If you told me a year ago that I should be working alongside designers and illustrators instead of painters, I would have raised an eyebrow and said something like “Uh huh, okay… sure.” dripping with sarcasm, and walked away. Because I’m a fine artist: I show work in exhibitions. I work conceptually. I’m not a sell-out, I don’t do commercial stuff.
I AM a fine artist, I DO work conceptually, I DO show in galleries, but I also create functional objects. My prints are not only pieces of art, but pieces of paper that are used–they serve a purpose. For years, my studio practice was two distinct, somewhat separate things: painting and printmaking. I painted in one spot and printed in another. Sure my prints were influenced by my paintings, and vice versa, but I couldn’t print in my painting studio, and I couldn’t paint in the print studio.
My work is interdisciplinary, for sure. But I’ve been clinging on to my painting background. Because art studios are for “fine artists”, right? They’re geared towards painters. I’m a painter, right? I still do that, don’t I? Printmaking is just something else I do. But I can keep my print supplies with my painty things and just schlep them to the print studio when I need to, right?
It worked for a while, having my own studio for painting and doing preliminary work for prints, and then hopping over to the print studio when I was ready to print. But then I got stuck, I was painting as an alternative to printing, not because I wanted to paint, but because my paint was there. It was accessible. Having to bring my practice somewhere else to work wasn’t cost or time effective. It was a chore and I started finding every way I could to avoid printing.
But I was craving to print. When I got my (current) studio I was SO excited that I had the space for my own press. This new big space meant I could have a printing press AND a studio-mate so I did not have to work isolated anymore. With Elizabeth as my new studio-mate (my then only illustrator friend), I realized my studio practice and hers are much more similar than I could have imagined, and that I was seriously missing the collaborative energy of shared (print) studio spaces. A printmaker and an illustrator, I would have never thought we would be such a perfect match.
For me, the (somewhat) fine art printmaker, PaperBase is not just a print shop attached to my own studio space (although that will be SO AWESOME), it’s a space for me to be surrounded by people working in like-minded fields. No more being the printer/painter next door to the painter/sculptor. No more sawdust getting stuck in my ink, or smudgy fingerprints on my nice paper.
With PaperBase, we are helping to bridge the gap between fine art and functionality within the realm of printmaking and book arts and design – they’re not the same but they do speak to one another. There’s a dialogue there between the maker, process, and audience / consumer. Printmakers, book artists, illustrators, and graphic designers are often cast outside the traditional realm of artists because of the inherent functionality of these types of works. I’m not saying we need to be 100% included–but we deserve a circle of our own too–as makers. These process are all about the democratic dissemination of knowledge and ideas, less about the individual and more about the whole–about the community.
So then why, if we’re making work that so relies on a larger audience, do most of us paper-based creatives end up working solo in our individual spaces, or displaced in ill-fitting spots–be it our apartment, the tiny corner table at the coffee shop, or the hourly rated print shop where it’s in, out, done – a solo activity? We should be around each other, inspired by each other, in a space where we can say, “Hey, what does this shade of green say to you?” without a glare from the headphone-wearing, over-priced coffee sipping stranger next to us.
*Originally posted on PaperBase.