Where to begin? Fall is here, kicking and screaming and I finally feel like I've had a chance to come up for air.
Studio Expansion: My garage is now officially a core component to my studio practice. Late July, we welcomed a third press to our family: a Chandler and Price Old Style platen floor model. Some good friends helped us load and move this along with a paper cabinet, composing table, type cabinet and full sized paper cutter. I am truly blessed.
The flip side to this is making room and extra clean up. Almost all of my open studio time in August has been spent puttering away in my garage doing glamorous jobs like scraping old labels, sanding, painting and degreasing. We are in the homestretch now which is good - winter is coming and my car needs it's shelter for parking!
On a side note, paper cabinets are a beautiful thing. With 25 shallow drawers, this is for my art supplies like what the wardrobe is for Narnia. Things feel so in reach and organized!
Current Projects: I'm in the early stages of some small still life and landscapes for the upcoming Christmas season. I am also busy printing all sorts of letterpress goodies for market as well. Add in some collaboration involving a laser engraver, block printing more flour sack cloths, instructing as well as the aforementioned studio expansion and I am a busy girl.
Website Update: I've cleaned things up and added some greater detail on events and workshops. I've been planning this out in my head for a while and finally sat down long enough to get it all up on the web. I still have loads more pictures and details to add, but this should suffice for the moment. I have a love hate relationship with digital tinkering.
Plein Air Postponement: My deepest apologies to all of you who have expressed interest in further plein air meetups - this has been on my mind constantly. I had a domino effect happen with that equipment acquisition that affected too many areas of my household. Add in multiple extra weekend bookings for August and I couldn't make it happen. Stay tuned for spring though - I have some alternate ideas I'd like to try out with plein air!
Have I told you lately how much I love living in the foothills of Alberta? Every day I get to go out onto the local path system and either walk, run or bike through the wild beauty of the Cochrane area. This keeps my cup pretty full.
One of my most favorite places is Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. it is less than 10 minutes away from my house. There is something about the Bow River, the grasslands and the copses of trees that make my heart happy. This is what I was trying to capture in this piece.
My apologies for not posting terribly frequently these days. I've been swept up in the frenzy of summer, moving/cleaning letterpress equipment and travelling all over the place every week. I'm back in the studio now for the most part so expect to hear from me a little more in the coming weeks! I have some exciting events coming up that I'll post once they are finalized!
I do post a little more often on my social media (but not as much detail as my blogs) feel free to follow me for some behind the scenes pictures and updates!
Facebook: Michelle Wiebe Art
To say I've been busy lately is an understatement. I've had a little side line going besides my usual rotation of art making and instructing, plus a child graduating and the bustle of summer.
If you read this blog semi regularly, you will know that for many, many years I have been increasingly pulled into Letterpress printing. For those of you that don't know what that is, it is the pre-digital, pre-offset method of printing text and images on paper. Commonly used for printing books, posters and newspapers. It dates back to around 1440 and Gutenberg's invention of printing with movable type.
For me, it all started ages ago (in the range of 15 years) when a dear friend of mine gave me a table top platen press that needed a little restoration and some parts. I had no idea what this thing was but knew somehow you could use it to do linocut printmaking. So I kept it knowing that I could eventually use it once I figured out how to get it running. I started paying a little more attention to the word "letterpress" when I encountered it, slowly realizing what it was and seeing the possibilities beyond straight linocut printmaking. This period lasted about 10 years. The machine sat idle.
Then about 4 or 5 years ago, I saw a workshop posted at a local gallery for beginner letterpress printing. I jumped at the chance. The machine got carried out of the basement and dragged along so the instructor could take a look and let me know what needed to be done to get it working. I started actively looking at letterpress work and tutorials online when the mood struck.
Fast forward another year or so, I end up at a museum on a tour and start telling the blacksmith in charge there about my press and wanting to learn how to take apart machines so I could figure out how to fix it. I end up volunteering once a week there (and still do) helping with that sort of thing and working in metal. The press gets fully restored. I start bringing the press to events so I can share this art form with the public.
Last summer, through my museum connections, I end up in touch with someone who is looking for a home for her grandfather's press. Desperate to keep this equipment out of the scrap heap she speaks with quite a few Calgary organizations who cannot take this press out of her basement. We figure out a way and remove it successfully. This new press is brought to the museum in August. Coincidentally, during this time, my family moves to a bigger house that can accommodate multiple type cabinets and a full size floor model platen press. Work begins when time allows on restoring and repairing the press.
At the same time, I learn that one of the organizations that was interested in this press (but could not take it) was Heritage Park, a huge historical village/museum in Calgary. A light bulb goes on in my head.
One of the frustrations I have had over the years is trying to learn the proper way of using the equipment I have. Letterpress information can sometimes be wildly off base as the blind lead the blind in a dying art form. If you do find someone offering a workshop or running a business with beautifully produced work, chances are they don't live near enough to visit often. Video tutorials can help, but don't always show a lot of detail. Old textbooks are a wealth of information, but you cannot ask questions if you do not understand.
There can be a disconnect at times from the generation who were skilled tradesmen working a full time printing career to the next generation of artisan letterpress operators that utilize new as well as old technology. I know a few people in artisan camp (and thankfully, Calgary is really blossoming in this area so I am VERY thankful for the camaraderie) but I didn't know any old school pressmen. Until I realized there must be more than a few of them working with the machines at Heritage Park.
So I sent a nervous email before Christmas and an off season visit was arranged so I could tour their newspaper building from 1909, The Strathmore Standard. It was great, they were very generous with their time and information. My interest must have been evident, because they suggested I apply for a part time job there if I wanted to learn more an run the equipment. So I did! I've been working 1 or 2 days a week for the past few months and it has been so much fun. I've wanted to demonstrate letterpress for years, especially to children and this has been a wonderful opportunity. I even get to wear a costume!
Plus, the team at the Standard is great. We have guys who have worked in the newspaper industry, owned their own print shops and a variety of others who just love the equipment and want to keep it maintained and share it with others. Naturally, this has taken up some of my time (part of the reason my artistic output has been a little leaner than usual - don't worry, this was a planned educational break and I'm already gearing up for my late summer painting binge!)
A few weeks ago, the major work was finished on the press (serious props to my blacksmith friend at the museum - I couldn't have done this on my own). It was delivered safe and sound and is in my garage awaiting the last few minor parts. It runs so beautifully and is even sporting a brand new treadle so I can power it by foot!
You have no idea how exciting this has all been to me. A gift from a friend who was moving away (who couldn't take it with him) has absolutely transformed a lot of my art and taken me on an adventure of a lifetime. Through this I've learned so much more than I would have about printmaking, machinery, metal working, graphic design, the history of type, bookmaking, and of course letterpress printing. I've made some life long friends (and keep making more) who continue to encourage and guide me.
The best part is that I have barely gotten started. The coming months and years hold so much potential and I am so excited to see where it goes.
Long time, no update. It has been very busy both in the studio and in our household. One of the things taking a lot of my time lately has been Letterpress related. It is a long (and hopefully interesting) story that I am saving for it's own post (Hint: it involves costumes and moving crazy heavy pieces of machinery!) Anyways, in amongst all this busyness, life in my studio has been puttering along at a brisk pace.
I love this time of year because the roads are reliably decent and the weather is good so I can plan to travel to deliver fresh art, teach or demonstrate. Here is some stuff I have coming up in the next few weeks in June and July:
Muk Luk Magpies: The initial batch of Flour Sack Clothes sold very quickly so I recently dropped off a large batch with lots of colours and patterns. Just in time for teacher gifts! You can get store hours and more information here.
Impressions Printmaking Exhibition: The Leighton Art Centre invited me to participate in this upcoming show done in partnership with the Alberta Printmakers Society. There are some amazing local artists represented here, so I am quite excited to hang my work on the same walls as them! The opening for this show is this Saturday from 2 - 4 pm. Hope to see you there!
Canada Day at Just Imajan Art Gallery: I will be painting alongside 14 other local Cochrane artists during the Canada Day festivities. I'm looking forward to connecting with the locals and will demonstrate my process as well as have a selection of my work available for sale (working on some fresh stuff that I hope will be ready on time!). You can get more information here.
On the Road Travel Sketching Workshop: SECOND DATE ADDED We are so pleased to be able to add a send date for this sketching workshop at the Leighton Art Centre. The July 8th date filled up really quickly and we think there is ample interest in adding a second date. I think its the combination of getting out there with a sketchbook in hand paired with mysteries of bringing art supplies with you when you travel. We are going to cover both of these in an action packed day long class! Second class date is July 15th - I hope you can make it. You can register here.
Red Deer College Basic Linocut Printmaking: I am very excited to be offering a class through this venue! I believe there is still room to sign up if you are in the Central Alberta area and want to take the plunge into creating your own relief prints. You can register here.
If you have any questions about any of these classes, my work or how to book me as an instructor, please send me a message and I am happy to get back to you! Its been a great start to summer and I am really pumped about these upcoming events.
Airdrie, Alberta is home to a very neat studio and shop, Mukluk Magpies. While it is primarily a stain glass operation (trust me, they are one of the best in Alberta for all things glass related), they have been steadily amassing the work of regional artisans to sell through their gift shop as a complement to their other wares.
This morning I brought in a full selection of Flour Sack Cloths, Letterpress printed cards, framed Linocut prints and some paintings. I'm really excited to have another venue to show my work through.
You can find hours, directions and more on their website here.
Leighton Art Centre will be having a printmaking show from June 24th - September 24th and I am really excited that they have chosen all three of the pieces I submitted for consideration!
As some of you know, I'm working through this plates theme in my paintings lately and it seems to have jumped the barrier into my printmaking. I really enjoyed taking the time to carve out the patterns that have been so familiar to paint. Stripping away the colour, texture and tone to focus solely on the graphic nature of these pieces of china was immensely satisfying.
These are all printed in their own limited edition of 10. The first of each will be framed and available for sale at the Leighton Centre, the others in the edition will be for sale unframed (at the moment). Please send me an email if you are interested in knowing more about these pieces!
This summer, the Leighton Art Centre is hosting a brand new Plein Air series of workshops to give students opportunities to gain skills for creating work outdoors. On July 8th, I am thrilled to be teaching on a subject I hold very dear to my heart - travel sketching.
There is something extra special about capturing your vacation memories via paint and ink. Being intentional with taking a moment to sit, study and draw has a way of slowing time down and locking the warmth of the sun, the smell of the cafe and the bird noises deep into your memory. It is also a wonderful way to share your experiences with friends and family.
During this class time we will be exploring a number of approaches you can take to mark making, sketching and color notation. We will also learn how to adapt to our drawings for nature settings, cityscapes and indoor settings as well as have a VERY informative discussion about what to bring with you when travelling locally and and internationally so that you are well prepared for your artistic adventures.
Find our more about this class and register here.
It's been a busy time of making in my little studio! I have a number of projects on the go - painting, linocut printmaking, letterpress, lesson prep and then I've had a couple of orders for flour sack cloths. I am very relieved I have moved on from the season of endless paperwork and can instead focus on getting my hands dirty every day!
I recently had to change suppliers for my flour sacks. Man, are these new ones ever nice! These are very thick and thirsty and they take the dye and ink beautifully. They are larger than my other flour sack cloths, they measure 30" x 36". Like any flour sack cloth, they get better and softer with age. These are heat treated so the ink is permanently bonded with the cloth. It's been neat that people have been ordering batches of these, a lot of them destined to be gifts. They are pretty versatile, they can be used as tea towels, receiving blankets, scarves or bread basket liners or whatever else you can think of!
This batch was a mixture of deep blue, light blue, tan, orange, deep pink, and light pink (the 2 light pink ones are still available). I will be printing more deep blue, deep pink and tan ones in the coming weeks as well as dying some fresh batches (I just have to decide what my new favourite colours are!!)
If you are interested in a custom order, just shoot me an email and I can let you know about price and shipping. Usually I can have an order ready to ship in a week or two depending on quantity and if you have specific colour/design requests.
I could see this development coming for a long time. Discontent with the plates in my possession, at first I branched out to borrowing the plates of my friends and family. This worked for a while but lately, I could tell my eyes have been straying... I find myself building surreptitious stacks in thrift stores and sneakily taking pictures with my phone.
The arrangement in this painting is one of those fleeting encounters in the housewares department of a secondhand store. I was attracted by the different eras represented here. A classic fine china floral sandwich plate balanced on an 80's era dinner plate with punchy colourful fruit and leaf combination anchored by a graphic platter from the 60's or 70's in the prerequisite brown pattern of the day. I fiddled and played around with the composition for a few minutes under the quizzical eye of a staff member. I felt a little odd after I took my picture and returned the plates to their mates. I loved the image I captured though, it was worth the stares.
Still working in my limited palette. I seemed to have dropped the cobalt blue in favour of only having phthalo blue to mix with. Old habits die hard and I find I don't have to think too deeply to mix what I am looking for. I could have used a magenta for the floral china though - the pinks are not as vibrant as the real thing but I am just fine with how it looks in the completed piece - I find magenta can easily look too harsh sometimes.
I've been holding off on posting this piece for a while, but I am really excited to share it with you and announce that it has been selected for the Leighton Art Centre Juried Exhibition! I'm really stoked that they chose two pieces this year, the other piece is Turkish Cup.
This piece was a challenge (in a good way) to paint. The patterns are particularly mind boggling on these plates. Luckily, I've painted most of these plates before, so it was very much like visiting with old friends. It was so much fun to stretch the range I could get with my limited palette. Hopefully my joy in painting this extends to you, the viewer!
You can see both pieces from May 6th - June 18th at the Leighton Art Centre in Calgary. More information can be found here. This is an awesome show to take time to come see, there are some amazing artists connected to the Leighton Art Centre.