I’ve been fooling around with arts and crafts my whole life. I majored in linguistics in college, then taught middle school art for ten years until the birth of my children. Since then I’ve been a stay-at-home mother, artist, writer, and very negligent housekeeper.
How did you get started in printmaking?
I’d made a few linoleum blocks for my family’s Christmas cards when I was in high school, but didn’t really fall in love with block printing until the carving rubber came out. One of the companies sent me a sample (because I was an art teacher) and it was so much more fun to carve than the old hard, dry linoleum I’d done before that it was a revelation. (That free sample was probably their best advertising dollar ever!) Besides, block printing can be done in a small space with relatively inexpensive materials, and in small chunks of time, all factors that were necessary for me if I was going to be able to do any art.
Describe where you work.
I have the luxury of a table dedicated to projects, in a room with lovely sunny windows. When my children were babies I did all my work during naptime and bedtime. Now that they’re older I work while they’re at school.
What's your favourite printmaking process?
Mostly I do rubber block relief prints. I enjoy wood blocks, too, but the rubber is probably my favorite.
What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I always start by sketching. Often I use photographs for research and reference, while other things come straight from my imagination. With the rubber I can transfer a pencil sketch onto the block, which gives me a lot of flexibility in getting the design the way I want it. (With wood I have to sketch directly on the block, and backwards.) I don’t necessarily draw out every detail, but I’ve developed a sort of shorthand in my sketches so that it’s like making notes for myself about how I want to carve different areas. Then, of course, comes the carving. When I’m nearly finished I use a regular stamp pad to print a rough version so I can see what I need to tweak before the real printing. I have a small press, but most of the time I just use the back of a wooden spoon to press with.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I love that the finished print isn’t the same as what I drew. There’s always suspense and then a surprise when I pull that first one. I also appreciate that I get multiples, so I can give one of everything to my parents, and still sell the others. My favorite part of the process is the carving.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
Printing an entire edition. I never make editions of more than about 15 because I get bored after the first few.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
I love plants and animals, industrial sites, fairy tales and nursery rhymes… Actually I’m interested in all kinds of things, so inspiration can come from anywhere. (I enjoy other artists’ work, and often envy it, but it seldom translates into making something of my own.)
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I’ve been a bit more willing to experiment; I’ve done both much simpler designs and much more detailed designs. My sketches have gotten less detailed. But in many ways I’m still coming back over and over to a lot of the same ideas and inspirations I’ve been interested in all along.
How do you get past creative slumps?
Sometimes I just wait them out – I’m also a writer, so I can immerse myself in that for a while. Other times I set myself an assignment. For example, I’ve just finished an animal for every letter of the alphabet, which got me making all sorts of things I never would have come up with otherwise – a yapok, for example.
How do you promote your work?
Not very well. Every year I do about two Open Studio shows and try to have at least one show in a local venue such as a library. These are a lot of fun and I see tons of people, but the rest of the time I don’t do much of anything. I really do not have the right personality for self-promotion.
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
You can start by carving a plain white rubber art eraser and printing with a stamp pad. If you cut yourself a square to work with, then you can carve almost anything - no matter how random or “messed up” - and if you print in a sort of tile pattern it’s guaranteed to look cool. It’s so easy to get started, what have you got to lose? Just sit down and give it a try!