Last fall I zoomed to an era long before smart phones and social media with a visit to Tribune Showprint. It’s a workshop full of printing presses dating as far back as 1878. Known for years as the printer of the Benton County Tribune, the shop also made posters for store windows and outdoor advertising. As we admired the presses in operation, owner Kim Miller told the story of how she and her husband moved machines from Fowler, Indiana, to their current location in Muncie — all overnight to preserve the reputation as the oldest continuously operating print shop in the country.
At the studio of the Book Arts Collaborative next door, we admired books and letterpress cards designed by local artists and students from Ball State University.
I learned that before the invention of modern duplicating machines or carbon paper, clerks used special copy presses. The clerk placed an original document — with the ink still wet — against a sheet of thin onionskin paper. When pressed together, the papers printed a mirror image! The text on the copy could be read from the back when held up to the light from a window.
On returning home, I focused on ideas for design sessions with teens. I pulled out my copies of Creative Bookbinding by Pauline Johnson and Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz and tested techniques for decorating papers and sewing hard covers. The students, under the direction of Erika Lucas, completed their projects in March. I stitched two books then and plan to sew again this week.
On April 21 and 22, 2017, the Collaborative and Tribune Showprint will host Interrobang, a festival celebrating the craft and the art of the book.
Pattern, texture, color, and a project with beautiful surprises! This month twenty-three students at Yorktown High School created designs for book covers. I joined them as a guest artist, collaborating with artist and educator, Erika Lucas. With Erika, the students experimented with watercolor painting and carving and printing stamps. I brought materials for marbling papers.
There are some tricks to successful marbling. A good way to start is with shaving cream. It’s easy to squirt the cream onto a flat surface, spread it, and then gently drop or splatter ink on top. Drawing ever-so-lightly with the tip of a skewer or plastic spoon, the students made swirls and patterns in the colors. They placed a paper on top of each design and pressed softly to make contact everywhere. Then, lifting up, gently scraping the cream from the paper, and rinsing revealed a bright image!
The students went on to explore more traditional techniques. Once again, a light-as-a-feather touch led to success — swirling patterns of color.
We have a bumper crop of pumpkins this year but absolutely no sunflowers. I guess the squirrels ate the seeds.
My friend, author Jackie Jules, grew sunflowers on her deck. Her seedlings vanished once, then twice. But did Jackie give up? No. In fact, I bet that she sang as she watered her plants– songs of maidens and magic seeds. Her flowers bloomed in the brightest gold.
More than a thousand miles away, I dreamed of blossoms and howling guards that chased away the squirrels. In the morning I’d walk the dog and sneak past a neighbor’s house for a glimpse of her sunflowers.
Then one day Madelyn Rosenberg came to my rescue. She was typing away. I imagine her looking like a brunette Katherine Hepburn — author/ journalist. She took a break to bring sunflowers to everyone at our writers group. Madelyn, how did you know? I just had to paint them.
————— Even if plants can’t hear storytellers, what do we know of how plants respond to sound? A study of caterpillar crunching! From the California Academy of Sciences.
A sunny afternoon and we couldn’t resist drawing outside.
I looked in my bookshelf and pulled out a copy of Nature Drawing by Clare Walker Leslie. Beyond the front door we sketched blue skies, puffy clouds, cherry trees and architecture — inspiration all around us.
Making prints is like magic. You can create an image on a sheet of plastic, place paper on top, apply pressure and lift the paper. Suddenly you have a new design!
This technique uses wet watercolor with either wet or dry paper, and I never know exactly how the paint will spread. On a grey day, we experimented. Our first grade students created prints with tempera paints on construction paper. In an instant the room filled with spring colors.
My daughter planted seeds and placed the pots in our kitchen window. They’ve sprouted! We forgot to label the containers, but we’ll recognize some of the vegetables by the shapes of their leaves. As for the others … oops! Expect a few surprises.
In April and May, I’ll join first graders to create art inspired by nature. One of the first things we’ll do is sketch the plants sprouting up at school. The students love to remind me to “visualize.” It’s fun to close our eyes and think of a picture and then paint it! Here’s my painting of the salad I’ll eat — made up of vegetables grown in the next few months.
How do you imagine you’ll enjoy the outdoors this spring?