52 Weeks of Printmakers: Rich Fowler of Boarding All Rows

Throughout this series, I’ve featured many printmakers who took their first printmaking class when they were working toward their art degrees. But there are other stories, too – of people who didn’t become artists until they’d worked in non-creative fields, who cobbled together an art education through evening and weekend classes, and who developed their skills outside of their day jobs. Rich Fowler, Person in Charge of Boarding All Rows, fits in the latter category. With a background in economics and commercial real estate, Rich didn’t delve into art until he’d been through a few career changes.

He has a lot to say about his process and the inspiration behind his work. And, yes, he also explains the meaning of “Boarding All Rows.” Read on (and definitely check out his website for his tutorials when you’re finished)!

When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?

For many years I had an interest in photography and then started printmaking in 2009. Relief printmaking was attractive because it required little in the way of equipment and didn’t involve much time in front of a computer, which I was trying to get away from. I was initially drawn to the tactile nature of the art form. All you need to get started is a few inexpensive supplies, a cleared kitchen table and something as simple as the back of a spoon to burnish your prints.

I really enjoyed the process of hand carving linoleum and then experimenting with printing the blocks. A workshop at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA taught me how to make multi-color relief prints using a key block, which opened the doors to more interesting compositions. Evening drawing classes helped hone my rudimentary illustrating skills. Over the years, I’ve broadened my horizons by taking workshops in drypoint printmaking, collage, fabric printing (with Jen!) and woodblock printing. I’ve been fortunate to learn from a lot of San Francisco Bay Area artists I admire greatly.

How would you describe your work?

I work out of my studio in the garage of our mini, mid-century modern home here in Northern California. Currently, I’m most focused on making linocuts, which I print from my hand-carved blocks on an etching press. I’m fascinated by patterns, like those derived from nature, geometry, the built environment, and through experimentation while mark making. The basic organic forms found in flora, mountains, water and clouds, particularly resonate with me. I use color, in addition to patterning, to help me break from purely representational art.

I really enjoy the reduction process where the same lino (or wood) block is used to print all of the colors in an image. Each successive color is printed after more of the same block is carved away. I get a kick out of peeling the paper off the inked block to see how the piece is progressing and figuring out what to do next.

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

The first print I made of much significance was probably a three-color, multi-block linocut in a workshop. The subject was a local man at a Buddhist festival I attended in the stunning mountains of Ladakh, India. I was working from a photograph I had taken on that trekking trip a few years before and I remember how much I liked learning how to carve a second block to add a pop of color to the black key block image.

Tell me about the name “Boarding All Rows.” Where did it come from? How does it relate to your work?

I live in a perpetual state of wanderlust and international travel means a great deal to me. A lot of my work is inspired by past trips overseas, as well as hiking and exploring the amazing places we have here in California, like Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. I believe that travel really can be transformational – it’s had a great deal of influence on my life. I wanted my company’s name (Boarding All Rows) to reflect that core passion of mine – not to mention my twisted love of airports.

What are you currently working on, and why?

Last year, I was fortunate enough to have one of my aviation-themed linocut prints used as cover art for a Dutch translation of Pilote de Guerre (1942) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I really enjoyed seeing my print in another context and I’ve been thinking of different ways to get my work out there besides original prints on paper. I’m now in the early stages of licensing my artwork to the print-on-demand site, Society6, so it can be used on fabric and home decor.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

Oh, a dream project…definitely something travel related. How about being the artist-in-residence at San Francisco International Airport?! Getting to go behind the scenes and see how it operates around the clock. Can anyone out there set that up for me? :)

What’s next?

I want to explore using linocuts in new ways like cutting them up and assembling them into collages or using them in mixed-media pieces.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Experiment with techniques and materials and don’t worry too much about how other artists or books tell you how it should be done. Own it.

What do you want readers to know about you or your work?

I often have this tension in my creative process between allowing for spontaneity in my work, while at the same time wanting to have a plan laid out for the print from the outset. I have a quote from Roger Ebert that I wrote down and have hanging from my drying rack as a reminder to me.

“The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before. Don’t wait for her. Start alone.”

How can people find you?

My website – www.BoardingAllRows.com – has a blog, linocut tutorials and a gallery of my work, as well as links to my shops and social media accounts. You’ll find me most often on Facebook and Instagram but feel free to contact me any way you like!

Website: https://www.BoardingAllRows.com

Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BoardingAllRows

Society6 Shop: https://society6.com/BoardingAllRows

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BoardingAllRows

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BoardingAllRows

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoardingAllRows

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/BoardingAllRows

 

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Jane Ormes

Jane Ormes’ biography opens with “I am a printmaker with a passion for pattern and the absurd.  When I was 7 I won an art prize at school.  The headmaster held it upside down and I was ( quietly ) furious.” That is a fitting introduction to the Bristol, England based printmaker, whose work is whimsical, charming, and occasionally (with titles like “Yellow Cat with Anxiety,” and “This is awkward”) slyly humorous. Read on, and be sure to check out Jane’s site for many more photos of her work!

JH: When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?

JO: When I was at college we were seldom allowed to print anything ourselves as the technicians of the print and dye studio were so protective of all the equipment ! But I do remember printing a table cloth design . When I left college I found a lot of illustration work and for many years did not do any screen printing at all. It was only 11 years ago , when my second child started school and I had moved into a shared studio space, that I was reintroduced to screen printing by a friend who took me to our local print studio.. And then there was no stopping me ! I had worked in collage for many years and this actually made it quite easy for me to understand how to make stencils and separate colours.

I am trying to paint again as it is such an immediate way to work as opposed to screen printing. I am dabbling in working digitally but I can’t decide whether I like it or not !

How would you describe your work?

My work is often described as being whimsical. It is certainly decorative: I always use texture and pattern. I love the natural word and I look for the humour in situations .

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

I remember sticking sea shells to the outside of jam jars when I was about 5 years old.My grandparents lived near the sea and my sister and I would stay with them during the summer holidays. Next to their house was a wall that was covered in huge scallop shells in rows. I think it is what started my love of pattern. I went back to the house only a few weeks ago and the wall is gone now which is sad. I also remember crushing rose petals with water to make my own perfume!

What are you currently working on, and why?

I am currently working towards a print show that I am taking part in the Lake district, a beautiful part of northern England. I’m also working on a series of board books for children .

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

Oh , I would love to do a range of textiles! And some more children books. My degree concentrated on textile design and I have a real craving for designing patterns at the moment. I would love to exhibit in New York too. (Just sayin’.)

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Follow your heart and don’t follow the crowd. People buy into your joy so tap in to what inspires you. Take risks. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to find the right market for what you do.

What’s next?

I am working on my own range of fabric designs and concentrating on some much larger screen prints for shows in the future.

What do you want readers to know about you or your work?

I work really hard! Being self employed means you are the one in charge but the buck also stops with you! I love my job so it is all worth it. I hope my work brings people happiness .

How can people find you?

Website: www.janeormes.co.uk

Shop: janeormes.bigcartel.com

Instagram: @janeormes

Twitter @janeormes

Facebook: Jane Ormes Printmaker and Designer

 

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Lizzy House

 

You may already know Lizzy House from her many fabric lines, or from the classes she teaches all over the world, but did you know that Lizzy’s background is in printmaking? The Ann Arbor-based artist has a degree in printmaking from BYU Idaho, and just recently created a line of fabric that reflects her academic heritage.

I’ve never met Lizzy in person, but I’m guessing she’s just as lovely in person as she is in her interview and online. Whether or not you’re familiar with Lizzy’s work, you’re definitely in for a treat. Lizzy is wise beyond her years.

JH: When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?

LH: When I was 6 I told my mom that I would design fabric. It wasn’t until my 3rd year in college that I found printmaking. I was having a really hard time in my art program. Most of my professors were photorealistic illustrators and I don’t even feel like that’s art. They didn’t think my work was art either. We were at constant odds, and it started to reflect in my grades. I was so frustrated and disheartened by this overarching disapproval of the very things that I felt like were the reasons I needed to make work at all, that I decided that I would just graduate as soon as I could in graphic design. I was good at type, I had drawing skills, and I had a skill for laying things out. It was by no means what I wanted to do, but I knew I could get decent grades and I knew I could leave with a degree. I had a lot of credits at this point, and I was able to register early which I needed to do to get these specific classes to put myself on that graphic design path. It was really early in the morning and I was sitting in a computer lab in the basement of my the art building, I was registered for those classes, I was settling into this idea and my escape plan, and I heard a voice: You need to drop graphic design and take Printmaking. My immediate response was, “what’s printmaking?” Again the voice: you need to drop graphic design and take printmaking. My response: but I got into the classes I needed… the voice repeated itself a third and final time. You need to drop graphic design and take printmaking.

I didn’t know what printmaking was, I had already come up with a plan, and I was so weary from feeling like what I had to show for or contribute was unimportant, unworthy, and unrealistic.

So with all the faith I had, I did what I had been told. I opened up my class registration. Dropped the graphic design classes, and added Printmaking. My graphic design classes were immediately gone and filled, because they were in high demand and hard to get so there was no turning back. I called my mom after, and she knew my previous plan so when I told her that I had a serious prompting and that I was now going to take printmaking, she said, “what’s printmaking”. I was walking into the unknown, just believing that something could work, and on my first day of printmaking within 20 minutes of the class beginning I felt a deep confirmation that I was in the right place, and every time I print or teach someone to print, I feel that same confirmation that I am in the right place.


You are one busy lady – you have multiple fabric lines, you travel around the world to teach quilting and printmaking, you’ve written a book, you’ve taught at the university level (am I missing anything?). Most people would be thrilled to have just one of these opportunities in their careers. How did these opportunities arise?

It really started when I listened to that voice. But after that it was my blog, and a tutorial. In 2008 I wrote a block printing tutorial that went a little bit viral. The maker community was much smaller then, so visibility was a little more straightforward… And by that I mean, if you googled “block printing” it was wikipedia, and then me. I owe that traffic and so much help to the late and dearly missed Kathreen Ricketson who created Whip Up. Because of the visibility of that tutorial I was contacted by Elizabeth Duvivier who asked me to teach at the first fiber based Squam in the summer of 2009. It was another thing I just felt compelled to do even though I had no idea what it was or where I was going. I taught color theory, pattern design, and block printing on fabric. It was magic. I had never intended to teach, but there I was teaching. And I would say almost all my opportunities stem from that experience. Directly or indirectly. I was changed because I said YES to a lot of question marks. My closest friends in the world are women I met through or because of Squam. If I hadn’t changed my direction to printmaking I’d be a different person. I don’t believe in a luck. I believe in allowing. I believe in being in the right place at the right time. I believe in being proactive. I believe in listening, and I believe in the serendipity of all of it. Life is magic.

How would you describe your work?

I think like a lot of printmakers, even when I branch out, my work is driven by process. It is also deeply seated in the use of strong color and pattern. It can be very light hearted or deeply emotional (like most Geminis…)

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

I don’t know if I can remember a specific first thing, I just remember that we were always making, and I owe that to my mother.

What are you currently working on, and why?

I’m really excited for my fabric collection Printmaking to be released. It is the first time that I have combined my fine art printmaking with my commercial textile design. To be honest, I don’t know how it will go over. Personally, I feel like it’s really lovely and a beautiful blend and pivot of my two worlds, but I’m just not sure how others will receive it.

I’m also actually working on ceramics right now (nothing I’m showing yet). Since moving to Ann Arbor in June last year right after my wedding I’ve just been trying to take it easy and find a place and a community here while still making.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

I do. I have a million ideas. I would like to finally write a book. Ok. I’ve written books, but I want this one to be a vehicle. It’s like I can feel what it is, but I don’t know what it looks like or how I get there yet, and I’m ok with that. I just feel like its due date is coming.

Also, I plan to rent a house on Bornholm (a Danish island in the Baltic Sea) next summer and work on a collaborative body of work with my husband. He’s a pretty amazing artist, and I’m really interested in the work we will produce with some space and time in a place where my ancestors are from. We’d also like to hold a residency or workshops there to collaborate with more artists.

What’s next?

I’m not sure. I feel myself and my work moving in a new direction, and as I’ve shared, I am ok with the mystery, and I’m willing to work until it turns into what it’s supposed to be.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

You have to work. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the online world and having a following. BUT, if you put your head down, and go to work, and if you’re being honest with yourself about the work that you’re doing then it’s going to find its way. Also do your own work. Don’t do someone else’s work because it seems to be working for them or bringing them success. You need to find out what is going to work for you.

What do you want readers to know about you or your work?

That it’s true. There’s a lot of growing and honesty and searching in what I do. I feel like it breathes and changes just like me.

How can people find you? (website, shop, Instagram, Facebook page, Twitter, etc.)

I’m still reworking my website, but it will forever be lizzyhouse.com and you can always find me on Instagram @lizzyhouse.

52 Weeks of Printmakers: The Little Friends of Printmaking

The Little Friends of Printmaking is just one of JW and Melissa Buchanan’s many creative ventures. Artists and designers, JW and Melissa met at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where they studied Fine Arts and Art History.

But that’s a rather dry introduction for two artists who are both fun – and funny. A few years ago I saw a hilarious poster in a photo of Ink + Smog Edition’s studio. It said “Print Faster, Mother Fucker,” and I knew I had to have it. Turns out the poster was designed and printed by JW and Melissa. I think that hilarious irreverence is such a hallmark of their work (and not all of it uses cuss words), and I am, as my Grammy would have said, tickled to introduce you to their work and them here.

JH: When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium?

TLFOP: Melissa is a bone-deep printmaker who made linocuts as a middle-schooler and exhibited her childhood prints at the Wisconsin State Fair. JW took a vocational silkscreen class in high school and loved it, but didn’t return to it until college. At the UW, the printmaking facilities are palatial monuments to process and detail, buzzing with energy and filled with strange characters. And so it didn’t take much convincing from Melissa to get him to switch over to printmaking from sculpture.

How would you describe your work?

Cartoon pictures for dumb babies? Couch Art for weirdos? We’re screenprinters, and the peculiarities of the silkscreen process completely inform our aesthetic. We love flat expanses of ink, overprinting and underprinting, off-register-ness, trapping that looks good, the color and texture shifts that happen when two layers of ink interact. We love thick ink that you can feel with your fingernail, and prints that consider the materiality of the paper and the ink, and prints that you can consider as a 3-D object instead of an image. And so we put all of that into our work. That all of that rigor gets applied to some dumb cartoon picture for babies is beside the point.

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

The first thing we can remember making together was a collage that Melissa then adapted into a linocut.

In addition to your fine art work, you also design a lot of commercial, client work. Do these two distinct practices influence each other? If so, how?

It’s really impossible to keep the two practices separate, and that’s been a very helpful thing, actually. The self-initiated artwork we make has a huge influence on the direction of our commercial work, as art directors typically use our prints as suggestions for new commercial projects. So it creates a kind of self-sustaining cycle where we develop a new style (or a new set of imagery, or a new context for our work, etc.) and then we get hired to create more of it. Hopefully. Well, anyway, it’s been working thus far.

It’s hard to quantify the influence that doing commercial work has had on our prints. We know it’s forced us to become more fluent in the language of design, and to give more consideration to merchandising and the market for our own work. I hope that doesn’t sound super cynical, because we mean it in a positive way!

How do you balance your creative practice with the demands of also running a business?

First, we’ve been very, very lucky to have sort of cultivated an image as two fun and funny people who are brimming with ideas (not untrue, tbh). So, the work we get asked to do is usually pretty fun and art directors will give us a lot of room to express ourselves and indulge our silliness. We don’t find our commercial work to be a chore or something we do as a way to keep the studio lights on.

How we cultivated that image, and I guess how not be driven crazy by the rigors of running a business generally, is to do every little part of the business your own way and let each little thing be an expression of your own personality. Make it part of your practice, and the people who consume your work will get to know you better. This can only be a good thing. (Unless you have a terrible, monstrous personality, in which case go ahead and be opaque and don’t express yourself outside of your work.)

What are you currently working on, and why?

We’re working on a bunch of little things right now. A record cover, because we’re music fans and we like doing them. A Japanese scarf design, because we’re fascinated with hand-printed scarves. It’s an area of screenprinting where we feel we just know nothing. We just came back from Tokyo (for an unrelated project) and the idea that all these scarves were still being hand-printed in the traditional way just blew us away. The project just dropped into our lap, unrelated to our trip, but we’ll take it! Some commission work, which we almost never do (mostly because people blanche at the cost of producing a custom edition). This project is for some friends, including an art director we love working with.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

We feel we ought to be doing children’s picture books, and as dreams go, it seems pretty achievable. We’re always on the treadmill of the next print, the next illustration, the next event. The idea of clearing the schedule and spending x-amount of time on a long-term project is scary to us, because it’s just not part of our process. So we need to recalibrate our brains a little.

What’s next?

Summer art fairs are coming up, and then the fall fairs and the winter fairs after that. In between, we’ll be printing new editions and making new pins & patches and trying out new product ideas and doing illustration work. Repeat ad infinitum.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Take it easy and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. We spent that time of our lives feeling so impatient and anxious, which definitely fueled our productivity, but also took such a personal toll on us. This is a special time, and you’re lucky to have it, because no one expects anything of you yet. And so you have all of this time to explore new ideas and new processes and figure out what your practice is going to be like. Have fun.

What else do you want readers to know about you or your work?

It probably hasn’t come across in this interview, but we are two deeply unserious people. We like fun. FUN IS GOOD! We have a cat and a dog, and they will vouch for our character. Moving to California changed our lives, mostly for the better.

How can people find you?

Our shop is at thelittlefriendsofprintmaking.com/oops, and our IG handle is @littlefriendsof. For everything else, just use Google.