I have something on my mind that I would like to share.
A few days ago, I decided to publish a list of current calls and contests specifically for printmakers, simply because I could not find such a list and wanted to have one. I’ve received an incredibly positive response, and I’m gratified to know that I’ve done something helpful for others. Using my list as a starting point (which covers opportunities that printmakers in the United States are eligible to enter), an intrepid Prinsty member (Minouette) drew up a list with a little more detail (click here to see it). I will maintain my list with as much proficiency as time and human limitations will allow, keeping my focus on what U.S. citizens are eligible to enter, while the Printsy list will have a wider focus.
Printmaking is rooted in old technology, though there are new and exciting things that the advancement of technology and knowledge have made possible for printmakers, like solar plates and less-toxic solvents. There is something satisfying and romantic about engaging in processes that have been used for hundreds of years (this does not apply to screen printing, but I mean no disrespect). Presses are beautiful things, and relatively simple in comparison to modern machinery. If you have patience and access to a machine shop (or can hire a machinist), you can build a press. You can purchase Doug Forsythe’s designs to build an etching press, see part of Kevin Welsh’s design and process (shame it’s not finished), or you can build a bottle jack press from a design by Charles Morgan. Ray Trayle built some lovely etching presses right here in Portland; I learned how to print on one of them.
Then there is the beauty of the physical surface of the plate: copper, zinc, wood, linoleum, aluminum, limestone; and don’t get me going on about the sensual properties of paper! These surfaces, and the physical processes of working with them, are so much more exciting than pixels on a computer screen. Printmakers tend to like seeing things on paper.
Then there is the community aspect of printmaking: we all learn from the people with whom we share studio space, making the process of learning to print something of an oral tradition, or a master/apprentice situation. Perhaps this is why I’ve had trouble finding reliable resources about printmaking online. I have several excellent books on printmaking that cover a wide array of processes, but they lack the circulation and (let’s face it) convenience of being accessible via search bar. I love my books, but not everyone who is beginning to print, or picking up printmaking again, is willing to invest in a book of questionable expertise that usually costs much more than your average paperback. Who can blame them? Most of the books on printmaking I’ve found are wildly out of date, full of solvents and tools that are no longer readily available, if they still exist. You have to know your stuff to know whether or not the materials discussed in the book are relevant–which seems to defeat the point of getting a book on the topic, unless you’re a bibliophile like me.
My point is that there is a reason I’ve had such a positive response regarding my list of calls and contests for printmakers: printmakers need online resources that are concise, coherent, easy to access, and easy to read. Just because we love tools and techniques from the past doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a piece of the present. This quest to find and share resources is why I’ve recently signed up for INKTERACTION, an international social media and networking hub just for printmakers.
If you know of any excellent printmaking resources on the Internet, please share them in the comments. We would all love to know, I’m sure.