This past week, my Book Arts class had the privilege of taking the work we've been doing this session out of the classroom (ok, really our teacher's cozy kitchen) and into the studio of artist and printmaker, Pepe Coronado. I love going to other artists' studios - it's like a fascinating and intimate peek inside their brains. Pepe's studio is moving soon, to a local warehouse that's been converted into artist lofts, but for now it is housed in the basement "mother-in-law" apartment of his home, which means that instead of just one room, he has an entire living space devoted to making his art. The studio is a drool-inducing, well-stocked, meticulously-organized labrynth of equipment and supplies and fabulous work on the walls.
I've written about the pieces I've made in earlier sessions of this class here. I haven't shared any of this session's work yet because this time around, we are making a single piece (well, three editions of one design) and it won't be finished until the end. But with a long-term project like this, the process becomes all the more important, so I thought I'd do a post on getting to this point so far.
We started out about a month ago, sketching and writing ideas for the eventual book we'd be making. We knew that the basis of these books would be linocuts we would make, so much of the sketching process was about figuring out the what/where/how big of the blocks we'd end up carving. I circled around different ideas for a week or so before finding what felt right. In that circling, I touched on everything from feathers to Punnett squares to "tears for lost homes" (oh, the drama!). Finally, as usual, the motherhood element won out, and what I ended up loving the most was a sketch of an embryo surrounded by moons in different phases. (No political component here, FYI... I just continue to be obsessed with the wild magic of choosing to grow a human inside your body.) One line of a little poem I wrote along the way stuck: "Start here." And I decided that rather than do one print per page, illustration-style, I wanted to carve three linocuts that would sit flush with eachother and form one continuous image. It'll be interesting to see how that format works in the final book, when I'll be folding it into fours..
Once we had our drawings all sketched and planned out, we transfered them to the linoleum blocks with carbon paper, making sure to flip the image. Pictures and words have to be back-to-front on the linoleum in order for the eventual prints to come out right.
Then we carved the linoleum, both in class and at home. Carving is immensely satisfying - soothing and meditative, with just a dash of danger thrown in from the constant threat of slipping and carving your hand by accident... those blades are sharp! The trick seemed to be to soften the linoleum by warming it first, either with a hair dryer or by putting it on a radiator, or - my favorite - a heating pad on your lap.
At Pepe's studio, once we had checked and double checked placement, and made a transparent mock-up for the printing press, we were ready to print.
::Waiting for their turn.
::Carefully placing the paper on top.
::Getting rolled through the press. The layer of blankets on top help the paper really press into the cuts. One of my classmates, who was going for a crisper look with her prints, didn't use them...
::Peeling the print off the linoleum. In the background is Pepe's Carrito Grafico, a mobile printing press, which he takes into Dominican neighborhoods in the city and sets up like a street cart, printing people's work for free and as a form of performance, to highlight the lack of an art center or school in the community. So very cool.
::On the drying rack.
We each printed three times for three eventual editions of our books. Of course, three separate inkings and printings means that the final products are not actually identical - there are small differences in what the ink picked up or how saturated the sections are. I love this, how even though we used a machine - albeit a pretty basic one, and certainly not digital - the individuated qualities of handmade-ness are present in the final work. For my classmates whose designs include now adding handwriting or painting to their prints, that individuation will be increased further. For me this image is it, no additions feel necessary.
So, BIG THANKS to Pepe Coronado for his kindness and expertise. It was such a pleasure to learn from him and work in his studio. And now, we are on to making the books' covers...
Another post for another day...