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?