Status Update: Change of Gears!
It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. I’ve been ridiculously busy running the weaving business while taking tons of printmaking classes and practicing to integrate each new technique as thoroughly as I can.
I have a simple goal in all of this – to learn to support myself as a printmaker.
I can’t believe that it was only six weeks ago now that I took a class on solarplate with Barbara Mason. Unlike any of the other techniques I’ve studied, this one lit me on fire! As soon as I realized that I could use these plates in the letterpress, a light bulb came on. I could make lots of quality work quickly and sell it inexpensively. My letterpress work would finally fit into the genre of work that sells on Etsy, enabling a whole new income stream. And, finally, it opens the door to taking up any income slack with contract work. I could beat the bushes and find work printing business cards, invitations, restaurant coasters and the like if it takes longer than I expected to develop the fine art printing business.
I immediately hired a letterpress printmaker, Kristin Walker, for some private instruction on the machine itself. After my time with her, I was good enough to start putting in my hours on the press. I really learn at my best and fastest by making every mistake in rapid succession.
This month is a perfect time to learn in this way. I’m selling at the Eugene Holiday Market through December. This puts me in Eugene where I can print every week on a borrowed press in the Whiteaker Printmakers studio space. It also lets me test market the new products as soon as they are dry. The feedback that I get guides my work in the days immediately following the customer interactions.
Here is what I’ve done so far…
[Week 1, photo-based cards]
[Week 2, more photo-based cards]
In the first two weeks, I was using cheap, thin paper to pull as many prints as I could and gain any sort of control over the press. I printed onto the press bed, double printed on some of them, smeared machine oil and fingerprints everywhere, used too little ink and too much ink and generally made a lot of messy cards. They are mostly all sold at $1 each, including an envelope. Yes, it’s too cheap and they’re almost gone as a result.
[Week 3, processing and drawing instead of photos]
After a couple of weeks, I switched to a heavier and more expensive card stock. I took way more time with the images, and got ink in far fewer places where it didn’t belong. Many of these are sold, too.
[Week 4 – typography, embossing, and mixing color]
Last week I printed these calendars but the ink wasn’t dry enough to cut them down to single pages by market day. It gives me an extra few days to make wooden bases for them. They are intended to stand up on a desk.
[Week 5 – blotter paper embossing, transparent custom color]
This week I printed on blotter paper to make these drink coasters. I am really hoping that the ink is dry by Friday so I can cut them apart, cut rounded corners on them, and package them into sets before the market opens on Saturday.
[Drying racks at the moment]
I also printed replacements for the most popular images on the card rack. I am finally good enough with the press to use luxurious, expensive paper and a custom-mixed warm black ink. I’ve got a fan on them in the hopes that good air flow and absorbent paper will have them dry in time for market. Fingers crossed!
This coming week I’ll be printing replacements for cards that are selling well along with a few new card designs.
If you have ideas for what I should print next, leave me a comment. If you want to get on the schedule for some custom work, I should be doing that starting in late January. Don’t forget, my work will be a little rough, but cheap until I gain the skill to produce more consistent, expensive stuff.