I am thrilled to write about this fine book, Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques and Truly Original Projects by Christine Schmidt. I got my early copy (a review copy from our publisher, Pottercraft) right before the holidays and have spent some serious time pouring over it since then. It's outstanding. I have big love for Christine's work, I've written about her rubber stmaps and other items she designs for her company Yellow Owl Workshop many times, so was pretty dang excited when I found out she was writing her own book—a book about printing, no less! So, I pestered her with my nosy questions and she was kind enough to indulge me. And, as fate would have it, she will be here this weekned in Portland! She has a book event at Powells this Sunday, Febuary 13th at 4-5 at the downtown location. It's a hands-on thing, so get ready to make some stuff.
Here's me asking her a boatload of questions. She is funny and awesome, as you will see.
AK: So, Christine, thanks for talking to me about this fine book you have written. How does it feel now that it's out?
CS: Bizarro. I was working on it for so long I never thought I would actually be able to hold it in my hands. When I finished the last round of edits and pressed "send" I actually laid my head on my keyboard and cried. But now that it exists in real dimension I can hand it to my friends and family and say "this is what ate up all my time. Forgive me!"
AK: I feel after reading your book like I have taken the best printmaking class ever. But it's even better than that because there are no weird guys in my class being all—weird. (Oh, art school.) You really provide secret/awesome information, like when making your own stamp pads (which in itself is so great) use salt to thin the textile ink. Brilliant! You are a gold mine of information. And you use textile silkscreen ink even on paper, right?
CS: Ahh shucks- thanks Amy! Being cheap and lazy can pay off. Once I figured out most acrylic paint is the same thing I just started buying textile silk screen ink for all my printing applications that use acrylic. Cut the number of art store runs and art store bills in half. It is just like regular acrylic and works the same on paper but it has an ingredient that allows it to be heat set on to fabric. Conversely you can also make any acrylic paint textile friendly by just adding some fabric medium. So many times the answer isn't to just go buy something else- it is use what you already have differently. The salt trick, which I use in the DIY stamp pad project, just thins the paint. I stole the idea that salt extracts moisture from Cooking 101. And, despite my husband's dinner time pleas and his imagined hyper tension, I will tell you there is not one thing that isn't better with some salt!
AK: I don't want to give away every tip here, but again, glue dots for sticking wax seals to paper! Amazing. I assume this solution comes from some custom wedding invitation work you did?
CS: I did use this technique for a custom seal for a wedding invitation. I used the couple's first initials in the design. I needed several hundred wax seals and I wanted each and every one of them to look awesome. Usually if you are doing wax seals directly on the envelopes you are bound to mess a few up. Couldn't take that risk so I created my own little assembly line and went down the row of dots (melt, melt, pour, stamp) one by one. The wax paper that holds the glue dots is waxy so it peels off easily and the glue dots themselves seal the envelope. I just peeled off any seals that didn't make the grade. The end product is very elegant. And SPOILER ALERT nobody would have guessed the secret ingredient is a tube of Wet n' Wild lip gloss. Told you I was cheap!
AK: Another project I love in the book is printing the same image on different found papers. This is so wonderful, yet so simple. Again, not a question, but let's discuss it anyway.
CS: Amen. I love using found paper. Sometimes a blank white sheet of paper is the scariest thing! If you take cues from your found paper (maybe illustrations, words, textures or patterns) you already have a creative head start. I tear up old books, pick up old maps, wallpaper - really anything. Go through that freebie bin outside the used book store. Flirt with your butcher to score some of that waxy paper. Save those color saturated super market circulars. Just channel your inner hobo.
AK: I need to pause here and just be with the phrase "inner hobo" for a second. Okay, when buying these supplies, you mention that touching materials is key. I totally relate here. I feel the same way about paper and fabric. When I was heavy into monoprint years ago I used Rives BFK, and because I knew what that was, it made sense to just buy in bulk, but for smaller projects, there is nothing like experimenting with textures. It can be THE inspiration—the material itself. Is this true for you?
CS: I always order my staples in bulk. For instance I buy tons of Fabriano Mediovalis cards for making most of my personal stationery. I am familiar with the material. I know what I can and can't do with it. It is a solid dependable mate. Ahhh but what about the romance! I like to mix up my choices by working with different surfaces. That leads to a ton of mistakes but also some really satisfying triumphs. I like to push myself to try new things because I am easily bored and am also a dork.
AK: You seem to be a person into the process, printing on different materials, changing your mediums, and working with constraints. Before you went into this stationery/print work—did you see yourself here? You have a successful business now, and a book, and a new store (congrats!), does this surprise you? I'm thinking about the difference between my friends who were graphic design majors, who knew that would go professional, vs. my painting/printing friends who wanted to get gallery shows and just paint, and I am always interested by the artists who land in the middle.
CS: I am very into process. I love to take one technique and think about how I can use it on a different surface or a different scale or with a different image. I like problem-solving. At least now I can pretend that all my strange printing experiments are "research." I never trained or planned on being a professional graphic designer. Nobody would have hired me. I studied fine art and knew I wanted to make my own work. AND I knew I wanted to eat and sleep indoors and such. This work seemed like a happy medium.
I created every product in my line just because I wanted one. Which is a terrible but exhilarating business plan. I started with cards because I could make a lot of image variety with a meager investment of some elbow grease and sleep-deprived nights. I think every day that I am very very lucky to be able to make things all day long. I think every day that I am very very lucky to work with smart cool people that really keep this business afloat. And I am beyond lucky to have a husband that puts up with my craziness! Oh and I am always suprised! I blush every time I see my work displayed in a store. I bury my head in my hands and shrink into my shoes while my husband yells and points to disinterested shoppers.
AK: As I read this book, I get so excited to just carve some erasers and print, and so do my girls. There is something so satisfying about printing and repeated mark-making. It's comforting. Do you have a favorite technique you keep going back to? Silkscreen? Carving?
CS: I love carving my own stamps. Yes!!! I love the repetition. It is so calming. I love that part of "making" where you just get into it and everything else just falls away. I love that I could carve something very simple, like a square, and just by changing the orientation of the stamp, or the color, or the number of repetitions you could get something different every time! You just have to be willing to go outside of the lines and really just play! I think it is important not just to focus on the end product. "I want it to look just like this." "It's for Aunt Sue and has to be just right." Nope. Just make it for yourself and have a good time making it. Get lost in the project and don't get stifled by your expectations.
AK: I know I have asked other people this before, but it's important. If you were a full moon shape-shifting animal, which would it be?
CS: Finally the Teen Wolf portion of the interview! I wish I could say I was a dignified regal beast. An eagle! A wolf with a dark purple sash and a brass medallion! Yeah..but I am probably a monkey. I am always jumping around from project to project. Playing around with different techniques. I joke too much. I laugh too much. I actually spent many of my formative years convinced I was a monkey. Even broke both my wrists swinging from a tree.
AK: And here you are, the monkey hard at work. Thanks Christine! And I am so excited about your event coming up at Powells!
CS: Rad! I hope you can make it. I will be giving a demo on carving stamps and everybody will be able to use the stamps to create valentines and custom bookplates!