Saturday, March 14, 2009

Printing Workshop in 29 Palms

We've been traveling to the Palm Springs area for years now. I'll never tire of the desert. Hiking, daydreaming, taking photos. Exploring. Meeting people and discovering new places. I searched the web for something new for this trip and found the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery.

What a cool place. The town of 29 Palms is an easy hour and a half drive from Palm Desert but feels like a different world. I passed Joshua Tree National Park along the way; it took all my self-control not to stop, but I'd arranged a one-on-one printmaking class with Gretchen Grunt, artist, and owner of the Creative Center. Her website showed group classes but none that coincided with our trip. She offers individual instruction so I booked the day.

The Gallery had an opening the night before, the eclectic mixed media work of Anna Houghton. The painting on the wall is one of Anna's children. Gretchen was cleaning up when I arrived. With a cup of spicy ginger tea in hand we assembled the materials we'd need for the day. She opened this tool box full of pots of ink and I was hooked.

We set up right in the front room. Sunlight streaming in the window. Gretchen scooped colors of Akua water-based ink onto a glass topped table. She laid out brayers of different widths and jars of paint brushes.

Ah, the press. Although I was interested in learning a process that I could continue at home, I fell in love with her beautiful printing press. We also used a pin roller which is much less expensive than the large press, but I was not as satisfied with the results. For many of my prints I used a piece of string along with the ink. I loved what it did to the page and I was especially enamored with the embossing that I got from the press. Sigh. I know I'll be searching eBay and craigs list for a used press.

Gretchen demonstrated the process for making a monotype. Simply, we applied ink to a plexiglas plate using a variety of tools, placed paper on the plate, covered the paper with layers of thick felt and then using the printing press, rolled over the paper and plate. The ink transfers to the paper. Voila. Monotype is a misleading term because we made a second or even third image with the same inked plate. These additional prints are called "ghosts." They're more subtle than the original image. In many cases I liked them better. Gretchen stretched out a kind-of clothesline across the room. We used old wooden clothes pins to hang the finished (or soon to be finished) prints up on the line. I really enjoyed walking up and looking at my pieces. Most of the time I used a smaller plate. It just felt right. Gretchen encouraged me to make larger prints and I did do a few.

I liked this one in particular. It has an original print and then a ghost on top of it.

I addition to the monotype process we incorporated collage. I picked out interesting pieces from a huge box of scraps and then went outside to spray 3M Super 77 adhesive on the back of my scraps (yes, wearing a face mask). For the collage, we inked a plate and then laid the scraps with adhesive, glue side up, on top of the inked plate. Then added the paper, rolled the press, and held our breath as we peeled the paper off to see the results. I liked this one.

It was a great day. Tiring, exciting, and peaceful, too.  I learned a lot. Halfway through we headed off to the 29 Palms Inn, owned by Gretchen's mother. We had a great lunch outside in the sun next to the pool. We chatted with folks at the other tables. We didn't rush. We strolled back to the center, worked the rest of the afternoon, and then packed up my prints so I could head back to Palm Desert.

This is a photo of Gretchen.

I had to stop on the return trip and snap a few photos of a Joshua Tree. They are really wonderful to look at and so otherworldly.

I drove back to Palm Desert listening to a local radio station and making mental notes of places to explore and things to do; hiking in Joshua Tree, of course, and the Morongo Canyon Preserve; making a blog posting of the printmaking adventure, thinking of ways to explore printing back at home - specifically on fabric. I'm smiling thinking of this now. What I'm trying to say is that I absolutely enjoyed this in different ways at different times. It was fun to discover the Creative Center on the web; to look forward to the day, and early in the morning, to drive out to 29 Palms without knowing what it would be like. I had a great day printing. And I came home a changed person for what I had seen and done. Isn't life grand?

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