My Mighty Journey: A Printing Workshop At Avon Hills Folk School

Guest Writer: John Coy

This workshop was full of firsts. It was the first time almost all the participants had been to the Avon Hills Folk School. It was the first time Gaylord Schanilec and I had conducted a workshop together. And it was the first time we had tried to condense what we’d done over five years in working on My Mighty Journey into a two-day workshop. Despite all of these firsts, we were amazed how much the group of participants accomplished and how well they bonded together in such a short time. They all found objects in the woods that they made prints from. They all chose words directly connected to a specific place. And they all worked industriously to produce a book of images and text that they took home as a tangible object from this memorable weekend.

On Saturday after a delicious breakfast of ginger gems, pancakes, and maple syrup, we set off as a group to examine objects that we might print from. We went as a group but quickly split up into smaller groups or individuals examining rocks, branches, roots, leaves, bark, mushrooms and other items. This activity grounded us in the place right away. We also had participants look for spots that they would like to return to on their own later in the day.

Back in the studio, we placed all the objects on a table and then people chose the ones they wanted to work with for printing. Each object had different challenges and participants set about preparing their objects for printing by bending, cutting, sawing, and gluing. They also worked to prepare the surface for relief printing carving in linoleum blocks or even applying Bondo auto filler to make a firmer underlayment. We were fortunate to have the assistance of noted plant printmaker Barbara Eijadi who worked individually with people.

On Saturday afternoon, participants found their own spot in the woods to observe and listen. At this time, there was no writing, but an attempt to pay as close attention in the particular location as possible. A number of participants reported how much they enjoyed this and how they realized their initial impulse would have been to do something, but once they settled into observing and listening, they noticed more and more things. Later on Saturday, participants returned to their spot individually and thought of words about what they saw, heard or felt.

On Sunday after another excellent breakfast, we began by having participants return to their spots and select a particular word or words that resonated strongly with them. Everybody did this and when we shared the words we realized we had a very interesting collection that was grounded in the beautiful place we were in. Each person practiced proofing the image they had chosen and selected wooden Gill Sans type and made a proof of their word before printing.

Then we all went to work printing the different images and words on two different sets of pages in an edition of thirteen copies. Participants worked extremely well together solving problems as they came up, helping each other out, and staying past the expected end time in order to finish thirteen copies of the book we’d all created together. When each person passed a copy around to be signed, the feeling of pride and accomplishment was obvious. We’d progressed in two days from people who did not know each other into a cohesive group that delighted in seeing how what we’d chosen as individuals produced a book together that we all enjoyed.

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