There's been a bit of dead air around here. I didn't intend to break from the blog for two weeks; I must have needed it. It sounds like an excuse to blame my energy level and motivation on the shifting season, but I can't attribute the steady decline in both to anything else in particular. There has been progress. Things have been made. Photos, however, have not been taken. I'm positive I'll hit an upswing soon. Meanwhile, I thought I'd distract you with something completely different.
When Mike and I first started living together, there was MUCH conversation about decor. Mainly, he didn't see the point of having furniture or hanging pictures, and I did. Oddly enough, "Mike the Resistant", had a large collection of print-filled poster tubes stashed under the bed (still a topic of contention). "Michelle the Persistent" (that's me) continued to nag about wanting a place to sit and things to look at. Mike maintained his refusal in the name of non-domesticated men everywhere. It went on like that for some time, until one day, there was a compromise. Fast forward six years... The Resistant and The Persistent still can't manage to conquer the subject of throw pillows, but we have compiled a pretty large collection of screen prints and developed a fondness for the work of a small group of artists. Searching for prints has become an activity we look forward to doing together. And, when we learned that one of our favorite artists was opening his studio to offer a print making class, we we felt like Charlie must have.
Jay Ryan a.k.a. The Bird Machine very kindly shared the afternoon of his birthday to show us his process for screen printing. He generously gave us free reign of his studio space to explore and participate in the making of a print he'd designed for use in the class.
A steadfast opponent to digital printing, Jay uses rubylyth to create screens for the layers of his prints. This is a step I was further impressed with after I'd sliced through a number of areas unsuccessfully. It's not as easy as it looks.
Jay talked us through the process of coating screens in emulsion, exposing them, and preparing screens to print.
He showed us how to orient sheets under the screen to assure print placement, gave us a little tip for creating 'legs' to keep the screen from resting on the table top, and talked through the basic process of hand pulling.
Then, with the oversight of his right hand (wo)man Elizabeth, we took turns printing.
Once we'd finished the first layer, we got to play with the mechanized press, which is certainly more efficient and consistent than I was at pulling ink through the screen.
Our print was composed using four screens, 3 of which were cut from rubylith and a fourth layer to incorporate fine detail and outlines.
Jay's technique for applying ink using gradient coloration was really interesting. This print show the result of three pulls; the application in combination with layering produced six distinctly different shades and a less obvious shift in hue between the top and bottom of the page..
The class spanned the entirety of six hours- A full afternoon, complete with breaks to peek at the baby bunnies nesting behind the studio and pats for Nora, the shop mascot/labradoodle. At the end of the day, everyone in the class got to take home a print from the run. Mike and I agree that we left feeling like we'd learned a ton. And, we're excited to see if we could repeat the process at home with any level of success.
If you're in the Chicagoland area (or not, one person flew in from Maryland to take the class) and interested in screen printing, I would highly recommend trying to take a class with Jay and Elizabeth! In addition to his years of experience and breadth of knowledge, Jay's gentle nature and kindness makes him an incredible teacher and, the experience is well worth while.
The Bird Machine