The power (and economy) of community

Artists living in Canmore are lucky: we have several vibrant artistic communities…from organized to informal. I have benefitted from this collaboration of artists (mostly from the informal kind) as my art and volunteering roles have begun to stitch me into the fabric of the local arts community.

Wikipedia had one of the best definitions of community I could find:  “A group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household.”

Social cohesion is definitely one of the best things about community. Lately, I have had the fun of going on a road trip with other artists trawling for antiques, have attended a gallery opening with an art friend I met on a committee, and had several artists over to my studio to share tea and a chat about art.

I am finding, though, that there are other advantages to having a community: they can quickly connect you to “the good stuff”. Let me explain.

A lovely medium added to Georgian Oil Paints allows any range of beautiful colors to be mixed for printing.

As a printmaker, my medium is not really “mainstream” where I live. When marketing my art, that can be a good thing. But, when it comes to buying art supplies (printing inks, blocks and acid-free printmaking papers), it’s very hard to find one art store that has it all (or, in some cases, any at all).

For a new project, I needed to get more of a particular kind of oil paint that when mixed with a certain gel medium, transforms the paint into an ink suitable for printing. Pretty specialized stuff. I bought it at one of my favourite Vancouver art stores (Opus) but have not been able to find it in Calgary or Canmore.

Then, a local glass blower put me onto a Toronto store (Aboveground Art Supplies) that not only carried this brand of oil paint, but also sold other printmaking supplies that I had previously only found in the United States.

I can now order this specialized rubber medium through a Calgary art store. With this, I create a carved and inked original piece of art.

My glass blower friend and I put in an order together and split the shipping, which cost me $6 to ship from Toronto (that’s 2,700 km by plane, for those of you who don’t live here)! I couldn’t drive the 100 km to Calgary for that!

Another artist told me about a Calgary art store (Inglewood Art Supplies) where she saw printmaking supplies. I found they had some of my favourites, and could special-order other materials I had been bringing in from San Francisco.

Recently, my grandfather’s old typewriter put me in need of some help again. Hoping to use the typewriter to hammer out some messages for an upcoming collage workshop, I found the ribbon dry, dry, dry (not even a ghost of an image on the paper) – not surprising after 60+ years of use.

So, I jumped on the Internet for a couple days looking to either buy or re-ink typewriter ribbons. Eventually the path led to Dan, the self-proclaimed “Mister Typewriter” in Missouri, USA. Although he specializes in selling “fine, old typewriters”, he promptly answered my email inquiry about where to buy new ribbons for old typewriters with a sad: “They do not make them anymore.” I should have known better than to ask.

Then, the light went on. I know a couple of collage artists locally who were at a recent “snail mail” art session in Banff that made liberal use of old typewriters, so I posted a quick question on Facebook. Soon, I had detailed instructions on how to re-ink my ribbon. It was messy (thanks for the advice on the surgical gloves!) but completely got the job done to great result. (Plus, I got a lead on Etsy to buy new ones.)

It makes me laugh that the answer was right in my own back yard. It was quick, cheap (the water-based ink cost me about $4 at a local stationery store) and further strengthened my sense of community. I learned that if you don’t know the answer to something, ask your “peeps”. Next time? I’m going to my local network….first!

My Grandfather’s Remington Noiseless Typewriter after a re-inking brought it back to life!

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