Saturday, February 19, 2011

Change in the air

It's raining. In February. At night at 7,000 feet in the Rockies. And I saw bluebirds today. Cinnamon teal on Monday. I heard a rumor there have been tree swallows already, downriver in Pueblo. The season is changing, alright. Ready or not. (Ready. Definitely.)

A few other things are changing around here, too. Lino experiments are underway. Never-used-before supplies are en route from the supplier.

And I ordered a press.

Just a "baby" press*, mind you. A little tiny thing that will fit on a tabletop and make small prints. But it's a huge step for me. I print by baren and spoon and grunting, and I'm quite proud of that.

Who knows WHAT will happen now.

(*Yes, we've been through a lot of baby-pressing jokes over on Facebook. You're welcome to chime in now if you missed the earlier frackas.)

It's put me in a peculiar state of mind, knowing that this little thing will be arriving on my doorstep in a few weeks. There are the usual misgivings that come with an outlay of significant dollars, of course, but I can't say that I'm experiencing buyer's remorse. If I had space for it, I'd have been thinking hard about a bigger press. It's more of a creative panic than a financial one.

If you could peer inside my head right now (and trust me, it's not pretty in there under the best of circumstances) you would see my thoughts bouncing up and down like an espresso-laden 5-year-old on a new bed:

"Ooh! It will make blind embossing so much easier! I'll be able to combine techniques. Printing will go faster. Ooh! If I learn solarplate I'll be able to do etching again (my first printmaking obsession, tabled 25 years ago for lack of facilities). Ooh! More transparent inks! Ooh! More layers! Ooh! Chine collé! Ooh!"

And then I bounce myself right off the bed and hit the floor. Hard.

"Oh, geez. I won't know what I'm doing. I'll make ugly messes and waste materials. I won't have any ideas for new imagery. I won't recognize a good idea from a bad one. With all these new possibilities I'll discover that I'm actually no good at printmaking. Blah blah blah."

These sorts of mental gymnastics come and go for all of us, of course, but for some reason mine were magnified by the imminent arrival of a chunk of steel.  I am reminded of grade school and that fateful day when we "graduated" from pencils to ball point pens. Pencils became the tool of math class, where you could still use an eraser, too. All other subjects were suddenly burdened with careful mark making, considered penmanship, and no crossing out. Sure, I knew how to write. But did I know how to write with a PEN?

Sure. I know how to print. A little. But do I know how to print with a press?

Thankfully, the excited voices are generally louder than the nervous ones, and by the time the thing gets here I'll be impatient to get on with this new phase, whatever it turns out to be. In the meantime, I carry on as I always have... by hand. I printed a few experiments this evening for the haiku project: some white-on-white and white-on-cream for potential backgrounds. Yesterday I did the initial drawing for a new 9x12 reduction block, I'm hoping to get the first color printed tomorrow.

Of course, the DM will be playing a brunch gig at the Salida Café tomorrow morning, so his Number One Fan will have a scone in her hand before she picks up a baren. She will pass on the espresso, though. She's twitchy enough already.


  1. The beginning of your white print looks really interesting.
    How big is the bed of your new baby? (That sounds funny!)
    I've done some solarplate etchings and they are really fun. I didn't bother with relief solarplate because, well, it seems like cheating to me. With all those sunny days in Salida you should be able to make plates whenever you want. The plates are kind of expensive, though.
    I also did some embossing by hand and it was a real pain. So I'm excited to see how embossing on your new press turns out! Congrats!!

  2. I just used my baby press yesterday!
    I don't actually use it very often, as I've convinced myself registration is easier by baren (probably a hilarious delusion). But when I do, wow! It's so fast! So easy! Why don't I do this all the time!?

  3. How exciting! I'm getting my first 'proper' press this year, having battled with a cantilever proofing press for years, which can't cope with drypoint (have you had a go at that on rhenalon plates?) and struggles with lino bigger than A5, if you have that scale in the US!
    I'll be interested to see how you get on - your prints are wonderful.

  4. The "baby bed" is supposed to accommodate prints up to 9.5" x 19", I think. The bed is 11" wide. Not very big at all, but I think it will do for now. If I get desperate for a bigger press I can get access, it's just not all that convenient.

    Wendy, welcome! I LOVED reading about your chickens and seeing the lovely pics of your garden. (sigh) I'm in the arid interior (average annual precip about 9") with a completely shady yard. Ah, well. I'll be cheered vicariously by your hens.

  5. I am soooooooooooooo excited for you!!!!! (shrieked in a 'voice' so high only dogs can hear it.) When those nasty negative voices start, stick your fingers in your ears and sing 'na naaaa, can't hear you' - works for me.

  6. Well, I know nothing about your medium...but I love seeing your work, so get that press to work!!! Can't wait to see the updates!

  7. Yay......a press for you! Very excited for you! A press is a press no matter how small! congratulations.

  8. The air is changing down here in the Blue Mountains of Australia too! Your excitement is palpable and I get that way at the change of season too - with or without arrival of new press. Good Luck with it. I am up to my ears in Leadlighting at the moment and have great ideas for some new ceramics! The interest in print making will have to wait awhile but I love your work and will continue to follow each step with interest! One day - one day - when I retire!! I think I have just bought a lovely cottage by the river to retire to - studio space as well!! I love my work so I don't want to wish my life away!

  9. Welcome, Cooraba! And thanks, everyone. I've been down with a nasty flu for a couple of days and it's been SO unpleasant... except for the occasional thought that my press is on its way! Now where the heck am I going to PUT it?