This is my home made etching press. It was built in 1976 (approx.). A friend had an alfalfa farm out in the desert west of Maricopa, AZ. There was an abandoned potato farm (yes, potato farm), many years lost to the desert. He loaned me a cutting torch and I set about hacking up a huge quantity of scrap hoping that among all those pieces would be enough to build a press. When I got home I did not have access to a cutting torch or welding equipment. So all those pieces had to be put together with a hack saw and a drill. That is ALL I used once I got it home. I had to buy one gear for $50.00, and I had the top roller made at a machine shop out of aircraft alloy tube steel with brass bushings. That cost $150.00. The largest plate size I've printed is an 18X24, but that's pushing the limits. I tend to work much smaller in any case. It has served me well all these years. Literally HUNDREDS of prints, etchings, relief prints, embossings, were pulled off this press.
This is the last image in the first book of 5 books in my hand made book "5FIVE5" (I'm confused.) The first book is called "from none to ONE". It is a single sewn signature with wrapper. The images are from a lino block using a reduction cut, and the images are rebuilt using reverse assemblage.
I finally finished my hand made book, "5FIVE5". It is a set of 5 books in a book-like case, with a book mark. Many all nighters, and long, long days. I will add more photos of all the parts and the assembled whole soon. There was the craziness of putting up my show "face2face" at Amara Yoga, and the size of this edition; 100 copies for the "public", 25 artist proofs. It turned out so much better than I thought it would. Most importantly, it surprised me as it came together, changing every day. Some parts were only vague concepts that had to find their life right on the press as type was being set. Many of the parts were untested in how they would work, go together as a whole. I try to walk the artistic tight rope, a little dangerous and unknown. When I was younger I fell a lot, still do occasionally. Perhaps I know now which things need attention, which don't, but it's more fun, and just as scary. I think that's a good sign. I have put together 35 sets of the 125 sets so far. I can only do about 10 sets per week working all day, every day. That's less than 2 a day. I finally made 1 set for me. I sit and look at it over and over, amazed at how it came together, shocked even. I LOVE BOOKS. Even as a kid, they were my first big thrill. Loved reading them, just looking at them, holding them. Now to be able to design, print, and bind my own is quite simply miraculous. The pictures here are from the 5th book of 5, "Loteria Trading Cards". Each of the 5 books is a totally different binding, and concept. Yet they all go together under one over all arching "story", a continuation of last year's ZINE, "The New Adventures Of DOGBOY". What IS that "story" exactly, how does it go together, how does it "make sense"? I'm not sure either, but I KNOW it does. I could guess. After all, I made these books. The artist almost never really knows what they are doing or why. The more convinced they are about it, the less they know. Maybe not, but in my case, absolutely. Some many years from now I may get a glimmer of what it meant, or not. I hope not. How lovely if even I can experience it as a mystery. That would ALWAYS be my wish.
MUSE (myooz) /myuwz/ n. [count] the imaginary force thought to provide inspiration to poets, writers, artists, etc.: waiting for the muse.
People who are not artists themselves, or who are not involved in "typical" creative activities, often say, "I just don't understand where all those ideas come from". I usually answer jokingly (not so jokingly) that I don't know either, but, please, somebody MAKE IT STOP!!! It IS an amazing process, and I am more surprised and excited about it than anyone. The way it works constantly thrills me. After 50 years of doing this it still happens. In fact more often than it ever did, and seemingly with greater import. For me the ideas never stop. It would take 3 more lifetimes to work through what I see in front of me right now. Of course, many are really just interesting in the brain. When actually trotted out into reality, THEY SUCK. Too many of those, but fewer and fewer with age. "ART" comes to me as TITLES for pieces (words), as wholly formed images (visuals), and as concepts (ideas). It is a constant ongoing process. I never hit the "off button", don't think I could, there is no such "button". It simply does not stop. So I'm always sifting this stew of words, images, ideas. THEN you add in "serendipity"; 1. an ability for making desirable discoveries by accident. 2. good fortune; luck. I wrote in my previous blog, "Salt Fork Festival", about the "gift"of the wooden type. The fair was NOT at all what I could have predicted, or what I expected. And yet something amazing happened at just the right time., out of "no where". As I was getting ready for my new show, "DOGBOY-FACE2FACE", I was wandering around the house wondering what I could do that would be that extra step beyond, that something a little bit better, something special. There behind an easel, where I hadn't looked for a year, were 2 huge pieces of deckle box made paper that I started 15 years ago and didn't know how to finish, or even just USE. They were so beautiful and beyond my current knowledge at the time. NOW here they were, waiting for me and I was EXACTLY ready for them. The images finding life in just moments. (see "5th Muse", illustration for this post). It was PERFECT timing, serendipity.
It was indeed a beautiful weekend of wine, art, music, food and fun. A little foggy the first morning, with a nice sunny afternoon, by 4 a pretty decent rain had us shutting down an hour early. The next day was slightly breezy but gorgeous and again happily sunny, with occasional big, puffy clouds. Salt Fork was my first "Crafts Fair" in decades, done mostly as a favor to the folks at Sleepy Creek for the 2 1/2 month show they let me put up previously. I did paper making demos all day, both days. I think everyone was fascinated and entertained. It might be quite a bit of fun to do more shows simply for the comradery and excitement. I met so many interesting artists and other people just out having a nice day at the winery. It was very enjoyable sharing my love of art and excitement about creating with some of the artists that were there. Best of all, while discussing printing with another artist (who was not showing, just visiting) she mentioned that her grandfather was a letterpress printer and she had lots of old wooden type and many very old style cuts. I was interested in buying them but they meant too much to her to sell. However she loaned my the whole lot to use for my current project; A series of limited edition signed posters using "faces" as the background subject matter. The show I've just stumbled into will be going up November 14th at Amara Yoga here in Champaign. It will be called "DOGBOY-FACE2FACE". The "organic" way the poster/face idea was born, the way this show came about, and now the arrival of this gorgeous type to print the posters, makes the whole thing seem to be taking on a life of it's own. That's ALWAYS a good thing. For the moment the deck is clear of other obligations (a bit scary financially), and I'm very excited to get into the studio and work solely on my book, and my show...pure art, just for me. It ia a blessing to be sure.
I am just now pulling the first proofs, and making the first mock-ups for my newest BOOK, "5FIVE5". It will be 5 smaller books (all very different, but all related to each other) presented inside a larger book-like case. The amazing thing is that so far EVERYTHING is not only going exactly as planned, but the actual mock-up is even more interesting than I had pictured it. All the parts are fitting together. Registrations are right on the money. The image above will be the last of the 5 books inside the larger book. It is what will be the back of 5 Loteria Trading Cards. It will also be printed in blue. At present I think the images on the reverse side will be, "The Fool", "The Magician", "The Gardener", "The Wheel Of Fortune", and "The Ladder". But I have only started sketching out the first 3, so ALL could change. No cutting of the lino blocks has started yet. I needed to check my measurements after printing a few proofs of the card backs before investing the next HUGE chunk of time; Printing almost 750 cards (both sides 1,500 prints). So far so good. Now I'll begin the task of printing all the card backs as I finish designing, and then cutting the first few images. Of course, I will simultaneously be starting the other 4 books. Lots to do, all moving along slowly but at the same time, as best I can manage. It is a GLORIOUS INSANITY!!! And , a whole LOTTA' FUN!!!