Posts Tagged ‘letterpress’

_MG_0013I spent a most pleasant morning with Keith Rendall, a Wiscasett,  Maine printmaker.

Walking into high end galleries can be intimidating, but when I’ve four days to see all of the art and birds and childhood landmarks, I put on my big boy pants and push through the door.

I’ve had good luck. It’s the off-season and gallery owners greet me and leave me to look.

It was a bit of a relief to push open Keith’s door and see hime behind his desk dressed like a working artist. Behind him were the tools of his trade: ink, brushes, presses and a large work table.

Keith’s work is about scale. They are big. Really big. They fill walls. They’re bold, too.  But….they are subtle, too. As he explained his techniques we examined a large (and bold) woodcut of a turtle nosing — rising to expose just the tip of its nose to breath duck quickly to safety — I began to notice how the turtle’s back legs and shells disappeared in the mur_MG_0015ky water behind it. The clean lines of the water, in the foreground, convey a sense of motion — a quick rise and a dunk.

Keith has had great luck with his gallery. It’s located on U.S. Route 1 in the heart of Wiscassett.  Route 1 through the village is a notorious bottleneck giving art patrons plenty of time to windowshop on their way to points east.

Like I often happens when I spend time with printmakers, the talk turns to equipment, technique, ink and paper. His etchings are printed exclusively on Twinrocker Paper which is produced in Brookston, Indiana. Founders Howie and Kathy Clark are good friends and it’s always a thrill to see fine work on their paper. Keith explained, “Twinrocker Paper is not the only the best paper in the U.S., but the best paper in the world for etchings.”

If you find yourself in Maine and want to meet a great guy and artist give Keith a visit.

R. Keith Rendall

R. K. Rendall Fine Art

63 Main Street

Wiscassett, Maine



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In preparation for this weekend’s Indiana Artisan Marketplace I printed a run of new hangtags. These two sided tags were printed from magnesium dies prepared from my design. The poor quality of the tags often effects the outcome — they seem to always have a soft crease across the center — but this time they came off very clean.  (I apologize for the photos.  The light was low and I was using my iPhone.)







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I stopped in Lapel to spend some time with Greg Adams.  It was chilly today and we pulled a couple of chairs up to the woodstove to chat a bit.  Greg has invested a lot of time, thought and experience into selling his work.  I always come away from our talks with a new ideas and inspiration.

I’ve been thinking a lot about picture frames and prints.  I am a printmaker but have never spent much time really trying to market my prints.  I’ve been mulling over plans to frame prints that I have and developing similar prints to add to my line of carvings.  Today Greg was building a picture frame decorated with birch bark veneer and willow.

After I left Greg’s I took my wife to the Doctor and spent a few hours putting together frames in my head between naps in the waiting room.

Greg buys very few materials.  He is a scrounger and recycler.  Much of his wood comes from the dumpsters behind sawmills and furniture factories (with their blessings).  He picks up old fence wood, pieces of plywood or whatever else he can use.  I picked up his cue and began to resaw and mill a bundle of old fence pickets I had laying around.  From these I made very simple small picture frame (3″ x 5″ opening, 5″ x 7″ overall).

I cut the rabet for the glass and artwork with a trimming router that I keep in a vise — like a mini router table.  They went together fast, with no special joinery, and look great.

After a quick seal with shellac, I gave each a different treatment.  They aren’t finished, yet, but I ‘m so excited that I had to share now.  They will be distressed and aged in my usual manner.

I’ve been playing with this great, large flake glitter with fantastic results.  I dipped a frame and am pleased.  Three years ago I did a huge run of multi-color (5, 6, 7 colors?) lino reduction print of snowmen.  They never sold well (I never tried real hard to sell them) but I think they look awesome in the glitter frame!

When I was doing a lot of bookbinding I made a line of Japanese stab bound journals with an applied linocut crow print on the cover.  I’ve always loved this crow and it fits my bird theme so well.  Last night I set up the press and printed a couple dozen more of these plates. I’m expanding this series, to at least four, similar prints of the same size.  I’ve designed a rooster, a great horned owl and a cat sitting in a window to complete the set.

For this series I’m experimenting with rustic frames.  On one I’ve applied acorn caps.  My wife collects these caps for projects and I borrowed a few.  (I had to promise to replace them from my stash — when I find it.)  This are applied over an burnt orange frame.

The last may be the most exciting.  I asked Greg about his birch bark.  he told me where he got it and handed me a few scraps.  I bring birch bark back from infrequent visits to New England and my supply has dried up.  I began to cut bark into strip to apply to the last frame but stopped myself.  I didn’t want to copy Greg (especially since we plan to share space at a show in a couple of weeks).  I pondered about what skills I had, that didn’t step on Greg’s toes, that would produce a similar affect.

Faux birch bark, of course!  I copied the samples I had laying around the shop with very satisfactory results. Not only was it fun to paint, I now know that I can produce birch bark whenever I want.

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As you might imagine I draw birds a lot. Many folks have suggested that I sell bird drawings or painting or sketches or prints. I also would like something that can be quickly reproduced for repeat sales. (I’m always a little jealous of artists that sell prints. How I would love to quickly and inexpensively reproduce a carving that took me 3-4 hours to produce and sell it again!)

I’ve developed five or six 5″ x 7″ bird portraits. Pictured here is a first color study.

I see several options and would be interested in advise or opinions.

1) I could do a few of these, scan them and sell the originals and digital prints.

2) I could scan the black and white outlines, print them digitally and hand color each print.

3) I could scan the black and white outlines and have plates made to letterpress the outlines and hand color.

Each option has pros and cons. I love the last option but the plates are expensive. It can also be a lot of work getting clean prints — but boy are they snazzy!

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As you probably already know I am in the last stages of preparing for the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.  From my perspective this is a high stakes show.  Until now, I’ve set up an elaborate table and been good to go.  This time I built a one hundred square foot gallery space with lights, carpet and fixtures.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sales.  Slick icky things like “opening”, “landing” and “closing”.  My work starts at about $100 and doesn’t sell itself in an environment where folks can buy original stuff for under $10.  My wife, Julie, sells me and my work well.  I don’t sell me well.  I find it hard to initiate a conversation about my attention to detail, my research and my use of found materials.  Once the door is open I can talk for hours about what the patron wants to learn. (I am always an educator first.)

Last weekend in Bloomington, I listened carefully to the coversations that Julie was having with the patrons.  I listened to their questions and their misconceptions. (Many folks have problems believing that the work is original and one-of-a-kind.  Many folks think the birds are plaster, paper-mache or RESIN. I actually like the first two.)

I have space to hang four informative signs in my new gallery booth.  Yesterday I attempted to boil down all of these conversations into four simple signs.  I wanted them to sound like things I would say.  In fact, one is pulled straight from a recent radio interview.  I tried to put a bit of humor into one of them.

I’m a letterpress printer.  I don’t have the time to set these and print them.  Instead I set them on the HP Inkjet using my favorite typeface (NOT A FONT), Cochin, in a very traditional manner.

These are in the rough.  I am open to re-wording, additions and changes.  I want your ideas (always).

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Actually I use a platen press.   But “The Presses are opening and Closing” doesn’t have the mass appeal of “The Presses are Rolling”.

I regularly use two printing presses: a Kelsey 5″ x 7″ from the 1940s and an earlier Vandercook o1 proof press.  The Folk School printing shop has no home (a temporary situation) so the equipment is being housed (and used on a limited basis) off site.

The Owosso plates were beautiful and things went very smoothly.  The results are below and I invite your comments.

In addition to these tags I’ve developed a simple mailing label and tape strip for packaging.  I printed samples on a standard HP Inkjet printer and really like them, but I’m considering having plates made for these, too.  I really love the tactile nature of letterpress.  Everything is razor sharp and the image is pressed into the paper.

I will be spending tomorrow putting together my pieces to be submitted to the Indiana Artisan selection jury.  I planned to work on re-branding during the winter and this jury has supplied me with a much needed deadline.  More thoughts on branding and packaging tomorrow as I put things together.

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Today Owosso delivered my the plates that I will be using to print my new hangtags.  (Actually UPS delivered them.)  They are beautiful!

They pulled a proof and shipped it with the plates.  The quality of the plates and the resulting prints is evident.  I’ve some school work (day job) to do over the next two evenings and plan to print this weekend.  I will post the process and the results here.






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