|Lotus, Three Stages|
I'm crazy about the rustic look of woodblock printing.
The work of Amanda Gordon Miller at Edamame Press
caught my eye as an outstanding example of this handmade craft.
Listen in as I interview her.
You'll enjoy seeing her prints, as well as the behind the scenes angle
she offers us with pictures of the woodblocks and prints in process.
Start by telling us some things about yourself, Amanda.
My husband and I live in Baltimore, Maryland with our two beautiful kids. We love to travel and spend time outdoors, and we strongly prefer warm weather. I'm a Resident Artist at the Howard County Center for the Arts. I recently moved into my new studio after years printing in our home basement laundry room, and I love my new space!
So, give us a brief definition of woodblock printing.
In a nutshell, a design is carved in relief on a piece of wood. The unwanted areas are carved away, and the raised, uncarved areas are inked and printed to create the woodblock print.
|Fairy Woods in Winter|
I appreciate that you use environmentally-friendly materials. Tell us about that.
As an artist, I'm committed to a nontoxic (or less toxic) art practice, which is safer for myself, my family, and the environment. Akua inks are wonderful because they are safe to use, easy to clean up, and they are incredibly high-quality inks, with intense, light-fast pigments and unique working properties. I also choose natural materials, like wood for carving, and cotton rag paper. I love responding to the materials themselves--the opacity or transparency of a pigment, the direction of the grain of the wood, the absorbency of the paper fibers. All these factors go into the final print.
Please explain your process of woodblock printing.
I start by sketching a line drawing on the first block. This is the "key block," which has most of the lines and details for the print, and will eventually be printed in black or brown. I then carve away the negative space (the undrawn areas between the lines), leaving raised areas that will receive the ink when I print. For the color blocks, I transfer the key block design to the uncarved blocks, then carve a separate block for each color, removing the unwanted areas and leaving a raised surface that will receive the ink.
|On the Outside|
I ink the carved woodblock with a brayer (an ink roller). The raised, uncarved surfaces receive the ink, and the areas that have been carved away remain clean. I print on a Conrad Etching Press. I place the inked block on the press bed, place the paper on top (lining it up with the registration jig), then roll it through. I print the color blocks one at a time, then print the key block last.
What is it about printmaking that you find the most rewarding?
I enjoy all the steps in the process, and the fact that it is such a process, with many steps and I can always jump in and work on something. But my favorite step is definitely the printing: working on the inks and modifiers, mixing and layering the colors, experimenting and figuring the right combinations, and then finally printing the edition. That is the most satisfying part!
Tell us about your subject matter.
My subjects are landscapes and other organic subjects, reflecting an appreciation for both the grand beauty and intimate details of nature. Working from nature offers endless beauty and complexity to explore, showcases themes that are important to me, and ultimately creates a unified connection between my subject matter and my materials, which are natural and nontoxic.
|Pine Cone, editioned Woodblock Print on Japanese Washi with Inclusions|
What inspires or motivates you as an artist?
My inspiration is based in memories of time spent outdoors as a child and the need to reconnect with nature as an adult, especially as a parent, learning to slow down and view the world as my children explore it for the first time. The landscapes are places where I've spent time and made memories, whether during childhood or during my daily life or travels as an adult. There is often a certain plant, tree, or landscape view that catches my eye again and again until it finds its way into a woodblock print!
|Barn and Dahlia|
We thank you, Amanda, for sharing your love for woodcut printing with us.
It's evident that you are passionate about your craft,
and that passion really shines through in your work!
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All images used with direct permission from Amanda Gordon Miller.