I immediately felt at home in both.

2.  I really enjoy working small.
The blocks we carved in the class were 8X10" - now, for many of you, that may seem quite small.  On the contrary!  For me, it was an unwieldy size for the design I chose.  Unless my design contains oodles of tiny details, I'll stick to my 3X4" blocks.  I haven't even mentioned how much I love my Flexcut micro set of U gouges!

3.  I never knew intaglio/relief inks could be so beautiful or versatile!
We worked with Akua inks, which are INCREDIBLE.  Because I'm a beginner, I've bought a lot of Speedball inks, which have worked fine for me.  But from now on, I'll be supplementing my ink stash with Akua colors.  They're dreamy.

4.  There's just something about working with natural materials.
I've been taking lessons from Angie Zimmerman, a printmaker in Sheboygan, WI, for months now.  That's when I knew I loved working with wood.  That idea was enforced this weekend (but see #2, above).  My go-to medium is linoleum, for ease of use.  I'll save the woodcuts for special occasions.

5.  Registration is not my thang.
Or, to be more specific, I like my  way of doing it.  It's funny how one gets used to a certain way of doing something and it's hard to change.  I've always had a difficult time with drawing a straight line, even with measuring implements.  So until it no longer works for me, I'll stick with my own version.  It's a great hack.  :)

My one salvageable print from the class....I'll stick with my
own method of registration.  :) 
6.  If one is relatively new to woodcuts, one should never carve non-stop for more than 5 hours.
Yeah.  Question:  Is it normal for one's thumb and forefinger to still be numb 8 days after the workshop? I should probably get that looked at, shouldn't I.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meeting a Printmaking Legend

A while back, I wrote a post about a book I'd found during a trip to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.  It's called Progressive Printmakers: Wisconsin Artists and the Print Renaissance.  It was co-written by a master printmaker who was also a professor of printmaking at the University of Wisconsin for many years. 
That gentleman's name is Warrington Colescott.

Little did I know when I wrote that post only six weeks ago that I would get to meet him!

Mr. Colescott was at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (or MOWA) on March 6th to give a talk about his 65+ year history with printmaking, beginning with screen printing and continuing through his love affair with etching, which comprises most of the body of his work.  He currently has a piece in the Wisconsin Artists' Biennial, a painting which is also currently on view at the MOWA.  

Ever since I read his aforementioned book, I've been a fan.  But I had no idea how clever and funny he was until he explained the thought process behind his selected works!  He had the large audience in stitches, myself and my husband Brian included.  One could almost detect a twinkle in his eye when he spoke about his prints, some of which were nearly 70 years old!

© Photo courtesy of  MOWA.  All rights reserved.

One of the brilliant MOWA staff had the presence of mind to run down to the Milwaukee Art Museum and clean them out of their stock of The Prints of Warrington Colescott: A Catalogue Raisonee, 1948-2008 by Mary Weaver Chapin.  I was one of the fortunate people who snagged a copy!  In fact, I brought my other book and had them both autographed!  

At one point there was a line of people waiting to get their books signed, including my friend Ginny (shown here), who has known Warrington for some time and owns a few of his prints as well.  It was a magical evening, and I feel so lucky to have heard him speak!  

© Photo courtesy of  MOWA.  All rights reserved.

I'm sure you're all wondering at this point, so I'll tell you - although we didn't know it on that day, my friend Ginny found out the day after that not only did we have the pleasure of Warrington's presence last Thursday, but he kindly shared the day before his 93rd birthday with us!  It may have been his birthday, but we all received the gift. 

© Photo courtesy of  MOWA.  All rights reserved.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What Makes an Edition?

One thing I'm learning about printmakers - they love a good discussion!  I belong to some very active printmaking groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and the conversations are fantastic!  

Recently, in my "Prints and Printmaking Enthusiasts" group on LinkedIn, someone began a discussion about editions and edition varies.  She asked, "I'm sure this has been covered before but how does one number linocuts that use the same plates but in a completely different colo(u)r?"

I'm so glad this question was asked - if it hadn't been, I would've started the conversation!  As a relative "newbie" printmaker, this is one of those queries that has had me guessing for a while.  Even better - the answers were all over the place!  

A little history - according to Wikipedia (which is by no means complete, but will do for the purpose of this post), an edition is "a number of prints struck from one plate, usually at the same time. This is the meaning covered by this article. This may be a limited edition, with a fixed number of impressions produced on the understanding that no further impressions (copies) will be produced later, or an open edition limited only by the number that can be sold or produced before the plate wears. Most modern artists produce only limited editions, normally signed by the artist in pencil, and numbered as say 67/100 to show the unique number of that impression and the total edition size."

In this definition, it doesn't mention anything about the variations of an edition.  That's why the conversation over at LinkedIn has been so enlightening!  For example - this week I finished an edition of 15 from a rubber print I carved back in October.  I've been stuck with the winter "blahs" lately (we've been hit SO hard this year) that I just wanted to finish something!!  Here is what transpired:

I printed three each of the five colors and then sewed a border around each in a corresponding thread color. I kept the edition to 15, because the "block" is disintegrating and in my opinion, no longer in printable condition.  Part of the issue was the fact that I had to wipe the block after every third print, to prepare for the next color.  I probably would've been able to get far more prints from the block if I had stuck with the original color (brown), but I like giving people a variety and it was really fun to do.  :)

Now, to some purists this would NOT be an edition!  Each color would've been its own edition and should be labeled as such.  And because it's a rubber block and not wood or linoleum, and I used pigment ink, these things may also play a factor as to whether or not it's a "true" edition.  Over on LinkedIn, however, the answers would be as varied as my prints!  Some people stick to the "rules", others don't care one lick.  I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.

To my mind, at least at this stage of the game, I don't think it matters.  I am not a master printmaker (yet), and these are just fun little prints for sale.  Regardless of whether I carve my block in rubber, lino or wood (and I have done all three), I will number my editions for the amount of (good) impressions I've printed, so that the buyer knows that I only did 15 prints total (I've already retired the block for good).  My main concerns are these - whether I enjoyed creating the prints, and hoping that people like what I create.  :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Takin' the Show on the Road!

It's the third Friday of the month, and here in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin that means....Tour the Town!  It's our monthly art walk, where businesses keep their doors open until 8 p.m. and artists can show their wares for little or no commission!  It's an event that's near and dear to my heart - I'm a charter member of the committee and everyone involved is a friend of mine.  My framer, Julie Balson, is one of the founders of the whole deal, and her store, Gallery & Frame Shop, is one of the biggest supporters.

I'm so excited to be a part of the tour tonight via the Fond du Lac Public Library, where I'm showing my "Birches in Winter" piece as part of the "Greenfire" exhibit in honor of Aldo Leopold, a conservationist and author who spent a great deal of time in Wisconsin.

My husby Brian is president of the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum, and they're the sponsors of this nature-inspired show.  It's going to be a great time!

But this is an unusual tour for me - most of the time it's just me at a venue and because I've now got my portable press, I've been taking it with me!

Besides its affordability, the number one reason I was so taken with my S.C.O.P.E. backpack printing press is its portability.  As you may already know, it was specifically designed so that it would fit in the overhead bin on an airplane.  I haven't tried that yet, but I have taken it to two separate gallery walks.  The first one was in Oshkosh back in December, when I only had my press for about four days!

I was invited by my friend and letterpress artist Kevin Rau, who owns rauhaus design + letterpress.  His studio is in this beautiful old bank in downtown Oshkosh (which you may recognize from the Johnny Depp movie, "Public Enemies" - they filmed many scenes here!).  I set up in the lobby of the bank - it was ridiculously cold that evening, as it has been all year - but we still had some brave souls venture out!  It was so much fun, and people got to see both sides of the printing spectrum - Kevin's gorgeous vintage 1946 Chandler & Price platen press...

 .....and my awesome 2013 Craft & Concept showcard press!

Everyone who witnessed the printing on both was excited to see how each worked in their own way - the kids especially!  They're always so in awe of the "old" way to print - before computers (Imagine that!  You mean people actually had to do this by hand??! ).  :)  I had one young guy so enthralled with my press that he actually contacted me for Craft + Concept's info!

I can't wait for more people to see the wonders of portable printing!

P.S.  My wonderful husband braved the cold with me that December evening and took all of these photos.  He's the BEST.  :D

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Tandem

I live in Northeastern Wisconsin, in the southern Fox River valley.  It's a great place to live - close to everything, relatively safe, all four seasons represented - and LOTS of printmakers.  :)

If you're into the history of printmaking, Wisconsin is a fantastic place to start!  The University of Wisconsin has one of the best printmaking facilities in the nation, which began shortly after WWII (1946).  At that point, hardly anyone was making prints.  But it only took one professor, Alfred Sessler, to change all that.  Since then, the printmaking department at the "UW" reads like a "who's who" of notable printmakers: Warrington Colescott, William Weege and Raymond Gloeckler are just a few of the names you'll hear over and over.

But I didn't know any of this when, on a cold March day last year, my sister Jen and I visited the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison.

We were on one of our "sister days", where we take a whole day and explore one part of the city.  We always have a GREAT time, and Jen always picks such neat places to visit!  When we visit Madison, we usually take just one neighborhood - Atwood Avenue, Williamson ("Willy") Street, Monroe Street - but on this day, we began on the UW campus (of which the Chazen is a part) for the  incredible "1934: A New Deal for Artists" exhibit.  (Side note: if you're in Madison and would like to visit the Chazen, you can thank some very generous donors for making this amazing art museum FREE to the public!)

That particular exhibit was everything I hoped it would be, but then we ventured into other areas of the museum.  One part of the museum showcased prints by Judy Pfaff.  I was instantly mesmerized!!!  I read the tag to these prints and it happened to say "Courtesy of Tandem Press".  At this point, I assumed that Tandem was a publishing house, and I mentioned to Jen, "I have to find the book that was published by this "Tandem!"

But she said to me, "I think Tandem is an actual working press. In fact, I think I've been there!  Should we go and check it out?"

So, after a lovely break at this awesome coffee shop, Indie Coffee, we made the 3-mile drive to an unassuming warehouse.  When we walked in, a lovely woman with a delightful Irish brogue came up to us and asked if we'd ever been here before.  Jen said she had, but that this was my first time.  I thought that would be the end of it, and that she'd let us on our merry way, but she asked if we'd like a tour.  WOULD WE?!  But being the polite, unimposing women we are, we asked many times first if it would really be okay, since we could clearly see that they were hard at work.

So this lovely lady says, "NONSENSE! That's why we're here!"

Okay!!  So she calls over to one of the workers and says, "These ladies would like a tour."  To which he replies, "Of course!  Come on in!"

At this point, I think Jen and I were both wondering what was going on - I mean, everyone's so nice!  How could they not be totally annoyed that these two people, who just wandered in off the street, are ruining their concentration and work flow?  Well, if they were annoyed, they sure didn't show it!!  The gentleman introduced himself as Andy Rubin, one of the master printmakers at Tandem, and that he'd been there essentially since it opened.  He'd come from L.A., at a place called Gemini Press.  (It's a good thing that I didn't know about any of these people when we were at Tandem last March, because I would've been star-struck.  I've come to learn since that these folks are essentially rock stars of the print world.)

So we got went on the tour, which was EXHILARATING.  It was, for me, a seminal experience.  And I knew it, even then.

We were just about to leave, when I finally saw it - Judy Pfaff's "Year of the Dog #8".  How I could've missed it before, I have NO idea - it's roughly 3 feet by 8 feet!!  Mr. Rubin explained to us that she created this work using woodcuts and stencils.  At this point I had NO idea how any of that would be created, but I knew that I wanted to learn more about how to do it.  I don't think any one piece has ever captured my imagination like this piece had.  And to think that she came all the way from her studio out east JUST to do prints at Tandem, in little old Madison, Wisconsin?  It started to dawn on me that Tandem was Mecca for well-known artists wanting to learn printmaking.

We left when the tour was over, and that nice lady with the Irish accent asked it we'd like to be on the mailing list.  YES!!  So we signed up and left.  As we were getting into the car, the woman called out to us:  "Oh!  I forgot to give you a brochure of our upcoming print sale!"  Which I thought was way over and above what she had to do, considering I thought she was an administrative assistant.

When we were at the Chazen, I had picked up a book called "Tandem Press:  25 Years of Printmaking" because we were headed there and it looked interesting.  When I came home and began reading it, my stomach sank - that lovely Irish lady who was so kind and thoughtful turned out to be none other than Paula McCarthy Panczenko, Executive Director of Tandem.  Talk about a shock!!  She was unlike any other executive director of a non-profit I'd ever met.  Even more coincidental - her husband, Russell Panczenko, is the Director of the Chazen.  I would find out later that he's on the board of the MOWA, where I am a docent. SMALL world!  :D

Ms. Panczenko herself has been quoted as saying that Tandem Press is her obsession and that "people see things here that change their lives." (Progressive Printmakers: Wisconsin Artists and the Print Renaissance, p. 194.)  This is true for me.  That one "sister day" last March set in motion a change in my own artwork and eventually, a change in medium.  I continue to be inspired by that trip, and I'm SO glad the Chazen and Tandem exist!

P.S.  I HIGHLY recommend the aforementioned Progressive Printmakers book, even if you don't live in Wisconsin, or even the U.S.!  It's a great resource for printmaking history.  :D

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Coloring my Prints

I have a question for my fellow artists - do you ever feel melancholy at the end of a project?  You're going along, completely enjoying the process, however long that takes (SO nice to not have a strict deadline), and when you find yourself in the final stages of it, you don't want it to end?

That's how I feel with this "Birches" block! :)

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed working on this particular project!  It's the first edition that I've created specifically for printing on my new S.C.O.P.E. press.  It's the first project where I printed all 10 prints of the edition at once.  And it's the first edition that I've colored!

Oh....the COLORING!! I've been having a BLAST with the coloring!  I hand colored this edition, and so far I have two colorways - the "Birches in Spring"":

And "Birches in Winter".   

For the "Spring" print, I used various shades of green/chartreuse watercolor on watercolor paper, but also collaged tiny bits of real birch bark on some of the trunks!  :)  For the "Winter" print, I just used straight-from-the-pan blue-gray watercolor on block printing paper.  I like them both, because they're so different.  I attempted an "Autumn" print, but it just looked like the forest was on fire.  :D

At some point, I WILL attempt a reductive print.  Honest!  I just have to face my fears, is all.  :)

I can't wait to start my new block!!  I may try a woodcut next.  Stay tuned!  :D

Monday, January 20, 2014

Printing Birches

In my last post, about the meditative properties of carving, I was working on a block which would eventually become a grove of birch trees.  I'm happy to report that it's finished!

Even more exciting - yesterday was Print Day! :D

Because I'm so new at this - or maybe you veteran printmakers feel this way, too - I just marvel at the S-L-O-W process.  I'm used to working on a project, from start to finish, in about 4 hours.  With printmaking, one really must remember to be mindful of every step and to be patient.  I must admit, it's taking some getting used to - but I LOVE it.

Here is the palette I chose for my block - I was surprised by how much the brown blended in with the other colors!

Rolling the ink on the block....

Setting up the block on the press....

VOILA!!  Birch prints!!

I decided to make this an edition of 10.  Here are two of the prints, but I printed the block on all sorts of backgrounds - Gampi tissue, an old business letter, rice paper, etc.  

I'm letting the prints dry today, but tomorrow begins Phase III - coloring and final touches!!  Stay tuned!  :)