Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Im-pressive Week Rolled By!

What an adventure!

I returned late last night from my week-long residency at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin, tired-but-wired after a fantastic experience. Today has been spent in the usual post-trip tasks– plodding through mail and hundreds of emails, filing receipts, paying some bills... dumping the contents of my suitcase next to the washing machine.

So it seems like it's time to take a little break from all that and share with you some highlights from my week.  I took paltry few photos myself, but the good folks at the Woodson are on the ball. All the images here are courtesy of the museum.

Putting the final color on the magpie demonstration piece.

In the week preceding the steamroller event I worked with about 200 middle and high school students to create small relief prints in lino and foam, and shared a "slide" show and print demonstration with adult visitors. Wisconsin State Representative Mandy Wright came to class one morning and tried her hand at a little printing, too.

Good technique, Mandy!

But the Big Event loomed large in our thoughts. Fortunately "our" steamroller had been delivered right before I arrived in Wausau, so Wednesday afternoon the staff and I gathered in the parking lot for a test run.

That's Dave in the orange shirt. Great job, Dave!

Museum facilities staffer Dave Jones carved an image inspired by a sculpture by Charlotte Darling-Diehl. We inked up his block, fired up the equipment and voila! Our first steamroller print! 

We also ran a test of the 24 x 36-inch lino I carved here in my studio. Compared to the 36 x 48 blocks the students would bring it suddenly seemed a bit wimpy! 

View from the driver's seat.
But hey! It turns out one can print lino with a steamroller. It held up just fine under pressure.

Suddenly it all became real. We were going to do this! (And it was going to work!) Wednesday night I was a happy camper and couldn't wait for Saturday.

And then came Thursday. 
Cloudy... rainy... cold Thursday. Snow in the forecast for parts of Wisconsin which might or might not include Wausau. I tried not to worry too much.

And then came Friday. At noon on Friday the trees on the museum grounds wore a blanket of ice. Freezing rain slicked the grass. I adjusted my expectations from "good weather" to "not horrible weather."

It took me a good 20 minutes to find the courage to lift the curtain and look outside Saturday morning. Not raining... Good. Not windy... excellent. And dare I imagine it? The clouds seem to be thinning. All systems go!

By noon the sun was out and we were off and running. I mean rolling. Over 100 area high school students had worked in teams to carve the 3x4-foot woodblocks, and we had 19 to put under the steamroller. 

Inking begins!
Moving the inked block into place
Placing the fabric
Pulling a print!
Wall of wonderfulness. Eventually we had prints all the way down the block! Click to embiggen.

After we pulled two prints each, the teen artists inked up their blocks again and we had great fun making steamroller t-shirts. Several observers asked if we had shirts for sale, which we hadn't considered... but who knows? Maybe next time!

Once the prints have had a little time to dry, they will be put on display at the museum... dates TBD.

In the meantime, check out the art blog of D.C. Everest High School, whose students were among those who participated in the project. Pop on over to WJFW TV-12 to see yours truly try to explain just what the heck all this is about in a video report here. AND.... there are hordes of photos on the museum's Facebook page here.

There is no way I can sufficiently express my gratitude to the staff and volunteers of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for their support of this project and for making a random conversation into an amazing week. I'm pretty sure that if you look up the word "excellence" in the dictionary, you'll find all of their faces smiling back at you.

Thanks also to the funders: The Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. And let's not forget the food-ers! Thanks, Urban Street Bistro for firing up the grill for the event. Next time I want to eat one of everything. Except the cupcakes. I want two of those.


  1. Looks like lots great publicity and a lot of fun.
    Next time try using the steamroller as a BRAYER......that would be fun too.

  2. Oh, Sherrie, you're a love and were such fun to work with throughout the week. You are the definition of cool under (weather-induced) pressure. You taught and inspired visitors (and staff) so well throughout the week. Thank you!

  3. You are such an inspiration! Steamrollin' is another notch in your printmaking excellence belt. Can we see the final demo print?

  4. Sure, Andrew... steamroller as brayer sounds like a great idea. Are YOU gonna be the one to clean it when we're finished?

    :-) Thanks Amy... I loved being there. I thought about hiding out in the guest house a while longer...

    Wendy, when a print comes home I'll take a photo. Everything was still really wet and too big to risk folding up in a suitcase. And who knows? I think most of the museum staff used it to make t-shirts, so the image may be floating around in unexpected places.

  5. time to get a steamroller then :) im sure the many construction sites around here wont miss one :p

    lol, just realised one of the captcha words is conviction :p well that me going to jail for borrowing a steamroller :p

  6. Love your blog post, Sherrie, and we love you, too. Thanks so much for your excellent work as a Woodson Art Museum artist in residence. We're missing you here! I can't begin to imagine what other projects you and fellow artists have up your collective sleeves. Bring 'em on! With sincere thanks, Kathy

  7. I just love this. One of these days I'll catch the whole process. 8-]

  8. Steamroller as brayer -- I love it. Looks like everyone had a great time and some nice looking prints came out of it. Dare I say you must be a little tired?

  9. Sherrie,

    Thank you for sharing your talents with the Wausau community! I know you did great work with many many students, and I certainly appreciated your time as well. I hope you have the opportunity to visit again soon.

  10. Looks like you had a fantastic week with lots of fun! All the students look so excited, I would be too :)