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.