Thursday, May 17, 2012

Every End is a New Beginning

 So, this happened.

It's been more than a month and I'm still pretty stunned. Excited- elated even, but still stunned. Each year Tamarind takes eight students from all over the world to train in the PTP (printer training program) and from those 8 they choose one or two to stay on for another year as Senior Printer Fellows, who then work with Master Printer Bill Lagatutta, collaborate with professional artists, and become certified Master Printers themselves. This year they chose one person. And they chose me.

I don't have any pictures of the letter opening ceremony, but it went down something like this- Marge told us we'd get our letters Friday, April 13 at noon and that we could take the rest of the day off to process, re-coop, and/or celebrate. Around 11:30 we were all pretty jumpy, and, having finished my work for the day, sat anxiously at the computer watching COPS. Awesome, I know. Rodney had told us the week before they only be taking one person, so we knew ahead of time what to expect. Sure enough, noon rolls around, Marge comes down, gave us a small speech, thanked us for all our hard work, and handed out the letters. I got through the first two lines, realized it wasn't a rejection letter, and burst into happy tears. Following that, after a few phone calls, the rest of the day was just smiles, hugs, high fives and celebratory drinks.

As of last Friday my time at Tamarind as a PTP student has come to an end. I realize I haven't been keeping up with my posts as well as I should, and there's a lot to cover since my last update. I've been thinking about the best way to remedy this and my solution is this... mini posts! Lots of pictures with a cut down on the words- because let's face it, words are overrated and everyone likes pictures.


My collaboration #5 was with Scott Sutton, an architect graduate student from UNM who had previously helped out at Tamarind during our crayon making demo by providing the molds. Scott was also supposed to give a demo on ink making using natural pigments but the funding fell through. Most of the collaborations Scott did throughout the class were based on the area he was studying for his thesis work, a stretch of land along the Columbia River in Oregon and the native population that once lived there before the dam was constructed. For our collaboration Scott decided to do a map of this Celilo area, outlining where the agriculture, river, forested areas, and various villages and important landmarks fell. We sat down together and discussed what information had to go on each plate so that we could overlap primary colors to create secondary colors. I then mixed up two pallette for Scott to look at- a more vibrant set and a more muted set (seen above). We both decided the muted was the way to go, and after a few trial proofs, pulled the edition. The registration had to be spot on, otherwise the whole thing would look off, but overall the whole thing went off without a hitch. 

"Celilo Map" by Scott Sutton

Santa Fe- Letterpress Museum and Landfall Press

James Bourland demonstrating one of the Chandler and Price presses.

Around the end of April we were invited to Santa Fe's Palace of the Governor to the see the Palace Press Letterpress Museum.  James Bourland was kind enough to tell us about the museum, the collection of work produced at the Palace Press, and show off the beautiful antique presses the museum has collected over the years.
Our visit didn't last long, and after a brief look at the History Museum's exhibition and a quick lunch we meandered our way over to Landfall

So maybe we got lost for twenty minutes trying to find the place, but it was all worth it when we walked in the door and saw -this-. An antique Marinoni press from Paris that Toulouse Lautrec once printed on. It was huge, beautiful, and very, very impressive.

Landfall is run by founder and president Jack Lemon and director Stephen Campbell, two legendary printmakers originally out of Chicago that came to Santa Fe in the early 2000's. They were kind enough to show us their brand new building, and even gave a dry run of the Marinoni press (no ink, no water, just demonstrated how the print gets run through the press). For such a big machine it was amazingly quiet, and demonstrated quite the feat of teamwork, since it took three people to handle the paper.

The rest of the shop was equally impressive, with high ceilings, flying tympans (that is, tympans suspended from the ceiling), and oodles of John Wayne memorabilia. Jack and Steve were fantastic hosts and made us all feel very welcome.
Jack Lemon telling Rodney to stop that strange girl from taking so many pictures. Or pointing out something interesting, it's hard to tell sometimes.

(Above: an overhead view of the right side of the shop, and Steve Campbell talking with Marvin)

Easily my most favorite thing in the shop.

Following Landfall we took a trip to the Second Street Brewery and managed a great photo-op with Rodney before checking out the Santa Fe gallery scene, sitting in on a lecture given by Bill Lagatutta, Jack Lemon and Steve Campbell about collaborative printing and the idea of a "Master Printer" before finally calling it a day.

Collaboration 6

My sixth and final collaboration was with Rachel Cox, a graduate student studying photography. Rachel knew pretty quickly what she wanted and had her imagery all sorted early on. She knew she wanted a large, full-sheet bleed print that was mostly blacks utilizing photos she had taken and then manipulated of her grandmother mirrored. When we first started the project we ran into some problems printing the films to shoot the photo plate, getting them dark enough and printing smoothly enough that there weren't any banded lines on them. My initial thought was to print them inverted and create a negative diazo plate since I hadn't done one last semester, we still had the material, and it would save on toner without having to worry about the image appearing "striped" from the printer. Then Rodney mentioned we have a collection of negative plates that were donated to Tamarind and that I was more than welcome to use those. Oh, and that they were 20 years old. And might not work. And might make me cry. Thus begins- the struggle. The first challenge was to find the exposure time (which ended up being at 130 seconds, versus the 25-30 seconds of a usual positive plate), find out if the negative developer still worked, how long to rock it or if it needed to be scrubbed (yes, slowly, and scrubbed) and then figure out how to print the thing without it all filling in. That last part was the real challenge. The plate mostly stayed open with a leather roller, but as soon as I had to go to a rubber roller or a grabbit roller (a textured rubber roller that is supposed to simulate a leather roller) the whole image filled in and looked terrible. The added challenge of printing a large black image into bare paper didn't help things either. After nearly a week and a half of struggle and problem solving Rodney and I decided to use ProSol, an old chemical bichromate agent that hardens in light and keeps the negative areas open. We then hit it with TrueBlue, another old chemical agent that deep cleans the printing areas. This miracle combo was just what that plate needed. I also decided to print a transparent base first so the black ink wasn't being sucked up into bare paper. It meant less ink had to be used on the second run (the black) so delicate areas didn't fill in and get overrun with ink. I don't have many images from this collaboration. After the edition was printed and I realized I had enough to make my number I took my frustration out on the plate and forgot to photograph it (oops). In the end, however, the results made up for the difficulty. Pictures really don't do justice to the velvety soft black, and really subtle tones of this print, it's absolutely beautiful in person.

By Rachel Cox


When all was said and done, all the editions printed, and final critique finished, we finally graduated. Bill had a fantastic little get together at his house, and Marge and Rodney handed out our certificates. I made a litho stone cake- an idea I shamelessly ripped off from my friend Elise :) and just enjoyed the night. While it was terrific celebrating it being over and done with the true highlight of the night came in the form of Isaac, playing his guitar and singing for us, and our visiting artist from Japan, Kouri, who did his Elvis Presley impersonation and sang a collection of his songs. Isaac even improvised backup guitar.
Rodney and Marge giving out the certificates and totes!

Senior printer Alex getting his certificate.
Going to miss these ladies! Kim Michalak, Nina Dine and myself