Printsy Interview: Amanda Gordon Miller - edamame press
Interviewed by: Ele Willoughby - minouette
Amanda is a printmaker, who lives and works in Baltimore with her husband Christian and son Owen, where she teaches art at two community colleges.
Etsy shop: edamamepress.etsy.com
Current and upcoming shows of your art work?
Current Show: Forest Through The Trees: Gelatin Monotypes by Amanda Gordon Miller.
Greenbelt Aquatic & Fitness Center. June 4-August 24, 2008
Upcoming Show: Special Projects.
Cade Fine Arts Gallery, Anne Arundel Community College. November 10-December 10, 2008
Why are you edamame press? Are you particularly fond of Japanese food?
When I chose my shop name, I knew I wanted to use something from nature. I chose Edamame, which are boiled soybeans and a popular Japanese snack. They are full of protein and antioxidants, and to me, they represent good health, which is important in all areas of my life, including the art I make. Some of the inks I use are soy-based, making edamame a perfect fit. And yes, I do love Japanese food!
Your profile says you have a background in traditional printmaking; how did you get started? What drew you to printmaking?
My major was painting, but my freshman drawing teacher recommended that I take a printmaking class, I think because she saw how I could just immerse myself in the process of making something. Intaglio was the first class I took. I loved the process of developing an image on the plate and seeing all the steps laid out in proofs. I also took lithography, monotype printmaking, a portfolio class where I did etchings, and I was TA for a printmaking class. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the printmaking studio. Somewhere along the way, I started getting sensitive to several of the printmaking materials, so I stopped taking printmaking classes and just continued to do monotypes on my own outside the studio. I eventually took up relief printing, too, which can easily be done without the chemicals used in some of the other printmaking processes.
I'm happy to read that you are committed to lower toxicity and water based inks (as am I). Tell me about the inks you use and how they have changed your artwork and process.
I use Akua Kolor inks for monotypes and Akua Intaglio for wood block prints. Prior to trying these inks, I experimented with other brands of water-soluble inks and was frustrated when they dried too quickly or had a plastic-like look and feel. With the Akua inks, I can keep my process non-toxic without sacrificing quality at all. The colors are very rich and also work well for transparent effects, the ink never dries while I'm printing, and most importantly, I can safely work in my home without exposing my family to harmful fumes.
Working with any new material involves some trial and error. I've learned that the process of experimentation—working with an idea in mind, but ultimately responding to the materials—is what truly makes printmaking a passion for me. My favorite part of the whole process is the moment when I pull up my paper after printing. I might see exactly what I had planned, but often there's a surprise prompts me to decide what to print next, or even shows potential for a new direction. It's exciting, and I try to work "in the moment" as much as possible when I'm printing. For this reason, I usually do one-of-a-kind prints or smallish editions.
I'm not familiar with gelatin prints. How did you get started working with this medium? What is it like?
I first tried this process a few years ago when I was living in a small apartment and needed something low-tech that I could do at home. I bought a book on the technique Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate by Nancy Marcuewicz and I was hooked. I use unflavored gelatin (like jello) as a printing surface, apply ink, sometimes add handmade stencils, and print. The ink transfers with very little pressure (no press).
Gelatin monotypes can mimic more traditional forms of printmaking, but the material also has its own unique characteristics that make the process perfect for experimentation. When you combine gelatin, ink, and paper, there's a little natural suction. This is why the ink transfers so easily, but it also makes the ink move around a bit to create bubbles, areas of transparency, as well as fine outlines. To me, these surprises are part of the fun, and I love to find a way to make these interesting elements work in the print.
You currently have a show entitled 'Forest Through The Trees' featuring your gelatin monotypes of trees. Tell me what the forest means to you.
I feel a personal connection with the forest simply because I love to spend time outdoors, especially taking a walk (or when I'm in shape, a run) through the woods. It's incredibly relaxing, freeing for the mind, and really the only thing I do that comes close to meditation. Connecting this part of my life with my art is something that just feels right. Recently, I've been working on a series of prints with the theme "forest through the trees," layering a few tree shapes to create the look of a forest. This theme offers potential for endless variation. I am drawn to the formal elements—the interplay between organic shapes, the way the overlapping and transparency create pattern and new shapes—but also the symbolic meaning of the theme itself—considering how seemingly small, everyday choices affect the world.
Do you have access to the woods, living in Baltimore?
Not in my immediate surroundings, but the nearby counties have lots of parks, so I try to take advantage of them. My parents recently got us a great jog stroller from a garage sale, so I'm starting to incorporate more running into my routine.
Your blog mentions tricks for keeping you little son occupied when carving. How do achieve life/work balance?
My husband and I are both teachers. We work different schedules so most of the time, one of us is home with our son Owen. That means that we have some very busy times, but fortunately with a teaching schedule, there's always a break to look forward to. In that way, our schedules have built in balance. When we are home together, we give each other time to do our own thing, which is really important—that's when I get the most printing done!
As for keeping Owen occupied, at this point I can set him up with crayons or play-doh and work for a few minutes, but what really works the best is when I give him lots of attention early in the day when he has the most energy. We'll play outside or go on an outing. Then later, he'll take a good nap, and that's when I have a little chunk of time to work.
Does teaching influence your work?
Yes, it definitely does. Working with other creative people is really energizing. I teach at two community colleges, and my classes are art appreciation, drawing, two-dimensional design, and color. These are introductory classes, but my understanding of these subjects continues to deepen and I learn new things every semester. This can only help me as an artist. I'm on roster to teach a new printmaking class in the spring, and I can't wait! I also teach occasional printmaking workshops at local art centers, which is a lot of fun. I actually did my first print using handmade tree stencils as a demo for a gelatin monotype workshop. I loved the way it turned out, took the theme, and ran with it.
Do you have any advice to beginning printmakers?
Be open to surprises when you print, you never know where they'll take you. Also, be aware of what's in your materials, especially potential hazards, and be safe.
Thanks Amanda for the interview! Now I want to go investigate gelatin prints. :)