Salt Market: A Journeywoman’s Travels

Two weekends back, Nick and I went to the Salt Market to check out the crafted goods for sale and to support local artisans. I thought it would be more of a window shopping sort of trip, but we ended up with a nice haul

saltmarket

(not pictured: a fox leather pouch I took back to the artisan because the riveted eye was not lined up on either side of the leather – which started pushing up the leather around it. She fixed the eye though and mailed it to me a few days later: awesome. Her shop is at Lilipad Creations.)

Aside from the fox pouch and the wood ring from The Knotty Owl, everything we purchased was hand screen printed. Stock of screen printed goods:

Nick’s octopus shirt from Blackbird and Peacock

My bat shirt from Silk Oak

The Salt City print from [re]Think Syracuse

The sea creature print and plush from Isaac Bidwell

My handbound book with screen printed cover from Amaranth Press & Bindery

And other things I wish I purchased, particularly from The Black Arts Studio, was screen printed. It’s not just that these goods are wonderful, because they are, but I found an appreciation for the skill and knowledge demonstrated in the goods. I felt like I was roaming form master craftsperson to master craftsperson to study their techniques for my own printing. The space for the market, bazaar like, was small and full of people, so I didn’t get to linger as long as I would have liked to. I wanted to ask each of the printers (and there were more than are represented here) what materials they use to print, what their workspace is set up like, the techniques the use to achieve their quality prints, what their process looked (and felt) like. But I didn’t. Maybe they would have been open to talking, or maybe they would have been protective of their mysteries. I left feeling like my prints were of the caliber of gifts you give to your mom because she’s obligated to love them: thoughtful, and representative of love and care, but craft in a connotation of children’s arts and crafts as hobby. I realized though, that these prints weren’t made from the drawing fluid method I have been trying (and failing) with, but the photo emulsion method. The photo emulsion method essentially burns an image (from a photograph or something that can be designed in programs) on to the screen to print, which allows for fine detail.

Photo emulsion, as compared to the hand drawing fluid method I’m using, is like printing an image of Frankenstein’s monster from a vintage movie poster versus me hand sketching my rendition of the monster – they’re not quite comparable. While I might improve my techniques for making prints using the drawing fluid method, I am still limited to my ability to draw – a separate craft. I thought it odd that I hadn’t thought about this before in my printing: I am the designer and the craftswoman.

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hand(s) tool

In making this last print, I became aware at how much I used my hands to print:

  • to draw the design with pencil
  • to stir and apply the drawing fluid with paintbrushes of different sizes
  • to touch the fluid to ensure it dried
  • to stir and apply screen filler with a paintbrush
  • to ensure the screen filler is dry to the touch
  • to gauge the temperature of water, cool, to rinse out drawing fluid and to use the fingers as a brush to help remove the drawing fluid
  • to dry the screen while making sure the screen filler is still set
  • to measure and cut papers to print on
  • to mix and apply ink
  • to draw ink over the screen with the squeegee, ensuring thickness is even
  • to hold the paper under the screen in place during the printing
  • to lift the screen steadily while holding the paper in place to prevent smudging
  • to open seals
  • to wipe drips
  • to clean – to apply screen cleaner with a wide paintbrush on both the front and back of the screen; to run hot water while scrubbing to remove screen filler (hot enough to break down the filler, without burning my skin)

Taking inventory allows me to gain perspective on what the process requires of me. Within each of those steps of the printing process is a calculation angle, pressure, a range of motion. And beyond my hands, how I position my arms, how I hold my elbows, how I bend over my kitchen table to print and over my bathtub to clean the screen. Pulling, pushing, scrubbing, sketching – each a small process unto itself. The movement, the actions of the process are wonder(ful) to me as someone who is learning to screen print through the process of screen printing – the cultivation of technique through embodied learning. I still make mistakes, I still lack precision, but I am printing in so far as I am making products.

Technique has a bad name; it can seem soulless. That’s not how people whose hands become highly trained view technique” (Sennett 149). Technique is intimately linked to expression. Richard Sennett’s chapter on “The Hand” is something I returned to as I felt a stasis in my printing – no visible development from the second to the third print. I questioned what, in the drawing fluid technique, didn’t produce a more skilled print. And while it is difficult to isolate a singular aspect of the process (too much ink, paper that isn’t porous enough to hold the print well), I can think about what I did or did not do. This is learning from the technique of printing – the looking at process and product as isolated and in unison to determine what seems to be “off”. A techniquing of technique.

Transitional objects”, material things that themselves change, what can engage curiosity: an uncertain or unstable experience…In developing technique, we resolve transitional objects into definitions, and we make decisions based on such definitions” (158-59). The materials, despite being the “same” as far as the state that they are in, still have great variance. Thickness, how long something dries, proportion of mixing materials – these keep the process of printing from being “same”. They are always unstable, and have potential for variance, which keeps technique in making in developing – in the process of.

Technique develops, then, by a dialectic between the correct way to do something and the willingness to experiment through error” (160). Despite variance, experience and growing knowledge of properties and actions permit technique. Though I have watched videos and read text directions on the web, I have not learned the “correct” way of printing from a printer in terms of apprenticeship. It is the combination of these web instructions with the material conditions and my (in)capability that foster technique.

We have become the thing on which we are working” (174). This seems odd to me that I don’t think of myself in terms of being a screenprinter, an identity as a craftswoman, but in terms of my screenprints – what I am making as process and product. My movements, my work, are situated in my body by what I am doing. I think about what is possible and limitations in my prints in the making of them; what results, what yields is because of a physical working.

Aristotle

Reading Aristotle (ashamed to admit that it’s really my first textual encounter), I was stuck on this articulation of art as production, as making, under the guidance of right reason – a direct and natural response of a person to the sight of the beautiful. And although right reason is described as a natural response, it is made clear that art, or rather the productions of art, are not things that come into being as nature because they originate without a person. While it make sense to me that the productions are not things that exist within nature, I wondered in what ways nature, as a state of mind, could be a material – maybe beyond influence/inspiration that complicates right reason. I don’t just mean nature as materials like wood, stone, clay, but the structures of nature – honeycomb, natural arches, sedimentary rock – that craft craft/art. Then I saw a book I picked up before I visited my friend in Japan (and dragged him to traditional craft centers) and began skimming for relationships to right reason, products as good, and nature in the description of craft:

Folk Arts and Crafts of Japan by Kageo Muraoka and Kichiemon Okamura

“The Hidden Beauty of Common Objects” (“Zakki no Bi”):

The Craftsman and His Craft

“Although the Japanese folk artisan is poor and uneducated, he is a fervent devotee of his craft…Unconsciously, he is motivated by his belief in kami (the spirit of nature) and seized by its indomitable force…Because he was not self conscious about what he was doing, the man who made this dish had not planned the final outcome of his creative effort…What is beauty?…We cannot expect him to be prepared with clear-cut answers to such questions, but even though he may not have thought-out knowledge, his hands move rapidly at his work And we could perhaps say that just as the voice that speaks the Buddhas name is not actually the man’s voice but is that of the Buddha, so too the hands of the potter are not his own but those of nature”.

Soetsu Yanagi

And another thread:

Screen shot 2013-09-11 at 10.33.15 PMDr. Tobias Hoffman

And another – Aristotle:

“now Making and Doing are two different things (as we show in the exoteric treatise), and so that state of mind, conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Do, is distinct from that also conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Make: and for this reason they are not included one by the other, that is, Doing is not Making, nor Making Doing. Now as Architecture is an Art, and is the same as “a certain state of mind, conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Make,” and as there is no Art which is not such a state, nor any such state which is not an Art, Art, in its strict and proper sense, must be “a state of mind, conjoined with true Reason, apt to Make.”

“And, so neither things which exist or come into being necessarily, nor things in the way of nature, come under the province of Art, because these are self-originating. And since Making and Doing are distinct, Art must be concerned with the former and not the latter.”

*exoteric: of or relating to the outside; external

I feel like in trying to unpack Aristotle, I’m not making much progress…I suppose what I’m getting at is reason’s relationship to utility (or maybe use) in craft? Whether or not art and craft are one in the same and what connotations this has on aesthetic/fine art (especially distinctions between knowledge, wisdom, intuition, science and art)? And ways of considering nature’s relation to craft aside from inspiration as beauty alone? (or perhaps I’m not fully grasping this notion of beauty or nature either). This might all be lingering and densely packed confusions about tensions of the terms nature/natural and culture in other philosophy texts I’ve encountered.

And I suppose I want to pause on objects and things in the manner in which Aristotle uses them – what relationship do objects/things/matter have? To man? To nature? And in thinking about the ethics of things, can it be the thing itself considered?

writing as a productive art

(qtd. Bruno Latour The Pastuerization of France) “Standing by what is written on a sheet of paper alone is a risky trade. However, this trade is no more miraculous than that of the painter, the seaman, the tightrope walker, or the banker. [Knowledge] does not exist…despite all claims to the contrary, craft holds the key to knowledge” (Bogost 110).

Reading the end of Kelly Pender’s Techne, particularly “Why Techne? Why Now?” unexpectedly caused me to return to Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, a book that a small group of students and faculty read in the summer of 2012 as part of a reading series. While the work explores object oriented ontology as a call to philosophy /philosophers to reconstruct their craft as practice as theory, his chapter entitled “Carpentry” allows some connections to be established to Pender’s emphasis on teaching writing as writing through techne (more specifically poesis).

Pender writes

“Historically, we have valued techne because it focuses our attention to external goals; or to put it more precisely, we have valued techne because it allows us to align writing with particulalr external goals” (142).

As poesis, or a bringing forth, techne allows students to write as writing to achieve an external goal.  And while she is careful not to easily dismiss using techne to achieve external goals (something like problem solving), she explains that such an emphasis on goals of writing have caused us to overlook the thingness of writing, “the ability of writing to engage us in a process of bringing forth that is more aimed at doing something than knowing something” (143). This stresses the teaching of writing as a means of textual interpretation over a means of textual production – we aren’t using techne to make (techne as theory vs. techne as methodology).

This called to mind Ian Bogost. In “Carpentry”, he writes

“Like mechanics, philosophers ought to get their hands dirty. Not just dirty with logic or mathematics…but dirty with grease and panko bread crumbs and formaldehyde. I give the name carpentry to this practice of constructing artifacts as a philosophical practice” (92).

This signifies a shift from knowing about to doing with/from. He lays out the frame of carpentry:

“‘carpentry’ borrows from two sources. First, it extends the ordinary sense of woodcraft to any material whatsoever—to do carpentry is to make anything, but to make it in earnest, with one’s hands, like a cabinetmaker. Second, it folds into this act of construction Graham Harman’s philosophical sense of “the carpentry of things”…to refer to how things fashion one another and the world at large. Blending these two notions, carpentry entails making things that explain how things make the world” (93).

I can envision reactions to this approach as dismissive, a sort of hyperbolic aside of giving students in freshman writing courses a hammer with their writing handbook, but what might it make available? We already use metaphors and theories of process and construction to talk about writing to draw attention to the act of putting things together and taking things apart. What might writing that incorporates making (beyond focus on alphanumeric texts or “creative” projects to accompany alphanumeric texts that aren’t viewed as texts on their own) do?

Bogost works to destabilize writing as the sun in our academic universe, and hile I’m not making such a move, I do find scraps of carpentry, as tied to techne, of interest to discover what writing might be/do.

I’m left wondering

  • What would a methodology of techne in teaching writing look like?
  • How can teaching writing as writing allow for the entanglement of writing and making?
  • What composite definition of techne (from chapter one) would this approach make use of?
  • Does this something, or a way to make some things, fit in the writing classroom – techne as method?

scanning: screen printing

For Techne to DIY: Rhetorics of Craft with Krista Kennedy, we get to undertake a craft project of our own choosing throughout the course. After some mind wandering that turned into wandering the aisles of The Art Store on the walk home, I decided on screen printing. I’ve been wanting to learn to screen print for a few years now to mod odds and ends; it appeals to my punk state of mind, my propensity for found object possibilities, and my desire to get my hands dirty.

I’ve never screen printed before, aside from really basic letter stenciling to label items, which makes me a novice; for those instances, I used form letter stencils and spray paint – not very sophisticated. I’m interested in learning how to screen print on paper and fabric and the techniques associated with the different mediums. I’m also curious to discover different results based on choice of ink, fabric, and paper, and playing with layering. As far as what I will create, I’m not sure, as I can see any number of possibilities – gifts for people’s birthdays, signs for the TA offices, posters for program events, postcards to send to family, custom t-shirts, and whatever other visual inspiration strikes. Perhaps a better goal is to create one print per week, or to fill a jar with ideas and draw different inspirations for each composition. To determine what I would need to get started, I collected some resources:

Pulled: A Catalog of Screen Printing by Mike Perry

Pulled: A Catalog of Screen Printing by Mike Perry

This book went from my Amazon wishlist to my shopping cart before in the span of one sip of coffee…

DIY Printshop starter kit:

a list of what was deemed essential for a beginner DIY kit (from their own kit inventories)

  • 16×16 press
  • wood screen w/ mesh (different grades for different detail – this one comes with 156)
  • 500 Watt halogen exposure light
  • light mounting fixture
  • 11″  70 durometer squegee
  • 12″ emulsion scoop coater
  • photo emulsion
  • yellow bulb (for darkroom)
  • printing ink
  • screen degreaser
  • emulsion remover
  • pallet adhesive
  • scrub pads
  • silicone parchment paper for curing ink
  • film positives
  • french paper (for paper-based creations)

While these kits are cool in that they contain everything to get started, I think that I can assemble my own to save on cash, perhaps even building some of the more expensive pieces – like the screen. This lead to a search for DIY approaches using improvised equipment.

DIY Nylon Screen Print from Calico Skies:

This handy tutorial uses pantyhose and an embroidery hoop, which appealed to my desire for more control over my tools/cost. Instead of using emulsion, it utilizes ModgePodge to create negative space in the design (where color isn’t desired). It looks like a befitting approach for relatively simple and small designs (those that fit within an embroidery hoop).

P is for Printing from Fabric Paper Glue:

Really nice tutorial that walked through two different methods of DIY screen printing. It provided really useful information on the four methods (described in detail here):

  • the paper stencil method
  • the screen filler method
  • the drawing fluid-screen filler method
  • the photographic emulsion method

From reading, I decided I wanted to experiment first with the screen filler and drawing fluid-screen methods, and perhaps try building some of my own screens from picture frames I can pick up cheap. I will need:

  • a mesh screen (still determining number values and their uses) and frame (detachable) – several sizes
  • a squeegee
  • drawing fluid
  • screen filler
  • various ink colors
  • acrylic extender base (for transparent color)
  • clothes iron and parchment paper for setting fabrics
  • cleaner (washing soda and water)

Speedball:

Browsing elicited a ‘kid in the candy store’ effect. I think the difficult thing to do will be to keep my design ideas within a budget (I’m not an art class studio, as much as I want the fitting materials). I think I would like to keep my materials local as found/salvaged, custom made, or from the local art supply store in my neighborhood.

End result? Hopefully things like this (and other things too):

"In The Summer, I’m Dreaming Of You" by Mark Warren Jacques

“In The Summer, I’m Dreaming Of You” by Mark Warren Jacques