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Tuckamore Design is a very small handcrafted card and print company based in Buffalo, New York. I'm a Canadian transplant, originally from Newfoundland. I've been a printmaker for 15 years, almost as long as I've been an architect. I never formally studied art, but I've taken classes from a handful of amazing artists at Dundarave Print Workshop in Vancouver, BC, and NSCAD in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I love paper, especially since I spend a lot of hours every day working on a computer for my other business, Design Synergies Architecture.

I also love to create handcrafted greeting cards for everyday and seasonal occasions. When the inspiration hits (and I have time), I make the occasional original print. Every piece is printed by hand or on an etching press.

In the early days, my prints and cards were featured at the Canadian Craft Museum, the Craft Association of British Columbia shop, and various exhibits in Vancouver and Halifax. My cards have been sold in shops in the Maritime Provinces, Buffalo, NY, and most recently in Martinsburg, West Virginia! Through my Etsy site, my cards have been sent all over the world.

My work is influenced by Celtic and Art Nouveau design, by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and by the Arts & Crafts movement. I found inspiration for several years in my front porch container garden in the Elmwood Village in Buffalo, and now I'm daydreaming of spring in my new backyard garden.

My favourite medium is linoleum block printing, especially blind embossed prints (deeply impressed and printed without ink). I'm about to embark on a watercolour adventure, and I'm wondering how that will find its way into my printmaking....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Featured on Printsy this week

Recently, I joined Printsy, the Etsy group for printmakers.  This week, I'm the featured artist on the Printsy blog.  I'm so excited to be part of this group of amazing artists.

Thanks to Diane Podolsky of Annie Pod Press for writing the interview - and for suggesting that I join in the first place!

I've admired the work of so many people who have been featured on Printsy.  This is a great way to finish off the year, and start thinking about where I can go with  my work.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winding down the (retail) holiday season

Featured in the Blue Sky Design Supply Holiday Gift Guide
My last show of the season was on Saturday, the Buffalo Indie Market's Holiday at the Gardens.  My retailers have received the last of their holiday orders.  Etsy sales for holiday cards have slowed to a crawl in the last week before Christmas. 

Soon, it will be time to pack up the unsold holiday-themed work, clean all the printmaking gear off my dining room table, and start thinking about next year.

Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity spends the last week of the year looking back and planning ahead.  He calls it his "annual review", and you can read more about it on his blog.  It's a great idea, both personally and professionally, to look back over the year and see what went well and what didn't. 

This has been a great year for Tuckamore Design.  Sales have been really encouraging since the summer.  The responses that I've gotten at shows and from local stores have all been positive.  Even though I've had difficulties at times juggling a full-time day job and the demands of a small - well, tiny - business, I still enjoy doing this.  My fear for years has been that, at some point, I'd get sick of printing 100 cards from the same block, bored with doing the same stuff over and over.  Happily, that hasn't happened in 15 years of printing. 

I'm going to spend some time between now and January 1st thinking about where I'd like to go with my artwork, and with my little company.  I've decided to retire some old blocks to make room for new work.  I'm really looking forward to developing some limited edition block prints in the New Year.  I have some ideas for Buffalo landmarks that I'd like to use for fundraising for local architectural preservation groups.  I'm also interested in exploring my favourite technique of embossing in larger and more complex works. 

I'll still make my line of cards, of course, but I feel the need to push my own boundaries a little more than I have been.  I want to try some new things and see where I can go.  It's going to be fun :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A fellowship in embossing

Embossed Gerbera Daisies card
The deadline for the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) artists' fellowships is next week, and this year Printmaking is one of the eligible media:
- Digital/Electronic Arts
- Crafts/Sculpture
- Nonfiction Literature
- Poetry
- Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts
    Last year, Architecture (my day job) was eligible.  A colleague and I put together an application for a research project that was based on a design competition entry.  We didn't win (the competition or the fellowship), but it was an interesting exercise.  It made me think about architectural design in a different way than I do every day - more academic than the day-to-day practical approach.

    Embossed Daisy Card
    This year, I've decided to submit as a printmaker - just me, as an artist, essentially asking to be taken seriously for what I do in my spare time. It's more than a little intimidating, but it's the encouragement that I've received from fellow printmakers that has convinced a very small part of my brain that I can do this.

    I've been told by other printmakers that few artists do embossing.  I have no idea why.  For me, it's the easiest method of printmaking that I've ever done!  Well,  I've Googled it, and it appears to be true.  I've found some wonderful work in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, using Northwest Native American and Canadian imagery.  Alaskan artist Arnie Weimer combines finely detailed etchings with embossing to create some really beautiful work, but I don't know exactly how he produces his embossings.

    Embossed Snowflake card
    I discovered John Ruszel, who produced an incredible embossing of typewriter parts that made me gasp the first time I saw it.  So it may be rare, but there are indeed a few masters out there who do it incredibly well.  Something to aspire to.

    This lesson plan by Ken Schwab, formerly of Leigh High School in San Jose, California, is for high school students to make embossed prints using layers of mat board.  Wonderful images on the website - check them out.  I've never used mat board for anything but collographs, so this is intriguing.

    The idea of having paid time to explore printmaking - and specifically embossing - on a bigger scale than I've been able to so far is really enticing.  I've been thinking about doing that for a few years, but just haven't had the luxury of time to do it.  A $7000 unrestricted fellowship would certainly take care of that obstacle, at least for a few months.  It would give me more freedom to structure my time the way I want to, to make art a bigger part of my life than it is now. 

    Embossed Celtic Knots card
    I decided to write a proposal for an embossing project for a couple of reasons.  First, it's the type of printmaking that I think I do best, and I want to get better at it.  Second, it's simply so much fun to do.  And it will give me an opportunity to pursue the development of my skills as an artist, something that I really haven't done seriously before.

    Plus, chances are there won't be a lot of other artists doing the same thing.  I haven't got all the details figured out yet, but I'm really interested in moving beyond embossing greeting cards and more into larger embossed prints.  I have some ideas that I've been playing with, but haven't given them serious thinking time.  This would be a great opportunity to do that.

    I've been printing for almost 15 years, and I firmly believe that learning the techniques is only the beginning - practice is essential.  Still, I sometimes feel like a poor cousin to "real" artists who have BFA's and MFA's, those who are working artists.  I know, it's about ability and talent, not what degree you have, but that doesn't stop the doubts from creeping in every now and then.

    Embossed Rose card
    With a day job, I have the luxury of printing because I want to, not because I have to, to pay the bills.  I do appreciate that luxury, no matter how difficult the job is at times.  A fellowship would allow me to take a step away from that job and move closer towards my ideal of being a part-time architect, part-time artist.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Watching ink dry

    The last weekend before a show is always crazy.  Today, I've been up since about 6:30 am, getting all of my materials lined up for a full day of production.  My show is on Thursday night, so that leaves me just a few days to get things printed and packaged.
    New design:  Gingko leaf
    There are some very good reasons why I do so much embossing:  it's not as messy as inked work, and it doesn't take forever to dry.  I love my Daniel Smith water soluble inks - they print so nicely, and the cleanup is relatively easy.  But boy, do they take a long time to dry!  That's important to consider when you're putting prints and cards into protective sleeves (like Clearbags) for shows or selling in stores.  Nothing says sloppy amateur like ink smears on the inside of a sleeve - or worse, on the print itself.

    I printed some cards earlier this week. and they are still not fully dry.  So that means everything I print today will take at least until Tuesday or Wednesday to dry before I can pack them up.  Slows down the production line!

    So, while I'm waiting, I'm moving on to other things like papermaking and embossing, checking things off my to-do list as I go.

    Every horizontal surface in my house is gradually being covered with cards, even the mantel.

    To top it all off, the memory card in my camera is no longer readable.  I have no idea what happened.  I just used it on Thursday and it was fine.  For now, I have to use the internal memory which only allows me to take 17 photos at a time.  Add that to the to-do list.  Busy Saturday!

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Best show yet...the local artists' market at the NAAEE Conference

    Last week, I was part of the local artists' market at the North American Association of Environmental Educators' Conference in Buffalo, and I was floored by how well it went!  Thanks to my friend Marika Woods-Frankenstein, who invited me to exhibit, I think I found my audience!

    I shared space in the local artists' booth with Buffalo ReUse and my friend Tyra from Blue Sky Design Supply.  Everyone who came by was so complimentary on all of our work, and really happy to have us there.  We had a great time!

    And I have to say - the folks who organized the NAAEE conference had the best food of any conference I've been to!  Teachers eat well!  There were desserts at 10:30 am, a fabulous buffet dinner at night, and a happy hour with complimentary wine and cheese.  What more could you want in a show?!

    I sold out of a lot of prints and most of my handmade paper.  Now I'm getting ready for the next show, the benefit for Crisis Services on October 28th.  Tomorrow it's back to the studio to make Christmas cards and paper.  I've been looking forward to it all week!

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Balsam fir...paper?

    So it took about a month to get all the bits and pieces together, but I finally made paper last weekend and the weekend before.

    Getting from the ripped-up bits of paper that I wrote about a month ago to this point was a bit messy, but it was fun.  I started with shredded brown paper bags and dried flowers from my garden, and made about 10 sheets of off-brown, floral-ish paper that I intend to print on with dark ink this weekend.  Then I tried some blue pulp with pink flowers, and red scrap wrapping paper with dried Rose of Sharon from the garden.

    The other part of the great paper experiment was figuring out how to use the 2 pounds of ground balsam fir that I ordered from Wesley Moody Farm in Saranac Lake, NY.  I was inspired by finding similar bags of balsam at LL Bean last month when we drive through Maine. 

    But since we were on our way to Canada and I didn't want to get into trouble carrying plant material across the border, I didn't buy it then.  Instead, I did a Google search and found two farms that sold it, one in Maine and the other in the Adirondacks.  It arrived a week ago and it smells heavenly. 

    My idea was to embed the balsam fir into paper so that you would have that wonderful woodsy scent everytime you used it.  Experimentation will determine just how much (or little) I need to be effective.

    The next question, now that I have about 30 sheets of handmade paper, is:  what am I going to do with it?!

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Upcoming fall shows

    I've decided to do two shows this fall in the Buffalo area. 

    On October 28th, I will be at Girls Night Out, a dinner and fundraising event in support of Crisis Services.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this event will feature local artisans selling their wares in a boutique, followed by a dinner and fashion show. The start time of the event is at 6pm and it will be held at Transit Valley Country Club on Transit Road in East Amherst.  This is a great event, celebtrating its 4th year and supporting a very worthwhile cause.  For more information on tickets, please contact Rebecca Stevens, Advocate Program Supervising Counselor for Crisis Services at rstevens@crisisservices.org .

    November 13th is the 14th annual Women's Gifts show at "Babeville" - Asbury Hall, 341 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.  This event is free and open to the public.  It starts at 10:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm.  Great opportunity to do some holiday shopping and check out wonderful handcrafted works by talented local artisans.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Fresh from vacation and ready to print!

    After a 10 day visit to Nova Scotia, I'm back home and itching to get back into my studio.  It's been so darn hot this week that I haven't been able to spend much time in there (it's a tiny west-facing, all glass room).  I've got two shows coming up, one in October and one in November (the Women's Gifts Show in Buffalo). So I have a lot of work to do, and I also have a lot of marketing to do if I want to get into more stores in time for the holidays.  Plus there's the day job....  Good thing this is a long weekend - gives me an extra free day to get stuff done.

    We had a fantastic trip, visiting old friends and eating plenty of fresh seafood!  Great local beer, too!  Nova Scotia is such an amazing place, full of great artists and craftspeople.  I lived in Halifax for about eight years and went to architecture school there, so I still have some good friends there.

    There is a rich tradition of art and craft there that is enhanced by the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in Halifax.  I took some printmaking classes there years ago - great faculty and cool facilities in a series of old buildings downtown.  At the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax, part of the Nova Scotia Center for Craft & Design, there is a display of quilt art that is just stunning. 

    Along the drive, we stayed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and St. Andrew's-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick.  Years ago, I used to sell my work at Serendipin' Art in St. Andrews and they still carry a wonderful collection of Atlantic Canadian works.

    Portsmouth is a delightful place to visit, and this was our fifth stop there, I think.  My favourite shop was Worldly Goods, which I think would be a great place for my work.  I will have to forward one of my new postcards to the owner and see if she's interested.

    I also loved FaLaLo, a tiny shop down near the water which you'd miss if you were just looking at the ice cream shop or the fabulous restaurants.  FaLaLo stands for Fair Trade and/or Local, and the owners have assembled a great collection of recycled items like rolled-paper bowls, juice box bags, and clutch purses made from pop can tops.  Loved those purses!  Also had my eye on the door mats made from salvaged fishing ropes.  Creative reuse is a wonderful art form.

    So, with all of this inspiration from the waterfront of Portsmouth, the sunsets over St. Andrews, and the beaches of Nova Scotia, I'm thinking of all kinds of new cards and prints that I can do.  And I ordered some ground balsam fir from a farm in the Adirondacks, after seeing it at the L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine - perfect for making some christmasy handmade paper and cards!  The house is going to smell great!

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Valuing your work

    Many artists, including me, struggle with pricing their work.  I've thought long and hard about how much I should charge for my handmade cards, and every time I walk down the card aisle at the grocery store, I am reminded of just how close my pricing is to that of the leading commercial card companies.

    Think about it:  if you can buy a store-bought card by one of the big three (Hallmark, American Greetings, Carlton Cards) for $4, would you spend an extra 50 cents and buy something handmade and unique?  Maybe my prices are too low for the amount of work that goes into each one.  And pricing my prints?  Help!  Have no idea where to start because I honestly don't know what someone would want to pay for it.  I've tried formulas, price per square inch, and comparing it to other artists' work.  I've sold certain pieces for specific prices, so I won't go any lower than that.  I know my print prices are low but maybe it's more about confidence in the marketability of your work.

    There's a really great post by Emily of Paper Tiger Press that talks about the importance of valuing your work and finding the right balance between charging too much and too little.  I highly recommend reading it.  By the way, her letterpress work is really stunning - be sure to check it out while you're on her blog.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Adventures in papermaking

    Last weekend, I spent a few hours in a papermaking class at a local art store.  That got my mind spinning, as it often does, with new ideas for cards and paper art.  I spent much of sunday annoying my husband with the sound of tearing paper.  But I've got a lot of raw material to work with now!

    One of the problems with paper-based art is that you sometimes screw things up, and that creates waste.  Waste drives me crazy.  In my other life, I'm an architect specializing in green buildings and sustainable design.  So I have a really hard time being a waste generator.  Taking that class was part of the greater plan to develop a line of eco-friendly cards using my own paper.  I've been wanting to do it for ages, finally got a chance to get into a class last weekend.

    In printmaking, there are sometimes misprints:  a plate or a sheet may slip when going through the press, or you get ink on your fingers and unknowingly transfer it to good paper.  Usually, my mess-ups involve not paying attention to what I'm doing or trying to rush through a step.  Haste makes waste, quite literally.

    I'm a big believer in what green architect William McDonough says about garbage:  waste = food.  What he means, in the context of manufacturing, is that the discards of one process should feed other processes.  

    I have so much wasted art paper that can be made into new paper.  I also have a ton of newspapers, magazines, utility bills, etc. - we generate a surprising amount of paper in our lives.  And in my day job, there is way too much paper that gets wasted when we print drawings for reviews, then print them again for more reviews. 

    I've already started collecting paper into boxes in my studio, some of it torn into bite-size pieces and ready to go into the blender. 

    One of the ladies in my class last weekend brought lavender and I put some in a couple of sheets - heavenly!  It is the best smelling paper!  That got me thinking about other natural additives - I have a bumper crop of Boxwood Basil this year which is just crying out to be picked.  There's only so much pesto a girl can make!  Might be interesting to drop some of it into a paper mixture.

    I've also been saving flowers from my garden that I can add to the pulp mixture.   Sheets of paper aren't the only things you can make - I've been thinking about designing paper sculptures,  using recycled paper pulp, like a paper casting. 

    Our instructor had some really neat ideas, and I jotted down a few of my own in my sketchbook.  I'm really psyched to get started on some new work.  Let's just say that this year's collection of Christmas gift tags are going to smell yummy....

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Busy summer so far

    Etsy's "Christmas in July" promotion kept me busy for most of July, trying to keep up with orders (I know, what a problem to have!).  I sold a lot of last year's holiday cards, which made space in the studio for this year's batch - soon to be starting up again.  My Snowflake card was the biggest seller - I sold every last one of them, and had to stop relisting it!  I won't be making any more of them until September.

    I also joined an Etsy team, Unique Women in Business (UWIB), which has been great.  So many talented and supportive artisans in that group - really happy to be part of it.

    As soon as the orders started coming in, I realized just how big a mess the studio had become.  I couldn't find anything!  All of my shipping materials and my files were in a hopeless pile.  It took me about a day and a half to deal with that, but now it's a working studio again.  Good thing, because I have to produce a lot of stuff for an upcoming show in November (Women's Gifts) and for the holiday season.

    My shop was featured in at least 6 treasuries on Etsy last month (seriously, I lost count - it was a crazy couple of weeks), which no doubt helped boost sales.  That was very exciting.  Now it's time to start thinking about christmas card designs, and trying to find winter inspiration in 80+ degree weather....(this photo was taken in Newfoundland after a late winter ice storm).

    I ordered some promotional postcards from VistaPrint, which arrived yesterday.  They look great, and now I have to finish my list of places to send them!  I ordered them to promote my work to retail shops.  My plan is to send them out to a selection of shops where I think my work might fit very well.  That's a tough thing to figure out - you never really know if a shop owner is going to like the few photos on the postcard enough to look at your website, but it's worth a shot.

    Have to get them in the mail before I head out on vacation in a couple of weeks - a road trip to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  I'll be checking out some shops along the way.  I already found a lovely irish shop in Portsmouth, NH, that I want to visit. 

    I'd love to cut back on shows and increase my wholesale market.  That's one of my business goals for this year.  My original big goal, when I first wrote my business plan, was to recoup the investment in my press!  I'm getting closer to that!

    And as of October 9th, Tuckamore Design will be 1 year old!  I'm going to do a special promotion in my Etsy shop for that, but I'm not sure exactly what yet. 

    But before that, my birthday is on August 5th and I'm going to feature free shipping all day on Thursday.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Rediscovering monotypes

    Watercolour for printmakers:  that's what I've always thought of monotypes.  At least, that's the way that I learned how to do it from Lone Tratt, my instructor when I took classes at Dundarave Print Workshop in Vancouver back in the mid-90's .  Monoptypes and monoprints have a painterly quality about them, more so than most other techniques that I've tried. 

    A monotype is a one-of-a-kind print made by coating a sanded piece of plexiglass with gum arabic and then painting the dried surface with watercolours (or oil pastels).  It's an edition of 1.  You can also print ghost images from the plate afterwards and experiment with combining printmaking techniques.

     I've been reminded lately of my one and only attempt at watercolours.  It was a one-week course taught by Newfoundland artists Julia Pickard and Ilse Hughes that I took in 1998.  I loved it, even though I struggled more than most students because I'd never painted before.

    Last friday, my husband and I had dinner with a dear friend whom I met in that class.  We hadn't seen each since then, but we've corresponded via christmas cards, email, and Facebook.  It was a lovely evening, and it reminded me of three things:  one, how much I love watercolours; two, how I wish I had the talent for it; and three, how much I've missed doing monotypes.

    This longing to be a watercolourist coincides with peak gardening season in Buffalo which is leading up to the annual Garden Walk.  It's a fabulous weekend, July 24-25, of self-guided tours and salivating over incredible gardens.  You can't help but be inspired when you live on a street of gardeners in a neighbourhood of wonderful gardens.

    All summer, I've been watching the gardens evolve as everyone gets ready for Garden Walk.  I love flowers and I've been taking photos of some really lovely gardens so I can develop new prints.  Thing is, I can't do them justice with blind embossing or linocuts.

    But monotypes - now that's an option.  I haven't done one since Lone's class in 1996.  I have great notes but no record of what I printed and no copies of my work to compare with.  But I've got images in my head of what they might look like, if everything comes together and I've retained any semblance of skill with a paintbrush.

    I found my old sketchbooks from Lone's class this morning and searched for the notes from the monotype class.  I still have all of my "stuff" from Vancouver, including 15-year-old bottles of acrylic medium and gum arabic.  I'm no expert, but I figure they probably aren't usable anymore. 

    Off to the art supply store this afternoon for more supplies, and to the hardware store for sandpaper and plexiglass.

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Christmas in July

    I'm in the process of preparing all of my Christmas card designs from last year to be re-uploaded for the Christmas in July promotion on Etsy. 

    This photo, btw, is our street in Buffalo after the "arborgeddon" surprise winter storm on October 13, 2006. 

    When I first started thinking about it, I decided I would do a "buy 3, get 1" sale.  But there is no easy way to set that up on Etsy - not that I can figure out.  I'd have to get people to convo me with their orders , and that's just a colossal pain for me and my customers.

    So, I've decided to list them at 40% off the retail price instead.  That's a huge savings, especially on my packaged cards.  But that's okay because I have a lot of inventory.

    I made so many cards last fall that I have no room for new work, so I really need to clear out a lot of stuff.  Hoping that people will be in the Christmas shopping mood even in the middle of a July heat wave!

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Upcoming sales in my Etsy shop


    To celebrate Canada's birthday, I'm offering free shipping (to Canada & everywhere) on all items purchased from my Etsy shop this thursday.  Purchases must be made between midnight and midnight, July 1st only.

    I have a hard time getting motivated to do anything Christmas-related at this time of the year, but Etsy has found a way to get even me in a holiday frame of mind.  It's time for the Christmas in July promotion. 

    For my contribution to the Christmas spirit, I'll be listing a ton of Holiday cards - with a special "buy 3, get 1 free" sale - for all of you early Christmas birds out there.  Look for the announcement in my shop by the end of the week. 

    Tuckamore Design gets a domain!

    Thanks to my friend Diane Podolsky at http://www.anniepod.com/, I've figured out how to turn my blog into an actual website.  Who knew?!  I'm going to be redesigning it so you can purchase directly from the site.  My Etsy shop will also still be linked.  If I can figure out how to do it, I'm hoping to be able to take wholesale orders from shops through my site. But in the meantime, please contact me directly if you want to place an order.

    I'm working on a new postcard for retailers so I can start getting my work into more stores. 

    I'll also be posting some new work to both Etsy and this site in a couple of weeks, inspired by the wonderful gardens of Buffalo and the National Garden FestivalGarden Walk Buffalo starts in a month, and there'll be plenty of inspiration between now and then for new work. 

    Saturday, May 29, 2010

    The art of time managment

    I decided that I have to set up a regular schedule for myself so I can juggle all of the things I'm trying to do on a weekly basis.  I'm a list maker, and schedules are right up my alley.  Sticking to them is a whole other story.

    When I made up my little spreadsheet, I found out that I "need" to spend almost as much time doing other stuff as I spend at my day job each week.  That's a little on the crazy side, I think.

    Quitting my job isn't an option.  Neither is working part-time.  Winning the lottery would solve a lot of problems!

    So, my solution is to add a heavy dose of reality to my time management skills and set reasonable time frames for my writing (I also write a green design column at Examiner.com), printmaking, volunteering (USGBC and other organizations), and architecture.  Oh, and still make time to get to the gym and take care of my garden.  Sure, no problem.
    No wonder I'm asleep on the couch by 9pm.

    It's not hard to figure out what's wrong with that scenario.  There are not enough hours in the week to accomplish all that I want to do.  Which brings me to the crux of the problem:  I set very high expectations for me.  I know I'm not the only one.  It must be a common problem amongst artists.  Or maybe it's just Leo's.  The trick is figuring out how to deal with it effectively, and that's something I'm still working on.

    In order to make printmaking the essential part of my life that I want it to be, I have to make the time for it.  I'm toying with the idea of working my 40-hour day job in 4 days instead of 5, so that I have a full day to focus on art.  It sounds good on paper, but I'm not sure about the reality of it. 

    Thing is, I already spend a decent amount of time at the office so compressing that into four days might actually be a good thing.  Knowing that I have one full day a week to print might make all the day-to-day drudgery easier to get through!

    Printmakers - and artists who work in other wet media - will understand that you can't do this in an hour here and an hour there.  You really need - well, I really need - a concentrated effort over several hours, preferably at least half a day to really accomplish something.  There's paper to be cut or torn to size and soaked, new blocks to be sketched and carved, blocks to be inked, mistakes to be made, etc.  It's a time-consuming and often finicky process.

    And you can't just leave in mid-stream:  once you roll out the ink, or the paper is soaked, you're committed.  There is a time limit in which things must get done or you'll be tossing things out.  That drives me crazy.  I hate wasting good paper and ink, or worse - rushing through the process and ruining a print.

    I envy my friend Carol, who is a retired architect and a fabulous watercolourist.  She devotes time to her art, attends great workshops, and thoroughly enjoys it.  Retirement is probably along way off for me, but when I picture it (putting aside the current horror of my 401k) I see myself in a little printmaking studio with a tiny gallery out front, happily drinking tea and making prints.  Ahhh.

    If only the lottery gods would smile on me, that would happen a lot sooner!

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Where art & architecture collide...Cool ideas for Artists' Studios

    It's not often that both of my passions - architecture and art - cross paths, but recently they did on Wet Canvas's printmaking forum. A post by bridog on artists' studios led me to chime in with some of the research I've been doing on prefab buildings

    In developing some ideas for architectural design competitions over the past year, I've found a lot of examples of studio and shed "kits" and built projects that would be ideal for an artist. I've even sketched a few ideas of my own for imaginary clients (including myself). One recent competition that some friends and I entered was for a green "shed" for a community garden in Vancouver. We didn’t win, but we’re thinking about building a demonstration project this summer. We’re also toying with the idea of building the design as a birdhouse.

    The idea of a shed in the woods, or cabin on a pond, appeals to the artist in many of us. My studio at the moment occupies about half of the sunporch off the back of our house. It's about 5 feet deep and 12 feet long, with most of it is being used for storage. So my printmaking activities often spill over into the kitchen and onto the dining room table.

    My ideal studio would be lit by natural light, heated by a tiny woodstove, and be just big enough to hold all of the stuff and processes associated with printmaking.  I need countertops - horizontal surfaces are essential - with a sink and built-in storage shelves for paper and a drying rack. I like the idea of something detached so that the mess is contained. But I've gotten used to toddling out into the sunporch in my PJ's at any time, day or night, to check on how something is drying or run a quick test print on a new block.

    After reading the posts on WetCanvas from artists who’d like to have a self-contained studio, I decided to start working on design concepts for a backyard studio. It’s a fun little design project that satisfied the architect and artist sides of me.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    A windy day at the Gardens

    Buffalo Indie Market’s Mother’s Day show was a hit at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Garden on Saturday, until the windstorm warnings…. Seriously!  It started as a beautiful sunny morning, but that changed by lunchtime.  Severe wind gusts rolled through the area, and the staff decided to close at 2:00, a few hours before their normal Saturday closing time.  I’m not sure how many people were there, but there was at least one tour bus and plenty of visitors who came by my table.   

    I was running late all morning and just got myself there in time to set up.  So I thought I would take some outdoor photos after the show but the wind was really bad and the sky had clouded over.  It's a really lovely Victorian conservatory-styled structure, and the clear blue sky would have made a great backdrop, but the dark gray clouds - not so much.  Next time, I won't procrastinate!
    My sales were better than at the Valentine’s Day show, so I was a happy camper. I sold some of my Gerbera Daisy and Celtic cards, and a Celtic-inspired print that I’ve been carrying around for about 10 years! Glad that it found a new home. I also had some great positive feedback, possibly even an architectural client, so it was a good day. It’s a really nice venue. I wasn’t sure how all of the vendors and plants would mix, but it was nicely done, even with the crazy weather outside. I hope the Market goes back there again sometime.

    There are three more Indie Market summer shows coming up.  I’m not sure if I will do those because I’m not crazy about outdoor shows. I’d need to invest in a tent, which isn’t a huge deal, I guess. And all three shows are in the Elmwood Village, within walking distance of my house. I’m considering the one in July, which coincides with the Buffalo Garden Walk weekend. My “botanical” cards and prints would be good for that. 

    I debuted a new SafetyKut design of day lilies this weekend, and that got a lot of nice comments, especially because I had the plate on my table next to the finished product.  Having the plates and tools there catches attention - I would highly recommend doing that if you're doing a sale or show.  If I decide to do the Garden Walk show in July, I think I will bring my little press and do some demo's.
    So now that the show is over, I can reclaim my dining room table, organize the studio, and start working on that series of architecturally-inspired embossing that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Really looking forward to doing some new work!

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Just can't get enough of embossing....

    I'm always scouring the internet and art magazines for other artists who do embossed prints.  It's funny that I haven't found a lot of people who do embossed linocuts.  Many of them use etchings and collagraphs, which I haven't tried.  I've mentioned Julie D'Arcy before - her "Green Man" embossed print is really lovely, and it is a linocut.  This print by John Ruszel is one of my favourites that I've found recently.  I know, I keep talking about both of this prints, sorry, but I really like them.

    My latest Google search turned up the following:

    Arnie Weimer is an artist whose work is represented by Annie Kaill's Fine Art & Craft Gallery in Juneau, Alaska.  I used to live in Vancouver, BC, and fell in love with the native artwork of the northwest.  This reminds me of that a little.  His works are not just straight-up embossed, but he also does what I guess would be called mixed media - embossed relief combined with what looks like intaglio.  Really lovely, makes me pine for the west coast.  I think my favourite is this one.

    Roderic Stokes is featured on the World Printmakers website.  His embossings are more geometric - even an architectural floor plan, which is something I've been toying with doing as well.  My inspriation came from Palladio's drawings of Italian villas, however, and not a dorm room!

    XYZ Studio uses a different technique but the effects are really interesting.  From their website:  "These prints are created using handcarved brass embossing dies which have been acid etched to recreate the texture of stone. The process produces a realistic fossil reproduction. " 

    A Czech artist, Jaroslav Valek, does some really interesting embossings and mixed media prints.

    Finally, Rand Huebsch, a printmaker and co-founder of the Manhattan Graphics Center, wrote this article in the Maryland Printmakers newsletter about embossing with etchings.  This technique takes a lot more patience that I think I will ever have with intaglio, but the prints are highly textured and detailed

    There are some great books out there on printmaking techniques, but I have yet to find one solely on embossing.  I heard of one recently on the WetCanvas forum but now I can't find the post.

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Embossing Part 2

    How do you choose the right paper for embossing?  Just about any paper will work, but you have to consider the type of block and how deep the carving is. I have been using Stonehenge almost exclusively for cards because it has a nice texture, embosses well, and it has a slightly smoother side that makes it easy to write on. It comes in a few colours like fawn or cream, but I prefer white for embossing. 

    You have to experiment and find the right combination of paper, type of press, level of pressure, humidity, etc. I’ve found that thin papers like Canson can work if I ease back on the pressure and dampen them, not soak them. Be careful about soaking time with lighter weight papers.

    I've used Rives BFK, my favourite printmaking paper, for embossing and it works very nicely. Arches 140 lb watercolour paper will also emboss nicely, but the lighter weight papers are not as forgiving when undergoing heavy pressure in the press. Heavyweight papers are tough to emboss.  Handmade papers can be very nice for embossing, depending on how heavy they are.  I found some lightweight papers at a local art supply store a few years ago which had bits of flowers and leaves in them, and they embossed nicely.

    To get a good, deep impression, paper must be soaked in water first, then allowed to almost dry. I soak Stonehenge in cool water for about 5 minutes, then place it between clean white towels (no coloured lint on the paper!) to dry. How dry? Enough that there is no wet sheen on the paper, and that it is still pliable but not wet. I know that isn’t a good explanation but there are so many factors that can influence the outcome. If the paper is too wet, it will buckle and crack around the edges of your block. Too dry and the impression won't be deep enough, or hold its shape over time.

    The Daffodils embossed card that I did for a WetCanvas exchange last fall was printed on Strathmore recycled content cards. I had some trouble printing on it because I didn't soak it enough.  I'm not crazy about the type of paper they use for these cards, even though it is recycled. 

    Thicker papers are much harder to emboss. I have some lovely handmade paper from India that I found at the Daniel Smith store in Seattle a few years ago. It’s about 4x6”, great texture, really wanted to print with it, but it does not emboss well because of the heavier weight and the texture.

    If you want to see how some other people do it, check out Julie D’Arcy’s work or this sample lesson plan that I found online for high school students. One of my favourite finds is this relief print by John Ruszel - such a creative way to do an embossing, wish I'd thought of it! John's embossings of typewriter parts show that you can emboss with just about any material - don't limit yourself to a lino block. 

    After printing embossed cards no bigger than 5x7” for 14 years, I want to move on to some larger pieces now and explore how far I can go with embossing. I have some architectural photos that I’d like to work from, and some other ideas percolating in the back of my mind. All I need is the time to sit still for a while, sketch, and carve!

    Embossing Part 1

    This is a really long post, so I'm going to split it into two parts. 

    I won’t go on and on about how little time I have to print and apologize for not posting new work.  I’ve whined about that before, both here and on the WetCanvas forum. I haven’t produced any new work since February, it’s driving me crazy, and as soon as I get through this week I’m going to do something about it!

    In the meantime, I wanted to talk about embossing, my favourite printmaking technique.

    What I love about printmaking is that there are so many different techniques to choose from, and the resulting image may look completely different depending on which one you use. Part of the artistic process for me is deciding which technique will best bring out the image that you have in your head. I work almost exclusively with linocuts these days, but in the past I’ve done zinc plate etchings, collagraphs, and monoprints.

    I like etchings a lot, like the Lindisfarne print above which I did while studying at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.  But I don’t have the proper set-up at home to do it. Plus, I want to use non-toxic techniques and I haven’t had the time to learn about it.

    I've received some wonderful compliments lately on my embossed cards. I can’t tell you how gratifying that is. Recently, someone asked on the WetCanvas printmaking forum about embossing. So, I decided I would try to summarize how I do it and show some examples of embossed work that I've seen which I really like.
    Essentially, embossing is relief printing without ink. My teacher in Vancouver, Lone, called it "blind embossing" so that's what I've always called it. It's a very simple way to print, no mess to clean up, and the results can be so gorgeous that it looks a lot more complicated than it really is. 

    To create a lino block embossing, I start with a photo or sketch of something that I think will work well as a three-dimensional piece. Usually it’s a floral or Celtic or architectural design but I’m trying to broaden my horizons! It’s just so darn easy to do flowers in lino…like the Daisy card.
     
    When sketching something for a print, I have to always remember that the finished result will be the mirror image of what I draw on the linoleum. Even experienced printmakers experience brain freeze and forget that, including me! I sketch in pencil on tracing paper, then flip it onto the linoleum and burnish it from the back to transfer the sketch to the surface. So the final print will be a direct copy of what I sketched onto the tracing paper.

    If you're used to carving lino for an inked print, then you have to twist your brain the other way and think about it as a true relief print.  Instead of carving away the parts of the block that I want to print as white, I have to reverse that and carve away the parts that I want to stand out. That’s why I almost never print my embossed blocks with ink – the result is completely opposite to what I would have wanted if I’d designed it for ink in the first place.  In other words, all you get is a white design on a coloured background.

    Choosing paper for embossing can be a challenge - more on that in Part 2....