Cutting down broken Litho Stones

Back in June, Evergreen Faculty member, artist and all around great guy Bob Leverich and I ventured down to his secret stone cutting area to cut down several medium sized litho stones that had been broken by students over the years. We carefully measured the pieces into the largest usable shapes and sizes and spent the day slowly sawing and beveling the stones back into shape. Cutting stone is very difficult, even for relatively soft Bavarian limestone. Bob is one strong dude! I was sneezing talc from my nose for days.

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Printshop at Northern Arizona University

This past October, I was invited by friend and colleague Nicole Langille to lecture at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff about my work. The talk went well, with several thoughtful questions asked by students afterward concerning appropriation in art and the state of contemporary printmaking. I was also given a tour of NAU’s lovely, all-encompassing newly remodeled printshop, headed by professor of printmaking David Williams. The studio was beautiful, well organized and very clean. What a tight shop! Photos below:

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WSU Vancouver Install – Parts Unknown

Judith Baumann
Parts Unknown
October 18, 2013 – February 15, 2014
Gallery @ Washington State University Vancouver
Vancouver, Washington

Parts Unknown, a phrase once used professional wrestling to denote mystery and ambiguity of origin, signifies the disparate bodies of work displayed in this exhibition. The work plays with commercial printing processes, from offset photolithography and sign printing to hand drawn four-color print halftones. Ideas of classism and escapism permeate each body of work, tributes to former childhood heroes and childlike perceptions of comparative wealth, coupled with the realization that only comes from age and experience– heroes are mere men, mortal all the same, and wealth is not measured by streets of identical split level houses. The act of tiling, scaling, building and layering progressively becomes looser and more visible throughout, acknowledging the realization process and its very origin–from parts unknown– a rust belt baby, blue collar to the bone.

Installation images:

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WSU Vancouver letterpress demonstration

On November 15, 2013 I packed up my Vandercook 0 proof press and other assorted miscellany and drove to WSU Vancouver to give an afternoon letterpress workshop in conjunction with my exhibition on campus. I gave a short lecture about the history of the printing press as well as contemporary resources for letterpress artists. I brought along choice selections from my library and also showed a handful of personal broadside projects. Then, students got to set type, integrate photopolymer images and create their own broadsides. The workshop was incredibly fun, and I would like to thank Avantika Bawa, Harrison Higgs and Dale Strouse for hosting me and my big inky mess! The photos below were graciously taken by Dale Strouse.

Tacoma Wayzgoose

Back at the end of April, Tacoma’s radical bookstore, King’s Books, hosted their annual wayzgoose. A wayzgoose is essentially a letterpress festival, and more and more, becoming a bit of a steamroller fest where these machines are used to press and print large relief prints. There were many local presses participating, including Olympia’s own beloved Community Print.

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Olympia’s Community print!

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Anagram Press! Love this guy’s work. Check it out.

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Keegan & Meegan! Love their work, too. Beautiful website.

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And Tacoma’s own Springtide Press. So much talent in the Pacific Northwest!

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Zaum poetry workshop with Kitty Maryatt

In May, the Book Arts Guild organized a two-day workshop at The School of Visual Concepts with letterpress and book artist Kitty Maryatt. It was easily the best, most informative, creative and technical workshop I’ve ever taken. It made me extremely jealous of Kitty’s student. For the first day, we studied the work of Ilia Mikhailovich Zdanevich, otherwise known as Iliazd, a Russian poet, designer and printer who worked with experimental typsetting, and was an active member of the Russian Futurist and Dada avant-garde movements. We dissected a number of his typographical works, which were organized in a comprehensive workshop packet. These were then split into easy, medium and difficult categories, based on the complexity of typesetting. Depending on the level of typsetting knowledge of each participant, we each chose a section of his work to recreate. We spent the afternoon setting type and proofing, and then reworking our type. Of course, I chose a difficult section. I set “Planete Jupiter,” a section of a poem involving an oscillating line followed by a diagonal line. Unfortunately, we worked in a different typeface than Iliazd always set in (Baton) so an exact replica was impossible.

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My finished piece, proofed at the end of the day on computer paper :

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Kitty also made this really complicated lock up on the Vandercook, which I had never seen before. She insisted on using slugs along the interior edge of the lock up to keep the metal type from potentially either denting the wood furniture or falling into already dented areas of irregularity.

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On the second day of the workshop, we were expected to work on our own Iliazd inspired piece of Zaum poetry. We also set the press with all the Iliazd poems from the previous day and printed on nice paper.

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This was another participant’s final project of the workshop:

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Since I’m no poet, I chose a variety of professional wrestling insider terms, using the same techniques I developed the previous day re-creating Iliazd’s piece. I’m quite proud of it, actually. I printed on Kitakata I brought from my home studio.

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Workshop with Jim Sheridan at SVC

This past December, I participated in a day long workshop with Jim Sheridan of Hatch Show Print hosted by the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. Two great institutions rolled into one lovely afternoon. The workshop basically revolved around printing old cuts from the Hatch collection that were in some way damaged or unable to be used in printing presses, which can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure and potentially destroy the cuts once and for all. Therefore, we experimented primarily with printing by hand, creating the textural, layered effect Hatch is known for. It was a pleasure meeting Jim, a character in his own right. By the end of the class, I had made a couple prints I was happy with. Over the past few months, however, I’ve cut them up into postcard sized bits, so I no longer have them for photographic documentation.

I believe this was the third workshop (at least) that I’ve taken at SVC, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s my favorite place to go in Seattle. It’s definitely the nicest letterpress shop I’ve ever had the pleasure of working in.

The Workshop:

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The Studio:

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Little Brown Mushroom

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I am a huge fan of photographer and storyteller Alec Soth. I’ve been collecting most of his book works and independent publishing projects, created under the imprint Little Brown Mushroom, for the past ten years. My obsession with his work began, like so many people, with the release of Sleeping By The Mississippi in 2004. However, it was Soth’s following project, Niagara, that cemented my love affair with his work.

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Having grown up in Buffalo, with family at one point living in Niagara Falls, I am all too familiar with the bittersweet scenes of the former honeymoon capitol of the United States. Downtrodden, seedy and cheap, Niagara Falls, New York acts as a foil to the other side of the river, where Clifton Hill, beautiful botanical gardens, and tchotchke shops keep the majority of tourists within Canadian borders. It would be so easy for a photographer to make a blunt, careless, irony-driven portrayal of the economic hardships this area of the state has endured. Soth doesn’t. His lens is loving, respectful, curious. When I look at Soth’s work, I see an artist searching for a sense of self by using a camera to examine the lives of others. This is one of my favorite pictures Soth has made:

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(You can see a better image directly on Soth’s website here.)

Last night, I finally had the opportunity to hear Soth lecture at The Portland Art Museum. I was enthralled. He spoke so eloquently and with such sincerity about his work. He shared his thoughts on photography and storytelling, the Internet, independent publishing, the history of photography, social anxiety, working collaboratively, making books, the desire to buy an actual cave, falling out of love, and then falling back in love with photography, the act of wandering in art making (physically, creatively and intellectually), and social appropriateness and inappropriateness in image making.

And there it was, laid out in a meandering, enthralling lecture: everything I have been thinking about while making photographs but was unable to articulate. I swear, my eyes welled with tears as Soth elucidated his thoughts concerning the contrasting working methods of Robert Adams versus Weegee, of respectful distances versus aggressive involvement in a moment.

The lecture was sold out. I wasn’t expecting a signing after the talk either, or else I would have brought a copy of Niagara for a personal inscription. I went to the lecture alone, a two hour drive to a city I lived in over ten years ago. My social anxiety was through the roof, and my heart was so tender after the lecture that I couldn’t stand to be shoulder to shoulder with hoards of much more nicely dressed, white-toothed, perfumed photographers.

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So I raised my camera over head, clicked a button, turned around and walked out into the sweet Portland springtime air.

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Thank you, Alec Soth. Congratulations on the Guggenheim. Wish I could have said it in person.

Printmaking: History and Process

Printmaking: History & Processby Donald Saff and Dali Sacilloto
Wadsworth

Publishing; 1st edition (January 2, 1978)
ISBN: 0030856639

Though originally published in 1978, Saff and Sacilloto’s classic text has remained relevant over the past 30+ years, its information as vital today as it was then. This text gives a superior and more thoughtfully researched introduction to each printmaking technique, providing more information than The Complete Printmaker. Written for the more independent, intermediate printmaker, this text gives overviews of more tools and processes than The Complete Printmaker. It seems this volume goes in and out of print, so grab a copy when you see it. Beware of the price tag!

The Complete Printmaker

The Complete Printmakerby John Ross, Clare Romano and Tim Ross
Free Press; Rev Exp edition (April 1, 1991)
ISBN: 0029273722

The Complete Printmaker and the text below, Printmaking, are invaluable studio resources for any artist interested in traditional printmaking. The Complete Printmaker is the more introductory text of the two, offering a good historical reference for each process before going into step-by-step technical instructions. However, most of the chemistry in this text is too hazardous (and expensive!) for most small or non-toxic academic institutions. Use supplementary texts for contemporary technical work arounds.