Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Val Lucas - Bowerbox Press
I've always been an artist- my parent's house is full of drawings and paintings, ranging from second grade to more recent prints. My first art competition was in fifth grade, when I entered the Junior Duck Stamp contest at the urging of Mrs. Bourke, my art teacher. I think I got first place in my age group- and continued to enter through high school, getting firsts and seconds but never winning. Throughout school I drew all the time, painted, made little sculptures and projects nonstop. In junior year of high school I realized, hey I am an artist- since I spend all my time in the art room, painting and drawing, maybe I should go to art school! Before that I had not really thought about what to do- I was good in all my subjects- physics, biology (I loved biology- especially the insect collection project!), english, calculus- but I hadn't thought about college. After I decided to go to art school my calculus teachers were heartbroken. I started to concentrate on getting my portfolio ready for art school applications.
I ended up at the Maryland Institute College of Art, thinking that I would major in painting. However, being exposed to new techniques made me choose General Fine Arts as my major, and I tried a little bit of everything. Painting, drawing, ceramics, and printmaking- I fell in love with printmaking in my first screenprinting class. I began using a lot of bird and pattern imagery in my work, and learning more printmaking techniques such as etching, lithography and relief printing. (I remember once, after finishing a large linoleum cut, saying that I really didn't like relief printing and if I never saw a linoleum block again I wouldn't be sad. Now that has changed completely!)
After my freshman year the Duck Stamp entries came into play- I got a call from the Delta Waterfowl Research center in Manitoba, Canada, about doing an artist residency for the summer. I jumped at the chance and spent the summer living in a cabin on the shore of Lake Manitoba, painting landscapes and watching birds. There was a bird observatory where I got to help with banding and counting migrating birds, and the research station where I helped with duck research and learned about the diving habits of Spectacled Eiders. I had two small solo shows and came home ready to keep working.
During my junior year I was encouraged to apply for the study abroad program, and spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence, France. Along with a dozen other art students, I worked in a 17th century monastery in Aix and traveled around the south of France. Since our studio was not well ventilated, there was no oil painting allowed- so I began to track my travels with watercolor maps of remembered places. I made a painting for each day's journey, and later created books of a collected month. My time in France was definitely my favorite semester- I loved the different atmosphere, the crows that came cawing into the city at night, the new birds (flamingos, magpies, and pheasants) and the varied landscape available to me by a long walk or a bus ride.
I continued collecting my daily journeys when I returned, but also took my first letterpress class- I walked into the room full of cases of type, big old machinery and the smell of ink- and knew that this was for me. I also had an internship at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, where I learned how to make paper and perfected my printing and bookbinding skills. I also returned to relief printing, after realizing that I could carve an image and print it along with the type on these presses.
After graduation, I rescued a hundred year old letterpress from a basement in Baltimore and spent 2 months fixing it up. I didn't have huge plans yet, I thought that maybe the press would be fun. Now, 2 and a half years after graduation, I have my printing business up and running (slowly), and I'm optimistic about the future.
Bowerbox Press is a way for me to keep doing all the things I love- I set type by hand, carve woodblocks of birds, and incorporate the imagery and text into cards and fine art prints. I'm working on an artist's book, as well as a line of greeting cards and stationery. I love the processes involved in printing- everything is dependent on every step of the way. I love to be able to be part of each step- making the paper, setting the type, cutting the image, printing each and every piece of paper by hand, binding the book. It makes my artwork unique and unrepeatable, and I can truly say, I made this. Every piece of it.
In addition to printing, I am teaching the occasional workshop on printing and presses. I'm helping Towson University get a letterpress shop together, and I also am keeping in touch with the people who've been printing all their lives- to keep their knowledge and skill alive in an increasingly digital world.
Post written by BowerboxPress