Saturday, March 8, 2014

Printing with applewood

Juha, after reading this, observed on the event page for Now. Here.This. that he prints with a small piece of appletree wood (image above). He sanded the branch, and says that the more he prints with it, the better and better it gets. I find my old wooden spoon does the same thing - printing and my hand burnishes and burnishes the wood to a finish unlike anything. I've commented on here before about the hand in print. Still, I'm blown away by the hand in print that has made its own tools.

Perhaps a better way to phrase this: tools become an extension of the body, even more so when made by hand.

This connection between the artist's or maker's body and the work itself is probably rather overlooked in art history. I've worked for master printers, printing the perfect print, when the goal is the almost the disappearance of the body, going for a handmade but machinelike perfection. Yet, when I first learned printing with Shelley, she often surmised that that the incidental marks - double plate registration not perfectly lining up, for example - become a signature, a suggestion that the body is more than the machine.

This is not in support of sloppiness, more a appreciation of wabi sabi. As a lone artist in my studio, I often feel the ache in my back and hands, the limitations of my height and strength, particularly when working large. (Alternately, while working in a master shop, I often felt that the key was just have a third hand to borrow at times). When I look at the finished pieces, I can feel them in my body, and feel my body in the work itself. Printmakers know that prints are made more than just by eye, process becomes a part of body memory and knowledge - for instance, when rolling up, I barely think about the little wrist twist to adjust the roller for even inking.

This is why I choose to work in processes that involve the hand directly. I've experimented with digital incorporations, and probably have not abandoned them entirely. However, I feel it is important that my hand and body have this presence - maybe only apparent to me - in my work. My body is part of the process. My body is a matrix.

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