When Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century, he revolutionized the world. Writers could now replicate their work at a fraction of the time and cost it took before – and for the first time in history, anyone could access (and learn) important information about the world around them. .
But Gutenberg’s press didn’t come out of nowhere. Printing has its origins in the Han dynasty in China, where the first prints were made with woodblock prints on silk already two millennia ago. Since then, printing has become an invaluable tool for artists wishing to reproduce their work in an affordable and creative way – and has made art much more accessible to the average consumer. It is also a creative practice that people of all backgrounds and ages can participate in, as there are many different ways to create an impression. And as a testament to the value of this technology, we are still surrounded by printed matter every day. Even the dollar bills in our portfolio are small works of art, each made using intaglio, letterpress and lithography methods.
For Kelly Autumn, printmaking is the perfect combination of fine art and tool-based craft. Originally a painter, she was introduced to printing about five years ago while attending East Bay Open Studios (a free, self-guided tour of artists’ studios in over 12 different cities in East Bay). This artistic discipline, with its history and all its heavy machinery, resonates with her. Growing up, she had been fascinated by antiques and tools: her father was a master carpenter and making things by hand was a way of life.
These days, she’s completing a printmaking degree program at Diablo Valley College while working as a teaching artist in the Bay Area. She spends quite a bit of time at the Sonoma Community Center, where she helps run the print studio. “Affordable print studios are rare,” she says. “The beautiful, bright workspace means a lot to me. Since focusing on monotype, relief and intaglio printing methods, the sturdy Griffin press has been essential to my artistic practice.
Kelly connects to her Asian-American heritage through her work, infusing aspects of her cultural heritage into her prints. There are also other ways in which the printmaking – and the Center studio – creates a sense of community and connection. Working in this shared space alongside others provides the opportunity to mentor new engravers and, in turn, learn from more experienced ones. Kelly explains, “My goal is to inspire our local printmaking community, while helping to encourage new artists to flourish and inviting established artists to visit and share their work. She continues, “Engraving can be as collaborative or as independent as you want it to be. Working in community print studios is a wonderful way to share and learn new skills and make new friends.
A case in point was a print-focused community event that took place at the Center on Saturday, May 7, in honor of Print Day in May – a worldwide celebration of printmaking. Community Center print instructors and studio users came together to display their art and offer demonstrations of various printmaking techniques to a curious audience of print enthusiasts and interested community members.
If you want to learn more about printmaking and Kelly’s work, she will be teaching an outdoor botanical printmaking course at Jack London State Historic Park on May 21. engraving experience is required. Using gel pads and nature stencils, we will create unique floral prints surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of the Beauty Ranch.
To learn more about the Botanical Monotype Printmaking class and the Community Center Print Studio, please visit sonomacommunitycenter.org or call 707-938-4626.