LOST LAND PRINT TOUR
From October 2014 to March 2015, I drove solo around the United States in my 2000 Honda Accord (my DC mechanic told me that I would never make it to California), in a search for a new city to call home. I put 22,000 miles on the car. While searching for a new home, I decided to cold call and meet with printmakers all over the country. I was searching for wisdom, after all, and these printmakers had found a way to do something that they loved, in places that they loved.
HATCH SHOW PRINT
October 8, 2014
224 5th Ave. South Nashville, TN 37203
HATCH SHOW PRINT is a letterpress and music poster institution; they've been around for 135 years and have put out amazing work throughout those many years. The level of success they've attained is immediately apparent when I looked at the address - the first floor of the fancy Omni Hotel/Country Music Hall of Fame. Generally speaking, printshops are in someone's garage, a building in the weird part of town, etc. Printshops are generally pretty gritty places.
Hatch Show Print is stunning. They're proof that printshops can be super mega successful. This space was custom built for them, and is just under 6,000 square feet! It is simply gorgeous. Before we made it into Hatch, we accidentally wandered into what turns out to be the break room for the employees of the various shops of the Omni Resort. A door was propped open revealing an entire wall of Hatch's old posters. After rounding the corner and staring intently at all the work (and taking photographs, including the banner image), I noticed that there's a bunch of people drinking coffee and staring at us. We made our escape quickly. When we wandered into the printshop part of Hatch (it's blocked off - there's a sort of viewing gallery but a little half-door to get into the actual printshop) - one of the artists, Laura Baisden, recognized us from the break room. She offered us a tour of the printshop area (Hatch does do public tours by the way - but they run in the afternoons), and of course we said yes.
Hatch's library of type and images boggles the mind. It stretches from floor to ceiling, across a huge back wall, and then there are stand-alone drawers full of typeface. It's absolutely insane. There's so much type that some of the furniture in the place is actually built with old type. I asked Laura how things are organized - how does one find a specific image in a library so vast? She thought about it and compared it to someone's kitchen. "If you were looking for a spatula in your house, you'd know exactly where it is, right? Even if it's not somewhere obvious, or in a specific order. It's the same with the type, here." The artists at Hatch are also constantly carving out new linoleum plates and adding to its library. Print is alive and well!
Hatch's artists get assigned a wide variety of print jobs to design and to print - each artist works on each job from the design to print to packaging up the finished product and shipping it out. This creates a true sense of ownership that each artist has over each print. they're not just designers; they also carve the linoleum, lay the type, ink the press, and cut the paper. Everything belongs to the one person. The variety of work is a testament to the talent of each artist--they all need to be able to create prints for heavy metal shows, art openings, Katy Perry concerts, shows at the Symphony Orchestra... there's no specialties. Everyone wears all the hats. If an artist likes a specific band or something, they can opt to take that job - but otherwise, every day is different and unexpected. They do about 600 jobs a year.
Hatch is part of Nashville's bones now. Their work is everywhere, and incredibly recognizable. There's so much pride in the work, and pride for their city. This is by far the biggest printshop I will visit, but it's still incredibly friendly and intimate. For such an old analog process, these guys are killin' it in the modern world.
ARBER & SONS EDITIONS
October 16, 2014
128 E El Paso St, Marfa, TX 79843
Marfa is Donald Judd and Donald Judd is Marfa. And Donald Judd's good friend and printer is Robert Arber. I emailed Robert a few days before ending up in Marfa, and like the friendly printmaker he is, he said - come on over. Arber & Sons is right in downtown Marfa (downtown may be pushing it a bit for such a tiny town - population 1,800), and across the street from the railroad station. The building was a small movie theater once upon a time; Robert and his wife live above the shop in what was the projector room. The first floor has a small gallery space (hypothetically where people bought tickets) and the printshop is in the back space where the actual theater space was. The printshop is an incredibly gorgeous space. I could spend hours just going through it - there's so many hidden corners with mysterious objects and test prints from famous artists. He has Navajo rugs and motorcycles everywhere (I counted four, one with a sidecar). He puts together the motorcycles himself, although he is eagerly awaiting a new custom built one. One of his motorcycles is a BMW Paris Dakar. All are in excellent condition. He takes his Navajo rug collection very seriously as well, and spends a good amount of time explaining to me how to identify an authentic rug, and the differences between different kinds of wool. Robert takes his passions seriously. He also likes to swim, so much so that he got certified in pool maintenance (and he also volunteers to take care of the local municipal pool's chemicals).
I've noticed that printmakers tend to have a few similar personality traits: friendly and patient (this I think comes from working in printshops where you tend to be working alongside a lot of other people, and have to get along with them. Also printmaking is such a process that you need to be a patient person not to just get frustrated and quit), and also intensely interested in their hobbies outside of printmaking.
Robert Arber is one of those old men that have done it all, and are now doing even more. His age is a bit of a mystery to me, but he's a contemporary of Al Taylor and Donald Judd, so maybe that'll give you a few hints. He was car model sculptor (for show cars, so not my little Honda Accord, for example) in Detroit for years, something he's very proud of, but left after he realized he couldn't handle Detroit. The next logical step? Becoming a master printmaker at Tamarind, in Albuquerque. He gave himself an arbitrary amount of money to have saved up, something like $5,000 and once he hit $5,005 - he took off.
Now, Robert prints only work that he likes. He publishes an edition twice a year called the 30cm x 30cm project. It began as a collaboration between Arber & Sons and the artists-in-residence at the Chinati Foundation, but now is a collaboration between Robert and artists from around the world that he invites. Most memorable for me was the Japanese artist Makota Sasaki- who chronicles his own heartbeat.
Robert's studio and work is extraordinary, but he's the most interesting part of Arber & Sons. His chop and shop logo is reminiscent of lots of other things, but it's something he welded years ago before he knew of anything that looked similar to it. He designed it to look like a tree, because of his last name. His son's middle name is Oak. He doesn't like his photograph taken, but he does like having his tattoos photographed. He got those done a few years ago, and those are his first and only ones - he figured he wouldn't stretch or change much at this point.
3 FISH STUDIOS
4541 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
I emailed Eric Rewitzer from 3 Fish Studios a few days after I got into San Francisco and he responded with one of the friendliest emails I've gotten in response to these cold calls. Most of my emails are pretty vague - they pretty much say that I want to swing by and check out their shop and leave it open.
I've heard of 3 Fish Studios before - a friend of mine owns some postcards they've printed. A quick look at their site will show you that Eric and his wife Annie Galvin are incredibly talented, and seriously in love with where they live. There's lots of love in their work, both in spirit and literally (see Annie's I Love You [Insert State Here] series).. </p><p>Eric greeted me with a warm handshake and showed me around the shop. The printshop used to be an old school grocery shop, and the grocer and their family lived in the back of the shop. This means that the shop is essentially one big, light-filled room, and then the back of the building feels like a little home. The big light-filled room is full of Annie and Eric's artwork, and smack dab in the middle is a massive press -- and a little press that was the first press Eric bought when he decided to go full-time printmaker.
3 Fish Studios was founded in 2007. Eric had studied printmaking in college, but like most printmaking graduates, quickly realized that printmaking is not the easiest thing to do out of school, mainly because of the equipment. He ended up painting for years before returning to printmaking - he took one class to get back into it, fell back in love, bought a press, and started a printshop. How cool is that?</p><p>And they're flourishing. Their work is in over twenty shops besides their own. I had heard that the art scene in San Francisco was dying and the artists are all moving away, etc. Eric and Annie have built a hub of artists and creativity in a part of San Francisco that's not known for that. While I was there, a constant stream of artists and neighbors came in and out, all smiles, and preparing for the big collective event that weekend which was Open Studios.Eric addressed my question about the art scene in San Francisco by pointing to the steady comings and goings of artists as an example to the opposite. Artists can make it here.
The reason that 3 Fish Studios believes it is so successful is because they have a strict open door policy. Anyone can come in and print. The youngest person they've had print something was 15 months. The printshop is something so much more than just a printshop. They host events here in their space and in the backyard where they've transformed the deck into a stage with seating so that they can host concerts. They have school groups come by. Printmaking is a pretty mysterious process for most people and being able to show people how to do it - and then even having them DO it has proven to be the most successful (and fun) way to do it. Eric, Annie, and the crew have built an incredibly warm and beautiful place for artists and visitors alike to come and be.
It took me a few minutes to figure out how to actually get INTO Flight 64 - the address I had seemed to create a Harry Potter-esque Platform 9 and 3/4 illusion. Finally, I busted through the pizza shop and into their back courtyard where I found the cozy studio.
There I met up with Martha, Fritz, and Tonia - three of the member artists of Flight 64, all talented and all very friendly. Flight 64 is a member-run, non-profit printshop that pretty much has the equipment to do almost all kinds of printmaking (litho, woodcut, screenprint, aquatint, etc). Much of their equipment is built by hand or donated, which gives the space a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Good music blasted, everyone was smiling and working - right at home.All of the artists pay a monthly fee to cover rent and other general expenses and then have free access to all the goods. They work together to clean the shop, vote on studio affairs, and host group exhibitions. They also have options for those that don't want to commit and visiting artists.
I was pretty impressed with their screenprint equipment (I'm a screenprint artist, so I don't know too much about the other presses besides the fact that they're gorgeous and look very well cared for) - mostly because of how handmade everything is. Someone at some point built these wooden vacuum presses and a wooden exposure unit! How fantastic.
I really love community printshops - where a bunch of different kinds of printmakers making really different kinds of work can get together and work. The studio is open to the public during their Last Thursday events and other exhibitions and they certainly are a friendly group to hang out with.
KALA ART INSTITUTE
Thanks to my friend Daniel, I got in contact with Ella West, a British artist currently completing a residency at Kala. Ella's work is really lovely - I was intrigued to hear that she's another abstract landscape printmaker like myself. Her prints are painterly and dreamy in an oddly industrial sort of way. Hard to explain - better to go look at her site!
Ella graciously welcomed me to Kala and gave me a tour of their rather extensive facilities. I had heard of Kala before, and probably applied for the residency at some point, but was still thoroughly astonished walking in. It's a large warehouse style space, with different kinds of presses and sinks everywhere. They have pretty much every type of printmaking possible there - from screenprint to letterpress (complete with a solid type library). I got a chance to talk to a few of the other artists there - all were so kind and friendly. What an amazing place to work! Enjoy the shots.