Geoff Davis, Director – Blue Stone Folk School
I love printmaking and letterpress. We offer both at the Folk School and I really enjoy the time that I spend with folks interested in practicing the “black arts”.
Recently I found a printmaking book in the sales room of the local library. A Woodcut Manual was written by J.J. Lankes and published in 1952. J.J. Lankes was an important 20th c. printmaker whose work is closely associated with the work of Robert Frost.
The book proved to be one of the clearest and concise works that I’ve read on preparing and printing woodcuts. The illustrations are beautiful examples of a master’s work. But the true value of the book was not discovered until I came to the last chapter.
The first few paragraphs are reproduced here:
It may be existence can be justified only by creating. Existence may be futile – the vanities of vanities – but regardless of whether there be reason in it or not, it seems we are not to question it to any satisfaction. For some inexplicable reason we must create, if only for the day. All forms of life engage in it to the limit of their respective capacities which are, in most cases, are restricted to necessarily lavish reproduction of kind. If we are built in the likeness of the Creator, as some people say we are, the power of creation could be considered as one of our common characteristics. Anyone who has organized apparently unrelated items, regardless of whether they were bricks, words, sounds or color, and has forged them into unity, has felt a relation to the force that flows throughout the cosmos. We dip into this stream in the degree in which we create. It gives us a little more understanding and perhaps a quickening of the life-force and, in turn, a greater enthusiasm for life.
To interfere with the creative urge is to invite trouble. The man who tightens bolts all day long in the assembly of a standardized article of commerce is being cheated of his birth-right. If he cannot make something in his spare time away from the factory, he is in a fair way to become a nuisance or a menace to society. Children have the urge to make things until their sensible parents discourage them, and offer as a substitute, as early in life as possible, such a negative activity as knocking a ball into a hole with the least number of strokes.