Sunday, March 28, 2010

Printsy Interview - Jenny Craig

Flikr website:

Brief Bio:
I am a book artist and aspiring librarian in Seattle, Washington. I grew up in Texas, and went through the Book Arts and Printmaking MFA program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia a few years ago. In Seattle, I work as a substitute librarian and teach classes for Seattle Center for Book Arts (mostly), Pratt Fine Arts Center (occasionally), and sell what I can at small local fairs.

How did you get started in printmaking?
Well, I was working as a puppetmaker in Atlanta, but I just couldn't bear all the backstabbing and negativity of the puppet world, so I started taking art classes for fun. The first one I took was papermaking and bookbinding at the little continuing education school above the High Museum. In the back room there were all these drawers of letters and my teacher at the time said that if I took her relief printmaking class, she'd let me play with the type. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked. When I moved to Seattle the next year, I called around looking for places to apprentice and was extremely lucky to find a commercial type shop that was willing to take me on. I apprenticed at Day Moon Press for two years, then went off to Philadelphia.

Describe where you work.
I have a studio table in my bedroom, where I do binding and prep work. Mostly, though, I still print out of Day Moon Press. My friend who owns the press has been working in letterpress in Seattle for over 30 years, and has collected several print shop's worth of equipment over the years, as other presses closed down. The shop is a letterpress printer's dream, with walls of type to choose from, two industrial paper cutters and several presses in working condition. People often wander in off the street to find out what all the antique equipment is for. It's a great environment.

What's your favourite printmaking process?
Letterpress. Pretty much any kind of letterpress, but particularly working with handset type and woodcuts. This is my new press. Her name is Big Red, and she's not quite working yet.

What's your creative process for any given print?
I do a lot of hands-on work. I have an idea in mind, and I work it out on the press for the most part, unless there's a complicated binding structure that requires a lot of mocking up. I love seeing the piece evolve as I work through the process.

What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I love the smell of the ink, the time it takes to carve and set and print. I love working by hand: I feel like can lose myself in the process. I also particularly like working in a shop with friends. We share the frustrations of our lives over the sounds of the presses at work, and get instant suggestions if something's not working out well.

What's your least favorite part of the process?
Adjusting the roller height. There's no logic in it, and yet it can completely change the quality of the printing.

What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
Nothing is a weird or amusing to me as real life. I'm inspired by the things I see around me and by creating alternate explanations for everyday phenomena.

How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I've been working a lot with wood type lately, and drawing from more personal stories. I feel like the work is going in new, more grounded, directions.

How do you get past creative slumps?
I write, or drive, or take long walks. I try to put myself in a state where my imagination can wander at will and then pay attention when it does. I have a stack of unfinished ideas that may eventually lead to something, which I revisit when I need inspiration. I'm also hugely deadline driven. Often I will seek out a show or exchange with a theme that interests me and use that as a springboard. When all else fails, I turn to the Naos Press Book Ideator.

How do you promote your work?
Mostly in person at art fairs. I've been very excited with etsy, and my store there seems to be gaining momentum over time. I've also been fortunate enough to work with a couple of dealers, who promote my work for me, and I submit to art shows and exchanges all the time.

Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
It's terribly addictive, be warned!


Kelly O'Keefe said...

Jenny's work is beautiful. I love the letterforms layered with the images. The cabin and trees tells an interesting story--a mini movie!

Almost Monday said...

I love seeing Jenny's studio space! Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing your story!