Saturday, November 17, 2012

Woodblock + Woodtype = Print!

The Cracker Factory, a charming building!
On Thursday December 6th (6 - 9PM) & Saturday December 8th (10 - 4PM), I'll be teaching a workshop at the Cracker Factory, in Geneva, NY! Participants will be learning how to carve a woodblock and set wood type to create their own printed poster. This workshop will be an introduction to the technique of woodblock printing on a Vandercook Press. Students will learn about the tools, materials, carving sequence and printing methods associated with the woodblock printing. The Cracker Factory has a wonderful collection of antique woodtype that participants have the opportunity to use to print text on their poster. The class fee $125, $100 student/senior, this includes all the materials for the two day workshop. For more information, or to sign up contact: or call 315-789-1226.

Poster for the fall/winter workshops in binding & printing.
I visited the Cracker Factory for the first time over a year ago.
A huge space with beautiful windows, full of donated letterpress equipment. 
You too can print just like Anais Nin!

A press that doesn't require electricity, very civilized.


A serious guillotine, very very serious...

Some of that fantastic woodtype that I am looking forward to using in December.
Jessie Reich, a student at Wells College Book Arts Center, did a summer internship at the Cracker Factory, sorting type, organizing furniture (not the kind you sit on!), and creating systems for storing spacing. I am looking forward to teaching a workshop, after so much love and attention has gone into getting the shop together!

There are also other workshops offered at The Cracker Factory 
in November and December: 
Holiday Card Printing Workshop with Jessie Reich
Saturday, November 17th, 10am - 5pm

Bookmaking with SarahBryant
Monday, November 26th, 6pm-9pm
Tuesday, November 27th, 6pm-9pm
Friday, November 30th, 5:30pm-9:30pm

Support for these workshop has been provided by Three Stories, New York State Council on the Arts, and the Phelps Arts Center.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Victor Hammer Fellowship

The view from my studio window indicates that it is undeniably fall. I installed my solo exhibition at the Print Center in early September, now it is early October and my feet have landed on solid ground, half-way through my two-year term as the Victor Hammer Fellow in Book Arts at Wells College.

I have been totally immersed in my work. If you are an artist who has prepared for exhibitions you know this focus I speak of. It is a very clear, deep, single minded kind of focus that always happens in the last few months before a big exhibition. The kind of focus that doesn't allow for friends and phone calls and Facebook. Emails pile up. Laundry piles up. I am in the studio early. I am still in the studio late at night. Acquaintances wonder if I am self-absorbed. The people who love me find themselves needing to be very, very patient. Everything falls away, except the work.

It is always like this for me--every time. I work hard in the studio year around. I don't wait for an exhibition to begin to make work. However, I find that there is something about the process of preparing for an exhibition that always pushes my nose right up against the wall. Everything around me get's fuzzy, but the thing in front of me that needs to get done--my work--gets crystal clear.

Today, the show is up, and I feel good about the work. I realize it's been awhile since I have simply looked around. The leaves are changing colors, it's fall. I count the months I have been in Aurora. I count the months that are left before I return home to Philadelphia. My fellowship is half over. And I am a little sad. I have really missed living in Philadelphia, but there are so many things that I like about being a fellow at the Book Arts Center.

But first: What is this fellowship?
According to the Wells Book Arts Center website:
"The fellowship is named for Victor Hammer, an Austrian printer, book designer, typographer and portrait artist, who fled Nazi Europe to come to Wells College in 1939. The Hammer Fellowship is a two-year book artist-in-residence program that was founded in 1998. By bringing young, emerging book artists to campus, the Wells Book Arts Center has made a name for itself in the book arts world.

The Book Arts Center teaches introductory courses in letterpress printing, hand bookbinding, calligraphy and various upper-level courses in binding and printing. In addition to courses taught in the academic year, the Book Arts Center offers two week-long series of workshops in the book arts at Wells College."
This is Victor Hammer's Press, for real.
For me the fellowship has truly been fantastic. I have had the opportunity to work at the Bixler letterfoundry where I have learned to cast type. I teach book arts and printing courses. The people I work with (in particular the Director, Nancy Gil) are lovely. I very much enjoy the students. The artwork I completed during my first year at Wells was possible primarily because the Center has been so supportive of my art practice. And upstate New York is, frankly, beautiful.
Wells Book Arts Center is located on Lake Cayuga in upstate NY.
My favorite printer's devil and boyfriend, Curt Sauer.
The Book Arts Center is charming, it's quaint, it's filled with presses and paper and woodtype and lead type and all the things that I hold true to my heart. However, I must tell you that one of my daily simple pleasures is my office. Walking in and closing the door: I have my very own office.
I love my office.
I come from a long line of fellows: Jocelyn Webb, Terrence Chouinard, Sarah Roberts, Morgot Ecke, Rachel Wieking, and Sarah Bryant. And the evidence of their presence lingers in my office....
Victor Hammer Mascot
Make-ready from Sarah's artist book Biography taped to the wall.

And every evening, at 6 PM, from my office window I listen to the chime of bells. There is a real range of expertise of "bell ringers" (some evenings the sound is better than others), but regardless of poor or perfect rhythm, it is a sound that I enjoy every time.

Waiting outside my office door is this guy:
In the sitting position he is about 3 1/2 feet high. He used to startle me, now we are old friends.
It's not just my office that is so great--as I mentioned--the entire Book Arts Center building is lovely. So not counting the obvious (my office, my boyfriend, the lake, Nancy, the former fellows, and the book-arts-buddha) this is a list of my 10 most favorite things:
1) I can park my bike inside the arched entrance: I never have to lock up my bike. That's right, never locked, never stolen--take that Philly!
2) The Bindery! This is where I teach.
3) The Scriptorium--how amazing is it that there is a scriptorium?

4)The Student Press Room--this is also where I teach! The color coding for type makes me very very happy.
5) The Faculty Press Room--of course the Uni 1 is my true love, but the carpets on the print studio floor warm my heart.
6) Graffiti covers the desks in the Art History room.
7) I admired this folded paper thing for months, later to discover that my former teacher Hedi Kyle made it.

8) Third Floor Bindery--my studio!
9) Hours of discovery & adventure in the basement.
I end with the safe, because now that I see that my fellowship is more than half over, I realize I may be leaving behind some unfinished business: breaking open that safe! It's not that I haven't tried. I have simply run out of resources. While failure eats at my soul daily, I take some comfort in the fact that there is a tradition of sorts here at the Book Arts Center. Each Fellow gets to leave behind some kind of unfinished project. In my case, I will be leaving "project safe" for Victor Hammer #8.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vista Sans Wood Type Project

The Vista Sans Wood Type Project was initiated by Tricia Treacy and Ashley John Pigford as a collaborative exploration of the interplay between archaic and modern technologies. The hope was for artists to create prints where the production and material is ingrained in the final products. Here's how it worked:
  1. More than 25 artists from national and international printshops agreed to participate in the project.
  2. Ashley built a CNC router and together, Tricia and Ashley created several sets of woodtype that spelled the word "touch".
  3. Each participant was given paper (donated by Legion Paper) and a set of letters (t, o, u, c, and h). 
  4. Participants created a broadside edition that used the woodtype.
While in Philadelphia, I picked up my paper and type directly from Tricia. I will admit that when I brought the package back to my studio in Aurora, it sat unopened for at least two weeks. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to make, so I procrastinated.

Starting to work seemed to be the only way I was going to figure what to make, finally I opened the box. The wood type that was sent to me was really quite different from traditional woodtype. It was cut along the grain with no attempt made to hide the texture of the wood. I gathered up the stack of older broken type that I had been collecting from the basement of the BAC. I felt there was an obvious connection between the old broken type and the newly made type. I started by laying out the fragments of letters along side the newly created letters, brainstorming...waiting to see if there was something I liked. Waiting for an idea.

I arrived a concept of the O and the U pouring water into a sea of letters. I began by printing multiple layers of type in blue to create the sea.  Cut paper patterns were used to place on top of the printed areas. This helped me visualize where I would place things when printing new layers. 

The layered printed type wasn't enough to create the feeling of a sea. It was clear that I couldn't rely on the type alone to create the image. I decided to use woodcuts as another element in the print. I have done a lot of woodblock printing, and often use a very high quality wood in my work, but in this case, I wanted the texture of the wood to be a prominent part of the print. I found a few discarded pieces of wood that were perfect for the project. I cut them down on the table saw, transferred my image in reverse and carved.
Shellacking the woodblocks.

Drying. The sea is on the left, the pour is on the right.

Whenever I mix processes (in this case woodtype and cuts with woodblocks) I build in plenty of extra paper for proofing.  The only way I can see if the color is working and the registration is correct is to pull a proof. The end results of the make-ready are always interesting, even though they are "wrong". I often have a hard time recycling them when I am I always hold onto a few of the most unique proofs. Space 1026 has coined the perfect word for these prints: Super Rare.

Blue, my favorite color. It always has been.
The t,c, and h: in lock up.
I used the grain of this low-grade plywood a foundation texture for the print.
Reduction carving created a new layer of texture (and gave me a blister).
Detail of the sea, created with the many layers described: type, broken type, plywood and carved wood.
Proof reading and fixing errors in the colophon. The "1" and "l" of Gills Sans are remarkably similar.

Below is the final version of my print titled: "ou", 2012, 24 x 14 inches

I have participated in many exchanges over the years, and it always reminds me of the comforts of school--where someone else sets the parameters and gives you the assignment (deadline included). I was particularly pleased with the results of this print. In the end I have a piece that really feels like my work, but I am sure I would have never arrived at this piece, had Tricia and Ashley not handed me the materials. It is also very interesting to see the variety of work that the other participating artists produced, despite the fact that were were working within the same parameters. You can see the final prints from the exchange and read about the process at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wallpaper Project: In the Background

I was invited to participate in a portfolio exchange for the 2012 Southern Graphics Council Conference in New Orleans. Yoonmi Nam was the organizer for this exchange and the following folks are participating: Kristi Arnold, Laura Berman, Teresa Cole, Christa Dalien, Kristina Estell, Adriane Herman, Mary Anne Jordan, Mari LaCure, Serena Perrone, and Nicolette Ross.

Yoonmi Nam wrote this narrative to describe the theme of this exchange portfolio:
"In The Background exchange portfolio will be a tribute to our decorative and commercial printmaking history. The styles, patterns and the subject matters depicted in each print reveal how we locate ourselves geographically, socially, culturally, and historically: where we live, where we came from, and where we want to go.

Often in the background, the use of wallpaper throughout history has been of an ephemeral nature. Whether it was used to transport ourselves to a picturesque French landscape in our own living rooms or to cover and conceal what lies underneath, wallpaper has the ability to create a mood and atmosphere. As styles changed over time, so did the coverings on our walls.

Artists will make their own wallpaper designs based on their diverse interests and backgrounds while addressing the culture of this man-made environment and the potential transformation of an interior space. Using both conventional and unconventional subject matters, each print will be a sample wallpaper section with the potential to expand to become a continuous pattern. The completed portfolio could resemble a high-end wallpaper sample book providing a sense of potential to be used as wallpapers, and at the same time, each print will be able to stand alone as an image."

For those of you who are not aware of the tradition of exchange portfolios, in addition to a theme, there are rules regarding paper size, image size, orientation, etc. The rules for our particular exchange included: The print can be any print medium, printed on any 2-dimensional surface that measures 20 x 27 inches. The print must have a bleed image with razor cut edges, however the pattern could be horizontal or vertical. The edition size is 14. The final prints will be bound into a large wallpaper sample book.

I am currently working at Wells Book Arts Center have been surrounded by amazing letterpress cuts. While I am drawn to these cuts for their aesthetic and nostalgia, I think that it is interesting that they are essentially old-fashion clip art. I wondered if I would be able to transform the cuts into a larger wallpaper piece, using this "clipart" as an essential element in the design. I began by printing many, many images and was drawn to a print I made that mirrored the image of one of the landscape cuts. The concept of of creating a false landscape that would potentially wallpaper an interior space was interesting to me. I began to work with the printed image in Photoshop, combining it with a few other printed cuts to design my wallpaper pattern.
Piles of cuts from the basement of Wells Book Arts Center.

Some of my printed images that were used in the wallpaper pattern.
On the surface of each piece of paper that I would edition the pattern one, I painted a combination of watercolor, animal skin glue and alum, and then printed the grain from a large piece of wood.
I had to run several tests to make sure I had the correct exposure time and washout before I could make the final 23 x 10 plate.
I did not have a platemaker, so I did the washout of the polymer plate by hand.
Lovely grey ink.
Pin registration, stencil, and polymer plate used in printing the pattern.
More than half-way done.
Close up of the pained paper, printed wood grain, and printed polymer.
Final wallpaper print, 20 x 27, watercolor, woodblock, and polymer.