Thursday, July 4, 2013


Measuring twice and cutting once.  At least that was the caption I used when I shared this photo on FB; then the slasher comments began.  I paused for a photo op in the middle of making frames for several of my latest woodblock prints that will be exhibited in New Hampshire beginning next week, little realizing that I have a future as a horror movie villain.

While it would be great if I was far enough up the ladder that I didn't have to worry about constructing frames, pr and the hundreds of details that go into exhibiting art, that's not the cards yet.  So, I'll make use of my mad woodworking skills to cut slabs of cherry, run it over the molder head and make some  simple but workable frames. Nothing elaborate, just an arched top with rounded corners; an elegant, soft profile.

Molding head cutting the arched top.
In an oddly romantic way I enjoy making the frames for my own pieces.  It reflects years of hard learning to master a craft and craft is something that is not only disappearing from our lives but the way it is valued in the arts has undergone profound changes.

The idea of apprentices aiding an artist in the studio has given way to the primacy of the artist's vision and at the higher levels of the art market, fabrication by specialists is the norm.

The result is often flawless meticulous works of art.
(Think Jeff Koons 'Gazing Balls' - John Yau on confusing perfection for genius)

In the area of woodblock printing, especially moku hanga that I work in, it was once the norm for an artist to turn over his design for a master carver to make blocks from and in turn to be printed by a master printer on paper made by other masters of that craft. (This type of collaboration is also prevalent in other types of printmaking as artists are often aided by master printers)

As an artist who began making art during the the late 1960's during rise of Conceptual Art, I've had an affinity for the primacy of the artist's idea. Yet, my earlier, teenage years were spent in my fathers autobody shop where hands on labor intensive work shaped experiences of direct working with materials.

Finished frames drying in the shop

The current work I'm exhibiting this summer at the Gordon-Nash library is a reflection of both my early pre-artistic hands on learning of 'craft' skill and a fascination with the sosaku-hanga movement of early 20th century printmaking. Sosaku hanga being based on principles of self-drawn, self carved and self printed.  

My printmaking mentor, Keiji Shinohara works in that vein after rigorous apprenticeships in the three foundations.  I believe the art lies somewhere in finding a balance of skills while maintaining an eye to personal and authentic visual narrative.    

My exhibit, LAYERS opens July 10th in the Nash Gallery at the Gordon-Nash Library.

Link to exhibit 

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