There is nothing I love better than an afternoon spent in an inspiring space, talking art with people.
Yesterday I was scheduled to do a printmaking demonstration at Bluerock Gallery. I drove an hour-and-a-half from Canmore, through the gorgeous foothills and ended up in Black Diamond, Alberta. If you’ve never been to Bluerock Gallery, let me introduce you: it’s housed in two 90-year-old small-town buildings on Main Street. It carries the work of over 150 Alberta artists and artisans, and has a collection that is hard to believe in this town of about 2,300 people. (My recent blog with owner Karen Gimbel, tells more.)
I had the blessing of a lovely February day. Those who live here know that the weather in mid-February can be anything but friendly in this area. But today, we were lucky … the sun was shining, the roads were dry, and the little skiff of snow on the surrounding fields was hardly going to be a problem.
Printmaking is an ancient art form, but it’s one that is definitely not mainstream in my neck of the woods, so when I get a chance to get out in public and show how it’s done, I jump at the chance.
Taking my craft on the road is fun, and after a few times doing this, I find it’s an easy thing to say yes to. So, Saturday morning, I packed my few cases and brought my portable printmaking studio to Bluerock Gallery.
The beautiful thing about printmaking is that it can be scaled down to a small size, perfect for demonstrating in the gallery. This time, I added a perfect piece to my portable set up — a clothes drying rack that is compact and perfect for hanging wet prints.
Before I came, I prepared my art. I planned to demonstrate a simple black & white design of fields and farm buildings (so typical of this agricultural area) and print them on postcards, a new item in my roster. I hand-stamped the back with a vintage postcard mark, and added a stamp with my website and company name on it.
At the demonstration I was both carving and printing. We had a steady stream of people through the gallery — it was a typical busy Saturday. Many customers stopped to watch me carve a block and print my postcards, and always there were lots of intelligent questions about how it’s done, what tools I use, and what was the best method for printing. (My favorite was from a young girl who asked me, “Why are you so passionate about printmaking?”)
I even had a few fellow artists who had tried printmaking come in specifically to ask me technical questions about inks and block supplies, and where they could best source materials. Supplies for this type of art can be tricky to find — even in the bigger center of Calgary — because many of the mainstream art stores carry some, but not all, of the printmaking supplies I use. I was happy to share my go-to suppliers, and my love of printmaking. Here are a few highlights from the afternoon.
My block is inked and ready for printing. Isn’t this a gorgeous place to create art? I got to pause and look at all the inspiring art surrounding me all day.
Here I am pulling a print of the postcard. Between talking and sharing my art, I was able to print about 30 postcards during the afternoon. Some were even “dry enough” by the end for people to take home as a free gift.
The postcards are drying on the new clothes rack. It worked perfectly, and held a lot of postcards!
One moment, about two hours into the demonstration, I turned to find a delicious espresso coffee and biscotti laid on my chair by owner, Karen … in a beautiful, artful mug and plate. Listening to Karen chat with customers over the afternoon was such a pleasure. She’s a knowledgeable curator of art, and takes such good care of everyone — even her artist doing a demo!
Here is the finished printed postcard: spring fields in Alberta. It was so fun to create these tiny pieces of art … dreaming of a time when the clouds are fluffy and the fields are plowed and ready for spring planting. Not so very long now!