Now that I’m back in North Carolina, it’s a stretch to say I’m settled––but I’m getting there. My house seems a lot smaller now that it’s filled with boxes, and it’s difficult to try to take some of that kitchen or bedroom space and use it as if it were a studio. I have grand plans to turn my garage into a studio, but until that happens, my drawing table is in the den and my newly acquired sign press will live in the breakfast room. It might mean getting rid of the dining table, but since I never have dinner guests, that seems like a reasonable sacrifice to the gods of printing. We have to suffer for our art, right?
Big changes are happening, and one of them is hatching a plan to do some art fairs during the year. I wanted to start small and do a local one that didn’t require much travel, and found the Hard Candy Christmas show in Cullowhee, NC. I decided to do this in October, thinking I could make plenty of work by the time the show rolled around on November 29. As it turns out, that was pushing it. But thanks to my friend Sonja, who let me use her studio for a week, I was able to churn out more work than I have in two years.
Part of the joy that comes with having your own studio is the luxury of time. It’s hard to work against the clock, knowing that you have to finish printing to get out of someone else’s way, or having to drive back and forth to a shared studio, taking all of your supplies with you. Having several days to concentrate also meant that I could relax, and play, and do some prints on the fly–without having to follow a plan and clean up immediately. Sonja let me use this fabulous wood type she acquired (from Argentina!), and here’s what happened when I paired it with some old topographic maps I found years ago and kept because, hell, they had to come in handy sooner or later.
I know. I’m a dork. I worked as an archaeologist for a few minutes at one phase of my life (why didn’t I think of this ingenious pickup line back then?). I’ve always had a thing for maps. My sense of humor was once described as “earthy.” I assumed that meant weird at the time, but maybe it just meant “dirty.”
Here’s Oliver helping me plan the next print run. He’s a pretty good supervisor.
After a few days of nonstop printing, I had a pile of prints. Some I like better than others. Some were a chance to play and recycle some printing plates I’ve been wanting to use again (greyhounds, anyone?). This one uses that great wood type from the southern hemisphere and pairs it with a horse I carved a while back and was then disappointed that it really didn’t work out for a book project I was planning. It rode around in the back of my car for about 3,000 miles and then I found its purpose (this one is for all of my uber-creative friends out there who keep me inspired):
Every printer needs a break after a few non-stop days with the ol’ Vandercook. Sonja and I took a break by rolling with the tide.
Then we stopped at Jessica’s shop, The Southern Letterpress, in Northport, AL. If you’re in that neck of the woods, you should pay her a visit. It’s chock full of cool handmade, letterpress printed goodies. She’ll even show you her printing press if you ask nicely.
At the end of the week, I had prints and greeting cards galore. But I also had a renewed love of the craft, the tiredness and sore muscles that come from a full day of doing what you love, and a hopefulness about acting on these dreams I’ve had on the back burner for a little too long. So on this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for a family who is always rooting for me; friends who take me in, sharing their homes, their studios, and their good advice; all of the folks out there who inspire me and keep me going when the going gets tough. My little world is brighter because of all of them, and they give me the courage to be an artist.