Monday, July 27, 2009

Printsy Interview - KG Crafts

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I first became fascinated with prints as a young person by reading illustrated books. I was introduced to the relief printmaking process in print shop class in junior high. I fiddled with it a bit on my own, then I dropped it as I went to graduate school to become a professional philosopher. I was teaching philosophy of art when I began to feel that I needed to develop a “studio side” of my work, so I wanted to return to printmaking. With two small children in the house and no studio space, I began carving small soft block prints at the kitchen table and printing them on a $30 Speedball hand press in the garage.

To make the hobby pay for itself I put the prints on note cards and joined forces with my sister-in-law, Katie, to sell them in local stores in Seattle, at craft fairs, and online as “Paul Kidder Handmade Graphics.” We’ve been doing this now for twelve years, eventually combining sale of my cards with sale of her sewn creations to become “KG Crafts.” I have done more than a hundred designs and we have sold thousands of cards. We do a brisk business at the Christmas fairs and then I go into a creative slump until spring sunshine inspires me again.

I always thought that the card prints would function as sketches for larger prints. In a couple of cases that has happened (e.g. the “Pergola” card and print). But for several reasons the cards continue to be my focus. For one thing, retailers always want to see new card designs. For another, I keep finding new challenges just doing the small format with the soft blocks. These prints are all I need to keep being challenged to compose better, draw better, see better, and imagine better. As my little designs have become more detailed, I’ve acquired more of a miniaturist’s imagination. A 7x9-inch print now seems huge to me!

My work in philosophy of art is complex and obscure; my work in art is simple and popular. I wanted to use my art to connect with people I don’t usually connect with, and to evoke an immediate, spontaneous response from them. I admire abstract and esoteric art, but I have no immediate plans to pursue those styles. I’ll stick with traditional influences of Arts and Crafts and Japonisme, since I am still a beginner in their techniques and vision.

My rule in making the card prints is that I can use no more than two blocks. But I keep trying to get more effects out of the two by using gradients (e.g. “Companions”), multiple colors with small rollers (e.g. “Chickadee in Quince”), color blending with transparent inks (e.g. “Dark Plums”), and masking (e.g. “Nest”). I draw my design in pencil, then lay the drawing on a block and rub the back. After this, there’s still enough pencil on the drawing to transfer it again onto a second block, so I can carve the same picture differently on the two blocks. I register with three nails as a guide. I prefer Daniel Smith and Graphic Chemical Ink Co. water soluble inks.

I am honored to share space with the wonderful printers of Printsy. Your work is inspiring and your dedication is encouraging. In an age when mechanical and digital reproduction has all but wiped out appreciation for handmade print arts, you keep alive the humanity of this ancient and venerable craft.

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