I have been working with a growing collection of hand carved linoleum blocks since January. They are unique for a few reasons. First is their custom cut dimension of 1” x 9” – I refer to them in my notes as the ‘long blocks” when planning. Second is their distilled subject matter, an interpretation of 19th century Anishinaabe beadwork patterns used for the creation of bandolier bags – a popular trade item with the settlers from overseas. The initial designs of this decorative item being modelled from ammunition bags from Europe. Finally, they are mounted to be what is referred to as “type high” (.918”) so that I can lock them into a printing press and produce many copies cleanly and efficiently using my vintage Chandler and Price platen press. I wanted to be restrained with my usual inclination towards perfection. I deliberately left carved marks in place and the occasional quirk in ink application (as long as it was consistent within the edition). These lino blocks were meant to feel handmade and imperfect.
My current project, the Sibling Series, was born from a friend’s observation that it would be interesting to see the blocks printed without any overlap. Until that conversation, I had not considered this possibility of starkly presenting each of the blocks for viewers to evaluate on their own. Up until that point, I had been burying and layering with many components obscured, which felt comfortable to me. I planned out a series which would be printed in tandem all at the same time. The concept was to use the long blocks to symbolize traits, 5 blocks used in each piece. They were printed so that no two pieces has the same combination of blocks or the same combination of colours. This is to reflect how our ancestry comes out genetically. Each piece in the series resembles each other closely, much like a family. To reflect that French settlers were encouraged to marry within First Nation communities, I decided to name each piece in this series with a common name from 19th Century French communities. Another nod to mixed heritage.