Monday, January 12, 2015

Puzzle Project History: The beginning at barenforum.org

The First Puzzle Project 2004

Current project open for enrollment! 



Just how did these fantastic projects
start? To answer this question, I had to go back to long lost archives and investigate what on earth prompted me to launch the very first Puzzle Project.

Puzzle Project #1: What is Baren? A puzzle By Its Members was Started June 2002 and finished January 2004. Two cherry plywood blocks, each 21 x 27.5 inches (53 x 70 cm) were used to print the two-panel print, each panel 22 x 30 inches (56 x 76 cm) on Rising Stonehenge Cream paper.

In the beginning there was an email posted to the humble and everlasting Barenforum (http://barenforum.org), a group of online printmakers that insist on exchanging prints year in and year out. Barenforum specializes in woodblock and woodcut prints with all their variations. Much more information and definitely an invitation to join Barenforum can be found on the website, appropriately named barenforum.org.
In June 2002, I sent out this message:
Went for a bike ride this morning, this being relevant only because the ride sent endorphins flying all over my brain. Endorphins, as you may know, are natural opiates which produce a gentle high (although in my case, maybe not so gentle?) and unbound amounts of energy. SO! I had been thinking about a collaboration project for a while and I think it is about time we do something extraordinarily fun!”

Details of the project followed. I was pleasantly surprised at the warm welcome that the project received. Even we over-confident and reckless folk have sinister doubts at times (what if you hold a puzzle project and nobody signs up?).
Well, people did sign up, 44 printmakers played the first puzzle game, What is Baren? A Puzzle by Its Members. This first one was in the simple shape of a spider web, a visual pun on the World Wide Web, which is how a group of printmakers manages to exchange art and vast amounts of information with one another.
I learned a ton of practical know-how as I put together the puzzle and tried to print 44 different styles placed closely together. Printing a diverse variety of images millimeters from each other was akin to setting the watering schedule for sage brush, roses and a mature pine tree all on the same watering station. Someone is going to be thirsty and someone will get overwatered!
Nevertheless, my good friend and expert printmaker Barbara Mason (http://www.barbara-mason.com) flew all the way to my humble studio to lend a hand. Together we printed the Baren Puzzle Project and unknowingly attended the first puzzle print party. As I watched the unexpected and wonderful result of our collective efforts, I realized that I might just have to make another.
The official First Puzzle Print Party with Barbara Mason

The thought that I could gather a bunch of strangers from all over the world and coerce them to come together and manufacture an artistic creation still baffles me to this day. And, of course, the concept itself, a collaborative project among people that probably will never talk to each other in person resulting in a perfectly balanced artistic composition, is still a bit of a mystery.
The name Monumental Collaborative Puzzle Prints was suggested as a name for the projects, a bit tongue in cheek, by one of the recurrent participants. Lest someone thinks that I take myself too seriously, I have to mention that the hyperbole is merely meant to amuse.

Art makes us do strange things and the amazing puzzle prints that come to fruition continue to tempt me to this day to start a new adventure just as soon as the ink dries on the last. And so there was another project already in mind as soon as the first one was mailed away.
Many of the initial brave printmakers are still participating in my nutty projects. Some have gone on to better and bigger, or at least, other things. Sadly, some have passed into the realm of fantastic gardens, and I cannot help to be aware of how friends come and go and how fleeting it is, the here and now. More the reason, the way I see it, to live life to the fullest.

Current project open for enrollment!