I attended the Southern Graphics Council Conference this past March in Chicago, after a ten year break from the the trips, and was completely inspired by all of the wonderful prints and book arts being made. The energy being expelled in the name of printmaking always astounds me when I visit these conferences. Particularly interesting to me was the emphasis on printmaking in combination with the book arts and by the thrill and ease of screenprinting in the 20-something's generation.
"Greening" the studio was also a hot topic. I ended up smashed up on the side-stage where the "Is Printmaking Going Green?" panel spoke, neck cranked half backwards, for the full hour listening intently with the many, many other artists who piled into the lecture hall. Friedhard Kiekeben ( www.friedhardkiekeben.com ) led the panel which presented recent research into environmentally conscious alternatives to traditional printmaking. I was also introduced to NontoxicPrint.com, started by Kiekeben, which is an incredible resource for artists interested in learning more about staying safe in the print studio. Many of the issues that were discussed in this panel are dealt with in more detail on this website. I highly recommend visiting it.
"The Green Printshop: A Model for the 21st Century" panel presented four different health conscious print studios representing profit, not-for-profit, community based and private examples. Liz Chalfin from Zea Mays Printmaking, Morgan Calderini from AS220, Curtis Wright from Anniversary Year Press and Mark Zaffron from CRATE were the artists present to discuss their studios. They were interesting to learn about in general, however, there was too little time given to the details of their environmental decisions and practices and I left feeling a bit disappointed.
I attended a couple of the Open Portfolio sessions which gave artists the opportunity to reserve a 2' x 8' table to display their artwork. There were four one-hour sessions, each one filling the Hilton's Northwest Hall. I am guessing that more than 300 artists were showing their work that day. The energy in the room was wonderful! Artwork from wall to wall, everyone anxious to talk about their work.
There were contemporary prints from established artists, recent graduates, and students looking for grad. schools. Prints turned into business cards, buttons, bookmarks and stickers, printed t-shirts, baby clothes, scarves and posters. The print generation is clearly interested in getting the attention of the masses and not afriad to stray from the old school, traditional form of a crisp, pristine, untouchable print.
I have always considered myself a conservative tradionalist when it came to printmaking but I must say that I completely enjoyed the carefree spirit represented in this year's open portfolio session. It left me feeling unafraid of lack of time to make a museum quality print while raising children. Instead of passing on the opportunity to make art I now felt inspired to work on a less serious scale just to be able to experience the passion of creativity no matter the outcome.
Along with the "throw-away" version of prints there were also plenty of extremely detailed, beautifull, labor intensive prints that sent inspiration and awe through my soul. I could have stayed there for hours but had to move on to make the next activity which was a visit to the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative studio on North Western Avenue.
The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative is Chicago's longest-running independent printmaking workshop founded and operated by Deborah Maris Lader. It offers a street front location open to the community along with individual rentable studios. I wanted to be able to compare their studio and work environment with that of Tiger Lily's. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to meet and talk to Deborah Maris Lader as she was busy with other visitors during the Open House. Instead I spoke with one of the more serious renters that seemed to be quite happy and inspired with the CPC and its professional and freindly atmosphere.