One of my favorite things about printmaking is that printmakers like to share. Printmaking allows people to collaborate in ways that other media do not. My first experience with collaborative printmaking involved friends celebrating my 40th birthday and a new press. I printed all of the blocks in one print, and each family received one.
Elizabeth Busey, Turning Forty: A Collaboration, Linoleum Relief Print
I found that people who might not consider themselves artistic were willing to participate when their work was presented as part of a whole print. So I decided to try it again with members of my church. The intent of the project was to create banners to hang in our sanctuary during the Lenten season.
People were asked to meditate on the ideas of hunger and abundance, and to choose either a square or rectangular block for their image. At two workshops, we talked about using tools and creating textures as people carved their images. We printed the blocks by hand on Japanese Hosho paper so people could take their image home.
I took all of the blocks to my studio to create the banners. We had 27 blocks to use, so I create two templates for the two halves of the paper. Since the squares and rectangles were a standard size, the blocks could be interchanged, and I created three different banner layouts.
Cardboard templates kept all the block in place when the print was run through the etching press.
Mixing the inks was a challenging process. I use very transparent inks in my own work, but this process required much more saturated colors. Inks had to look right on the Hosho paper, but be dark enough to be seen in the bright windows. The amount of light coming through the windows was astounding, even on a cloudy day. I used a great deal of ink getting the color right.
It was hard to find the perfect hue and intensity for each color.
The banner halves hung from my ceiling drying racks.
Pieces of Hosho were torn in half, and the reassembled lengthwise to create 5'+ banners.
I pieced together the banners and added dowel rods using photo-safe double-sided tape. I learned from previous experience that glues ripple the paper. Raffia and 3M removable hooks were used to hang them in our sanctuary windows.
The architecture of First United Church of Bloomington has Japanese and mid-century modern influences. The banners were placed so they enhanced the sanctuary's view of the church's courtyard garden.
During the workshop, I asked people to write down the inspiration for their image. I created a display where each block was printed singly and identified with the artist’s name and their inspiration. Artists were very happy to see their work and words, whether they were 11 or 71.
People spend as much time reading the artists' comments as they do looking at the whole banners.
The banners are something new for our church. During the last year we have had several exhibits exploring what it means to make visual art as form of worship. People learned that actually creating the art themselves was a way to engage in worship, and printmaking was the perfect way to introduce people to making art. Lots to see, and lots to talk about!
If you are anywhere near Bloomington, Indiana, stop by First United Church on the eastside and enjoy the collaborative art!