Tuesday, March 13, 2018

180314 All I want for Christmas 

 Christmas is coming and my birthday is Christmas Eve. People say, “Oh, you must hate that – Jesus’ birth takes away from yours.”
“No,” I answer, “I get MORE.” Like I hijacked His birthday. Like when I turned 14 and I got both a shiny new Columbia bicycle PLUS a .22 rifle. Imagine two days’ gifts when most people only get one.
Now comes my 77th birthday in only nine months –enough time to gestate my dream – an international art center with a printmaking core. A hard core in the form of half-wood, half-steel etching presses.
In 2004 I designed a line of etching presses, built by hand working with a Ballard machinist and his wife. One by one we made and sold over 200 of these in the US, and in another 18 countries besides ours.
But it was only a test. I’m not in business – I’m in art and education. Of course, I had to learn a little about business planning and managing capital. Fourteen years was a great run. Now I’m old and tired of bookkeeping, packing, detailing, marketing and shipping. I’ll hand it over, use it to level-up.
Proving there’s a global market for my design and teaching that goes with it, almost stopped me from making art. However, as a professor at the UW, I researched worldwide changes in visual arts moving from the physical to virtual forms of art, craft and design.
Now a new world is opening up. Now, thanks to my press design, a global community of people who love prints, printmaking and printmakers are linking up via social media. Daily I experience teaching in a new way; whereas I made 200 how-to videos at the UW so a hundred students could learn at-a-distance, now just one of my 200 Youtube videos has had over 66,000 views and over 700 likes!
Not to brag - real teachers don’t brag - but that’s real teaching, I you ask me!
It gets better. There’s no digital substitute for face-to-face experiences when you have a Mini Etching Press with you, and people can try printing themselves. It’s beautiful! And last week I was asked by the Bumbershoot organizers if I can line up a row of these baby presses so families might come to the festival be able to have hands-on experience with printmaking.
I am answering with “Bumberprint.” I hope to find people to join me. I’ve got an Eventbrite coming.
Back to my Christmas/Birthday wish: An international art center with a hard core – a Halfwood press of proven market value to bring jobs to money from around the world. It’s a press with possibilities not only for artsy people, but children, seniors, STEAM teachers and in-betweeners.
The exciting thing is I might see this vision come true right in my own back yard. For ten years my wife and I used our Mini Art Gallery to incubate a world printmaking community center, build and prove feasibility, learn business and real estate development basics and find a location - hopefully nearby.
And, lo and behold, the Kreilsheimer Block will be developed for affordable housing and needs a stable of cash cows on the first floor! I see in this opportunity as 125 feet of storefronts (ten times the width of our shop on 5th Avenue) of retail, edutainment and services specifically related to one of the oldest art forms – printing.
And to keep salaries, pay expenses, and help sustain the upper floors of this development, a niche market that’s just waiting to be supplied, grow, extend and endure.
As my partner pointed out, it will not only be good for here, but for international trade, as export efforts at the hard core bring dollars into the United States, into Washington State, and have a positive effect, however small, on the country’s balance of trade.
Who could ask for anything more?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Image: The world’s first Mini Halfwood Press aboard press-maker Tom Kughler’s sloop, Kadeca, 2004.

180311 If I were Sherry 

Sherry Krivosheev is sailing around the world. She leaves in September on a 43-foot sloop, the Eclipse, with her husband and their two sons. Sherry is a marine artist, and she’s planning to paint and, if possible, do printmaking.
Sherry is living my dream.
My dream is (or was until my lifetime became too short) to circumvent the world once more, evangelizing printmaking as the link between the world I was born into and the world that I will leave. I was born just as mechanical printmaking was morphing into the digital age and into the virtual world.
To explain, consider a recent demonstration in Italy of printmaking in virtual reality. As an artist and a teacher, this event fulfills my vision that connected my real art and teaching in a virtual, virtuous world. Education is the real thing; and as my knowledge is printmaking, I design tools and systems to teach it.
Sherry and her husband, Gleb, came into my life by chance (as so many good things have) as they were buying coffee at the Café Vita across the street from our Mini Art Gallery. She knew about our Halfwood Presses through Ethan Lind, another artist I met by chance.
When she mentioned she had experience in business – including experience with the famous Zodiac two-mast schooner – an idea was lit. Not only is she a sailor, she’s also a painter of sailing vessels. We agreed that we had two things in common: art and sailing.
She and Gleb are more experienced in sailing. I am not a sailor; I’m only acquainted with it through a lesson or two, a few day-sales with Tom Kughler, press maker, and a yarn I wrote about a fantasy ship I named the Emeralda.
When they told me they were sailing around the world, I could hardly contain myself. The thrill – notwithstanding the risk involved – reminded me of my adventure when I took my little family around the world over thirty years ago.
In addition, as Sherry plans to make art and videos on the way, and a blog to document it, I wanted to accompany them. Who would not? That they are going to utilize technology and, concurrently, old technologies of art will be enchanting to millions of people. We can all go, virtually – that is.
I personally have contact with hundreds of people who own the Halfwood Press which, as many of my customers know through my book, A Printmaker’s Tale, emails and YouTube, was inspired partly by sailing ships.
Here’s another thing: Gleb is a software engineer. When he spotted a USB cable dangling off my prototype Mini Halfwood Press, he immediately updated me on the technology potential of true, feasible ways in which the press could be merged with new technologies.
When I told him about Proximates – my idea of a social network of Halfwood Press owners – he instantly counted the ways to make this happen by piggy-backing on other social media.
For an engineer, Proximates would be a piece of cake.
Here, I thought to myself, was the pair who – if they so desired – could take my ideas and make them better.
If I were Sherry, I would subsidize the journey by giving subscribers a bound book recounting their adventure. No one has made a journey around the world on a sailboat making prints and used new media to give an account of the adventure.
Two items stand ready: the Halfwood Press and perhaps a Mini laser. Remembering that some ships in the old days had printing presses aboard I wrote my fiction, Vladimir’s Tale, describing it. I got my idea from obscure book I happened to find, The Sparrow.
Making etchings while sailing isn’t practical. Drypoint is practical, but laser-cut acrylic printing plates made from photos and enhanced by hand are more likely to sell. Keeping sufficient printing paper on hand to make editions is also not practical on a 43-foot schooner.
If I were Sherry, I would begin now to learn and train myself for creating an account of their saga with old and new technology. I would learn now to turn my digital photos and hand-drawn accounts into plastic printing plates. I would learn how to publish them on the web so that followers could “watch” and also buy the images both during and after.
I would take advance subscriptions through a crowd-funding effort. That’s what I’d do if I were Sherry.