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....

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....

Friday, April 23, 2010

Seeking inspiration in the garden

I happen to live in a garden-crazy city.  Yes, Buffalo.  Great gardens and gardeners thrive here, something we've known for a while but now the word is starting to get out.  And for someone who has a whole slew of plant-inspired embossings and prints in her portfolio, gardening season is the best time of the year for me to wander around with a camera and sketchbook tucked into my bag, seeking inspiration. 

Buffalo hosts an annual weekend of gardening bliss, Garden Walk Buffalo, every July.  It's gotten great press recently, to the point where people actually plan vacations around it!  This year, that weekend will be preceded by 5 whole weeks of garden events with the first ever National Buffalo Garden Festival kicking off on June 18th.  It's going to be a great time for gardeners and wannabees like me.

I have to state up-front that I am not a gardening expert.  My husband and I own clay pots, lots of 'em, because we live in an apartment.  We don't have any actual solid ground of our own to plant.  So everything we do has to survive in a pot.  We've had great luck with tomatoes, basil, and Boston ferns, not so much with flowering hanging baskets.  But who cares?  It's all a learning experience, right? We start over every spring, and by the time we finally do have land of our own, we should have learned something.

This year, we're embarking on a new adventure:  roses.  I've always admired roses from a distance but never had the nerve to try growing them because, well, I only have pots.  I thought that you couldn't grow roses in pots.  To be honest, roses scared me - from a growing point of view.  I guess I was misinformed. 

My husband's aunt and uncle have been growing roses for more than 50 years, and are judges in the local Rose Society.  They know a thing or two about roses.  And last weekend, we had an impromptu lesson in selecting and planting roses.  We are now the proud owners of two red Double Knockouts.  I don't really know what that means, but the picture on the package looked nice and the experts gave their full approval. 

I was excited because roses make great subjects for prints, especially embossings and monoprints.  The two plants seem to have survived a couple of frosty nights this week, and now it's just a matter of waiting, watering, and watching the neighbourhood cats.  And the wacky squirrels.  But that's a whole other post....

At the risk of turning into a gardening blogger, I'll get back to printmaking in my next post and leave the gardening commentary to the experts like my friend Jim Charlier who writes Art of Gardening.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter at Buffalo's Broadway Market

Buffalo's Broadway Market has been the place to go for fresh veggies, Polish sausage, and baked yummies since 1888.  Located on the city's East Side, traditionally the Polish heart of Buffalo, the Market has weathered the ups and downs of urban renewal, and the usual growth and change that every city goes through.  While the neighbourhoold around it has seen better days, the Market still draws people back, especially at Easter.

Good Friday is the busiest day of the year at the Market, but it was pretty packed today as well.  Everyone is buying their sausage, butter lambs, and platcek for a traditional Easter dinner.  But since I'm not cooking tomorrow, I had other things in mind.

First, we needed to get some traditional desserts for a friend's birthday celebration tonight.  An almond and cream-filled pastry and some packzi (Polish doughnuts, my husband's favourite).  Done, take that off the list.

Second, pussy willows:  my reason for buying them was not to hit someone on Monday which is Dyngus Day, but to add to the bunch I bought last year that are sitting in a vase on our dining room table.  It reminds me of spring in Newfoundland, just like the irises that I bought at the grocery store last night.

And finally, I had to find painted wooden eggs to add to my collection. Traditional painted eggs are a staple at the Broadway Market, and I fell in love with them the first time I saw them at my husband's aunt's house when I went there for our first family Easter dinner years ago.  Some of them can get pricey, especially the really finely painted ones or the large ones, but my collection consists of the 2/$5 variety, and that's okay with me.  I'm fascinated by the colours and how different they all are.

Now I'm wondering how to develop a print series based on the patterns and colours on my eggs.