Thursday, September 20, 2012

Receiving the Day-Opening the Gift of Studio Time

Crossalphabet, 2009
I am finally back in the studio this week and it feels marvelous! Art on the Lawn was simply amazing but, but incredibly time consuming and exhausting!  My creative soul needs nurturing, but my studio must be put back to rights before that happens.

The calligraph to the left was completed nearly 3 years ago and still hangs in our home. I am now working on a series of small limited edition prints that combine letterpress and calligraphy techniques. The overlapping of the type and pen made letters creates a visual space that is very intriguing to me. I am exploring the thin-ness between the letter stems, counters, and arms each time I create one of these.

Finding the time to bring each of the new pieces to completion over the past three months has been impossible. My heart is calling me to continue to increase my studio time to get them done.

For me letters are symbols that help turn matter into spirit. I think often about the close relationship between the scholar printers and the calligraphers of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Many letter makers of the late 19th century went on to become type designers in their own right. They relished the making of each letter by reed or metal pen, by brush, and through cutting inscriptions in stone, one letter at a time, for unique presentations. At the same time many of these calligraphers were functioning as letterpress artisans, printing multiples of elegant broadsides and pamphlets, with type and ornaments they had come to love. Each individual sort, placed into a composed line of type, in the composing stick and then placed in the type form, was the equivalent, I think, of the making of one letter at a time with the pen or brush. There was more uniformity to the shapes of each piece of foundry type they placed in their composing stick, but the individual spacing and relationships of letter to letter, ornaments and borders, were just as unique as the illuminated page.

Ottawa Letterpress Gang Type Sampler Contribution
This past summer the Ottawa Letterpress Gang worked on a group project. Each participating member created a signature type sampler from type and ornaments they hold in their collections. There are different levels of expertise for each printer in the group, but everyone has tried their best. This is a copy of the bi-folio I prepared, which is not my best printing to be sure. I have a great deal to learn about printing, but had a wonderful time with the project.

My vision for the project included using my wood type for an illustrative element, with emphasis placed on the uneven, scratchy nature of the printing, akin to posters printed by Hatch Show Print from time to time. I tired to include as many fonts as time would allow, however, time did not allow for me to print more than the 6 sizes of Bradley, some of my Cloister, and a sampling of the massive amount of Engravers that sit in my cases. I have at least 10  more fonts, some of which are still unidentified, that will go into my own type sampler later this year. I have added my chinese chops for my name, "nan-chee" to the left of my prop card imprint, the chop for "calligrapher" to the right, and at the bottom the chop for "book artist." These little signatures are, for me, a small artist's book edition. There was to be on more folio in this signature, however, when I  printed the second color for the centerpiece, I managed to ruin the pages. My ink was too heavy, and bleed through was an issue, so that folio was not included.  Stephen and Gayle Quick of Weathervane Press in Ottawa will be binding all the signatures into a book. I now have to begin the very hard work of figuring out exactly how to refine my  printing process. So much to learn!

 In the month prior to Art on the Lawn I designed a new series of blank note cards using the odd bits of wood type and early 20th century cuts in my collection. Some of the cuts are printed and left to stand on their own, and many I have "hand coloued" with watercolour. Some of the cards have hand stamped images over the letterpress type.

Each of the letterpress multiples is signed. These cards are currently for sale at Valley Artisans' Co-op Gallery in Deep River. They are also available by mail. Email me if you are interested! Currently I am on the hunt for more unique cuts to use for these note cards as I am primarily interested in printing from vintage blocks. I am hoping to complete some additional collage printing for greeting cards this fall.

As I begin to put the studio back in order and assemble the pieces I need for two book projects and more cards, I am reminded that fall is upon us and winter not far away. My heart is calling out to me that I need to "hunker down", get everything in order, and my ducks in row for the winter studio time. As much as I love the changes in the seasons and our time at the lake house, I relish the quiet of the winter where I can remain indoors, surrounded by my studio books, supplies, and equipment, to create uninterrupted by calls to other chores.

The change in seasons also reminds me of the joy of acknowledging the opening of the gift of time that my faith provides for me. Dorthy Bass writes in Receiving the Day about a concrete way of living in time that is alert to both contemporary pressures and rooted in ancient wisdom. The rhythm of our lives used to be governed by the rising and setting of the sun from season to season. Now with our ever increasing modern conveniences, our daily rhythms are governed by the commitments we take and the choices we make. Often we get a real shock when the seasons change.

For me, moving from the brilliant hues of summer sun into the decreasing light of fall into winter, I am reminded of the grace that comes from acknowledging the gift of concentrated studio time that winter brings to me. I feel so very blessed to have such an amazing studio, filled with equipment, supplies, and materials for the production of the items I am driven to produce.

As the rain drips against the roof, and the coolness of the basement studio nips at my hands, I welcome opening this new gift of studio time brought to me by the change in the season. My heart soars like a hawk when I think of my creative time in the weeks to come, and I know that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and wisdom of God in my time, all will be well.