Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chicago: WEN Workshop (4)

*Warning - this post features an extraordinary number of printing presses*

Now this looks an interesting place to start a day:

Paul Aken's wonderful Platen Press Museum in Zion, IL.

Walking into the first room, we were met by a group of iron handpresses, including this handsome Hopkinson & Cope Albion Press:

The unmistakeable Columbian press. We were given the opportunity to print on this during our visit:

A large Washington Press:

A sweet Hopkinson & Cope table top Albion. There were many of us who would have liked to adopt this and take it home:

Finally, a wonderful Reliance:

In another room, Earl had found a Columbian No. 2 Platen press, similar to his own.

Everywhere, there seemed to be a handpress.

Carl and Rachel were among those who pulled proofs from the Columbian.

In the meantime, I explores Paul's "Toyroom":

In the book room, a poster that caught my eye:

I have never in my life seen so many presses together in one place:

Elsewhere, there were various casting machines, including this wonderful linotype:

It was getting towards lunchtime and some more people were due to fly out so we drove to the Illinois Beach State Park for a picnic lunch:

After lunch, we went to the beach for a last look at Lake Michigan. I skimmed stones into the lake and then sat and made towers of pebbles, contemplating the directions that my printmaking might go as a result of my experiences during this week.

We drove back to Sharen and Don's.

The basement was growing quieter and more empty all the time. Sometimes, Kitsi had found it difficult to cope with so many visitors but now she could relax again - and enjoy Sharen's proofing press:

Saturday morning found me relaxing again at Kildeer.

Then it was time to leave for the airport (and a wonderful upgrade!) for the flight home.

I am so very grateful to the Wood Engraver's Network for their kind invitation, to Sharen and Don for their generous hospitality and for the friendship and companionship of my fellow engravers. I know that my work will change as a result of my experiences and I look forwards to a time later in the year when I can start to explore some of the ideas that I am forming. In some ways, I left for Chicago a jobbing engraver and arrived back in England an artist.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chicago: WEN Workshop (3)

Wednesday morning was a working morning and it was interesting to hear the sounds made by massed engravers - the sounds made by movements of gravers against wood, of wood against leather sandbags and quiet words...

I engraved a little but my mind was partly on the presentation that I was scheduled to give after lunch. I decided to walk out and enjoy Sharen and Don's lovely garden and the wildlife that it harboured:

I watched a small group of Canada Geese land on the lake...

Seeing them against the reflected light was a wonderful illustration of a point that I wanted to make - the fact that sometimes opportunities present themselves like this; sometimes we "see" the world as engravings.

A brisk and welcome walk (accompanied by ominous thunder) to Chipotle and an equally welcome burrito set me up for my presentation before the assembled engravers and guests. I spoke about my development as an engraver, my influences and the way that I work, emphasising my belief in the importance of sketchbook work. The audience listened to me kindly and patiently. I enjoyed a most pleasant afternoon meeting people.

In the evening, we ate pizza and enjoyed the first of two sessions during which members made their own presentations of work.

All in all, a most enjoyable day.

Thursday morning found us driving to Evanston and Northwestern University. First stop was the Deering Library where eyes were caught by a reconstruction of a Gutenburg Press:

Once again, we were given access to some very interesting and beautiful treasures.

I poured over a set of re-strikes from William Blake's 1821 engravings for Thornton's Virgil:

We had already seen three early proofs from these blocks at the Art Institute.

I was particularly taken by a group of blocks engraved by Eric Gill. One seldom sees these and it was interesting to see how seemingly effortlessly they were cut and cleared:

There were more Blakes on display, including a wonderfully printed re-strike from one of his largest Copper Engravings: The Canterbury Tales:

The linear work in the background is simply beautiful:

I find this figure simply breathtaking in the way that she is drawn and engraved:

Yet more Blakes - his illustrations to Dante's Inferno:

There was much to catch the eye and cause debate:

In this case it was the "make-ready" formed from layers of tissue that was used to print one of Thomas Bewick's engraved blocks:

Apart from prints and blocks, there were some well chosen books; I could have pulled up an armchair and spent the day here.

We walked from The Deering Library to the Block Museum where we had the opportunity to examine some extremely fine engravings. I was pleased to have this session which was dedicated almost exclusively to American engravers.

We enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria and then walked to Bookman's Alley. This is a most marvellous bookshop and the hour we spent there was as pleasant as any during the week:

In the evening we enjoyed lovely food at a local restaurant befor returning to Kildeer for coffee, desserts and more member presentations. This was a most convivial evening. Carl played his concertina and farewells were said as some members would not join us for the final day.

I was given a very beautiful book:

A 1947 facimile of William Blake's "America A Prophecy"

I could not have received a more well chosen, appropriate gift and memento of my visit; it is a lovely addition to my own Blake collection that sits above me as I type:

To be continued...