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Whatever It Takes

November 16, 2014

After a few years of holiday craft fairs and markets, I’ve built enough of a reputation that I can get into the markets I want to in Berkshire County. I’ve pushed east into New Bedford, and have open invites to sell in some shops on the Cape. These are all good markets- markets that are either willing to pay a premium for quality handmade goods, or are just flush enough with money that there are always a few sales to be made.

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And yes, there’s always NYC and Boston. But I can’t generate enough product to support markets of that size yet.

But, there is one market that eludes me. A magical land, positively silly with New York money and an insatiably appetite for all things handmade… Hudson.

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Yet I have been consistently turned down for markets in the Hudson Valley, and I think I’ve figured out why.
Etsy.
Damnit.
It’s all part of a facade of legitimacy. If I don’t have an Etsy shop, I must not be a legitimate craftsman. Never mind the fact that I move hundreds of books a year. Never mind the fact that nearly all my sales arise from (albeit often very brief) personal connections I develop with a customer.

Well, alright, I’ll play your game, you rogues…
MVB Printmaker on Etsy

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In Defense of the Monotype

August 3, 2014
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Organic Form #1

I’ve heard some disparaging remarks about monotype over the years. It’s been called – in my presence – simplistic, crude and elementary. And yes, it is simple to grasp (and thus ideally suited to novice printmakers), but is that necessarily a bad thing?

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Monoprints with etching, rainbow roll and additive layers

Monotyping is indeed not as time or labor intensive as lithography, not as fussy or fickle as etching, and not as starkly graphic as block printing. But none of those techniques can match monotype for pure, expressive markmaking. Headed into the studio rusty, I’d start our with a series of monotypes to loosen up over any other method.

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Monotype drawing pad cover

… And there is complexity. Aside from additive/reductive methods, there are countless factors in color mixing, ink density/opacity, paper texture and wetness, press pressure… I could go on, but you get the idea.

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Ghost state of a monotype

Personally, I have monotype to thank for two very important things:
Color: I have always understood color theory, but had always been hesitant to use bold color in my own art. Monotype allowed me the expressive experimentation to become comfortable with color.
Markmaking: Before discovering monotype, I was always very controlled in my markmaking. Using an unpredictable medium will quickly force one to let go of that control; to steer into the skid. More than five semesters of figure drawing, monotype taught me to make marks with my entire body, not just my hand.

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Organic Form Triptych Panel #2

So l let’s not be so hard on monotype. I’m quite find of it, after all…

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Guaranteed!

July 1, 2013

Daniel Bellow is a superb ceramicist and one of my best customers. I was honored, back in 2011 when he told me he’d started using one of my books as his kiln log. I was also curious to see how well my work would hold up to the sort of abuse that is meted out on a studio reference book. I wasn’t altogether suprised when Daniel told me the cover paper had come off, and with it, the first signature became loose.

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Daniel asked if I did repairs on my own work. Well, I offer a lifetime repair guarantee. As we got to talking, it became clear that he didn’t just need a repair – he needed an upgrade. The rag-paper cover just wasn’t cutting it, so I suggested leather. I picked up the kiln log later that week, and set to work.

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I took it apart, and decided I wanted to reincorporate the original cover. So I tore off the old spine-flap remnants and stitched on some new paper to connect the old cover, which would now serve as a inner page (there was also some writing on the inside of the covers that I wanted to keep).

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The new cover was, as we agreed, to be leather, but I wanted to take it a bit further, so I added some flaps on both covers.

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I was, in the interest of wasting as little as possible of the original book, going to reuse some of the binding thread for embellishments (like the flaps), but it was completely dried out, I assume from all the clay dust.
So, this is what we’ve ended up with. All the original pages are inside, and now the cover will last for many more years.

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New(ish) Studio

May 24, 2013

So. Yeah. Hey. It has not quite been a year. I’m a bad blogger. Hopefully, this new Quickpress app on my new(ish) phone will help me stay on top of things.

So the rest of 2012 was full of art. I’d give a more formal recap, but I’m all about forward motion.

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So, in February, I took a big step forward, when them Fire Cider folks (Dana & Amy. You might recognize them from EVERYWHERE) got themselves a shipping warehouse here in Pittsfield, and offered me a spot to use as studio space.  I readily agreed and now I have a freakin’ window! Seriously, this is a big deal when the centerpiece of your operation is 450 lbs. (You need a sturdy floor, so it’s usually basements…).  Beautiful, eh?

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(That’s my window. With some February frost)
Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying working in natural light, and I can even draw from live models here. Dana and I brought a fridge in a few weeks ago. We are quite content.
That’ll be all for tonight. Here’s a picture of a man wrestling a bear:

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Nope, just my liquor cabinet. But hit that hard enough, you’ll see bears, elephants, whatever the hell you want…

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Been a while. Been busy.

July 8, 2012

So let’s see, my last entry was in early April.  It’s been three months to the day, in fact.  Rather than wax philosphical, I’ll just give you a rundown on what I’ve been up to – neither to boast nor complain, but just to give you an idea what an artist’s life is like.  And, if you’re like me (as many artists are), you have to squeeze all this in and around 40 hours of work and some semblance of a home life.  Here goes:

Bones & Bodies – The month of April was spent in preparation for my solo show at Gallery 25.  Here are a few shots of the blocks I took as I was working on them (and of the reception.  And everything else in this blog, so that I could keep the inserted photos small):

 

And then there was the reception.  Hoo boy, it took place during the innaugural First Fridays Artswalk, and as such was completely, overwhelmingly crowded (not that that translates into sales…).  I had to stand behind the bar every so often just so that I could have one conversation at a time.  See?

As part of the promotional junket for the Artswalk, I got to go on the radio with

the positively delightful Donna Todd Rivers.  That was so much fun, I thought I’d like to do it again sometime.  Oh, and there was also that pressless printmaking demo I did at the gallery for 3rd Thursday:

After that, I set to work on some book orders.  After the bookbinding incident at the Y Bar, Chef James placed an order for Beer Club Passports.  Then a second order.  So I made a fistful of those.

Then I was approached by the good people at Shire City Herbals – you know them as the Fire Cider People – to make a teeny, tiny book of recipes they’d compiled for Fire Cider-based mixed drinks.  Registration is less than fun, just so you know.  I’ll bind blank books any day over printed text, but that’s not news to anyone who’s tried it… They came out great.  So great, that a second round of those was ordered, as well.

Oh, and we’re about to have a niece.  Like, this week.  So, of course, onesies:

In line with silk screening, I’m working with some friends of mine back on the Cape, who are putting on the Harborside Music & Art Festival.  Now I am doing the shirts for that event.

Oh, and lest we forget the Gold Frame Show at the Y Bar (again with the Y Bar?  It would take an entirely different blog post to really get into that, Damien).  I pulled out some pencil drawings I had kickin’ around of a cow skull that my friend Eric and I bought in Tombstone, AZ.  And had to leave in AZ, since they would not allow me to check it on the airplane, and it was oppressively expensive to ship.  Thus the peices are called “You Can’t Take it With You”.  And you know we had some gaudy-assed gold frames tucked away.  You know this.

Interspersed throughout this madness, I’ve been working with some forward-minded locals to start up a food co-op in Downtown Pittsfield.  Yeah, I’m co-chair of the outreach committee.  There’ve been some fun meetings, and I got to visit on air with the Downtown Diva again, so it was well worth it.

And we’ve been shopping option for a new studio space:  Everything from the upstairs of a former mill to a small storefront in New Ashford.  Looks like we’ve settle in a shared studio space in downtown Pittsfield where, fortunately, my press is already currently in residence.

There was also this newspaper article.  Somday, thay wil spel mi naime rite.

On the easy side, my books have been selling at Lenox Print & Mercantile, so I needn’t worry about that, except to keep the stock rotated.

I did get to rock out with 3/4 of my old band one day.  That was pretty rad.  I should do that more, it keeps things fresh.  And it is hard to stay fresh when you’re this busy in this heat…

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Shifting Priority

April 8, 2012

Book-A-Day has been temporarily suspended.  Sadly, it is not to make time for more adventure, but for work.  With my upcoming show at Gallery 25 in May, I’ve got a lot of work left to do, and time is not my friend.  It’s my own fault, though.  Not because I’m lazy (which, admittedly, I am.  Or at least I’d like to have the luxury to be lazy…), but ambitious.

I started a few block prints of bones, to supplement the drawings (like that one there) in my show.  And, in a classic printmaker move, decided that a whole series is in order.    Of course, a series of bones equals… wait for it… a skeleton.  So, now I am frantically carving an entire skeleton worth of blocks.  I just finished the ribs.  It shall be my swan song.

On the upside, I need only carve on side of the skeleton.  God bless counterproofing.

Also, on the upside, our guest bed looks like a table in a forensics lab.

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Books, Block Prints, & Adventure.

April 5, 2012

All right, so I dropped the ball this week and only made six books.  I was on an adventure.  And adventure waits for no bookbinder.  But, hey, that’s the great thing about this deal I got with myself – I can cut myself a little slack when I want to.

The adventure involved a breakneck 36 hours across the state, and suffive it to say that I’m far too old for that sort of nonsense.  I paid for it with a full-body shutdown upon my return home.  But there was rock and roll, digging

in te dirt, taxes, and lots of caffeine.  I regret nothing.

Beyond bookbinding and adventuring, I’ve been working on an upcoming show of figures and block prints.  Most of the drawings are done, but I’ve still got a lot of blocks to carve.  So, onward…

This is the postcard.  It’s in the mail, promise… More on that upcoming show in the next post…