Sunday, September 29, 2013


Friday's activities

Playing around in the studio...and later in PS Premiere. I need another Maria!
Monday I should finish block number two and the other two blocks are now complete and patiently awaiting their turn. One of my favorite movie lines of all times: "just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." (from Pixar's Finding Nemo, line masterfully delivered by Ellen Degeneres)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Printing the Garden! Finally! Really!!!!!

All in a day's work...

Well, make that two days' work!
Some videos for you mere mortals, mwahahaha (sorry, the sweeeet smell of ink is affecting me).
Seriously, I am HAPPY to report that one block is printed! Yeah, the whole thing, all 120-some prints, hanging pretty. I am currently prepping block numero dos and I will attack it first thing in the morning.

Here are two videos, identical but the first is raw with all the music and noise of my studio. The second is edited, with stills inserted and narration (yawn! I like the flamenco better). Enjoy!

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Block Prep 2

Last Few Touches

Another short video on block prep and a video on press preparation. To see the full text of the press prep you will have to mosey on over to my main blog:

Finishing gluing the blocks in place:

Preparing the block for press:

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Easy Relief Printing With an Etching Press

Press prep for painless perfect prints

Go ahead, say that 3 times in a row fast!
There are various issues when printing relief prints with a press and a hundred ways to solve them.

One of the most prevalent is paper slipping, especially at the edges of the block, which results in a "double" edge print or simply a blurred edge usually on the trailing edge.
With smaller blocks, I have a three prong method of solving this problem. I use runners, a thin felt, rubber blanket or matboard tympan, and I lay the block at a slight angle to the roller. With larger blocks that fill the press bed, such as the Fantastic Garden blocks, I needed a better method.

Runners and a Chase

Block "locked" side to side and end to end
Most printing problems can be solved by placing two runners perpendicular to the press roller, along the edges of the press. These runners should be about the same height of the block being printed and serve two purposes:
1. They support the roller and avoid bed warp
2. They keep the roller from bouncing on and off the block

Shelf support keeps end piece flush to end of block,
strip with peg keeps the runners flush to sides of block
For the Fantastic Garden, I took a page off the letterpress manual (well, not literally) and built a chase of sorts.  A letterpress chase is a shallow box, slightly lower in height than the block, that completely encloses the block to be printed. Pieces of wood called furniture are placed in the chase around the letter-form (the block to be printed) and the furniture locks the form so that it does not move while printing.

Since I am inking by hand, I did not need to completely "lock" the block tightly but I did need a way to prevent the roller from slipping off the edge of the block and causing the dreaded double edge. The Fantastic Garden prints are bleed prints so any slippage of the paper had to be prevented. As you will see in the video, I simply cut a few pieces of wood to fit the perimeter of the block and secured them with pegs and shelf supports.

Blankets, Felts, Blotters?

In order to even out the pressure over the darks and lines of the block, for relief work, a thin blanket, blotter and matboard or a rubber blanket are used. A thick etching blanket is not necessary and may in fact push the paper to the carved valleys, where it may pick up unwanted ink. Thick blankets are used sometimes when embossing is desired.
For the Fantastic Garden blocks, I am faced with deeply carved blocks, next to shallow delicate carvings, next to dark areas next to line work. Quite a challenge to please everyone!

The choice for the Fantastic Garden blocks, after some testing, was a thin felt blanket backed with a rubber blankets. I used a blotter to protect the felt from picking up ink. A few proofs on any block usually give the best tympan for that particular print. The thin felt accommodates for various heights, the rubber blanket keeps the tympan "hard" enough so no embossing or dipping will occur. The blotter just keeps things clean!

Press Prep Video

This video and others in my new and improved? (so Google+ says) YouTube Channel:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ready to print!

Work begins!

My studio is a-buzzing with activity. I made a couple of videos of prepping the block and printing but as usual I'm behind editing and posting. 
The first is ready, beginning to prep the block. Next one I glue the block to the backing board so everything stays together while printing. And after that, I prep the press and get ready to print.

Prepping the block

Excitement builds! Next prepping the press...


This is it

This concludes the individual pieces that I will publish on the blog.
As I have been publishing online, I have also been building the Growing the Garden printed book, which will have all the individual comments, photos of the blocks as you have seen them, photos of the printed pieces, and of course the usual "map" with all the participant's names and their location in the Fantastic Garden.

Some have asked what info they will receive with the prints. Even if you did not pre-purchase the printed book, all participants and backers will receive the information sheets with pictures of the 4 panels, the 4 panel map of the participants, and my usual comments about the project.

Everything is on course to be sent back to participants and backers of the Kickstarter project alike in the next month or two. Today I am finishing up the block chase which should make things a bit easier in the printing process.

Next in line for the preparation tasks are to continue to tweak a few blocks that look like may be problematic (did I not say to carve deep?), and perhaps I may get to actually proof a few of them this weekend just to make sure they will behave properly.
Videos and photos upcoming. Here are the last two blocks. I balanced the Kookaburra between the live and dried trunks of one of the Palo Verde trees. I always mean to cut down the dry stuff but love the contrast between yellow and green trunks...and the birds love to perch on them!

Melissa Read-Devine - Sydney AUSTRALIA

"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree", a well known nursery song sung by Australian children. This one is typical, sitting patiently, watching for a tasty snack to slither or crawl his way. Watch out if you are having a BBQ in your garden - these guys are notorious sausage thieves!

Maria Arango  Diener - Las Vegas, Nevada USA

"Cricket and the Two-Tailed Lizard"
Cricket was a feral rescue who loved playing in the garden, much to the chagrin of lizards and birds, mostly. We named her after her favorite prey, crickets, which she chased under the hollyhocks. But she also often brought us lizard tails...still twitching after being torn from their rightful (annoyed, surely!) owners. Cricket (1997-2013) is now a very happy inhabitant of the Fantastic Garden and has a best friend, a two-tailed lizard. 
I imagine the ongoing game goes something like this: Cricket chases lizard, lizard sheds one tail and escapes with the other one intact, everyone happy. Lizard grows tail back. Next game, Cricket chases lizard...

Print Party?

Well this year there is not going to be a print party, exactly. Oh I have fun, no doubt about that! I'm a one-woman print party animal! Flamenco music will be playing LOUD in my studio to keep me "in the mood", and strong coffee and energy bars will be served often.
But just too much going on right now to travel to my friendly helper crew in the Northwest or anywhere else. I will miss them dearly...I will pay the price with sore shoulders, no doubt, and nobody will be yelling "printmaker down!" when I collapse on the floor to stretch my back. Aaahh, good times for sure!

So here is the deal, I will begin printing next week and, even employing the mighty power of all the available Marias put together, printing will continue for about three weeks. Daily. Lordie, good thing I've been hitting the rowing machine daily during the "training" phase.
Want to drop by? Sure! I can use press crankers, print hangers, paper placers, and large roller wielders. Drop me a line 1000woodcuts at gmail dot com and we can chat about it.

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More Pieces

Enjoy the last few!

Amanda Gordon-Miller - Baltimore, Maryland USA
Poppies for the garden!
Sarah Hope Parmeter - Santa Cruz, California USA
Wendy Shaft - Williamston, Michigan USA
A collaborative project, like this, reminds me that I am not alone as a relief printmaker. This is second project with Maria and what a glorious experience to see the final art.
Mary Weimer Green - Avon Lake, Ohio USA

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dozen more or so!

While I feverishly work on prepping the blocks for printing, here are the last few. Not many more, almost all here now; all but two!

Puzzle pieces

AEleen Frisch - Wallingford, Connecticut USA
All gardens should include a small putting green, a rabbit hole, a black hole, a ?????.
Ralph Heather - Ontario CANADA

The journey a Black Swallowtail butterfly takes through it's life stages is always magical. This Black Swallowtail caterpillar showed up in my backyard on a patch of parsley and was an amazing bright green and black. I'm so thankful that there is a ban on pesticides here so we can enjoy the return of butterflies, hummingbirds and so much more.

Ralph is a visual artist focused on original printmaking using the traditional techniques of hand-cut wood blocks or etching. His art is hand-drawn, hand-cut and hand-printed in limited editions. In his work he searches for life’s connections that seemingly go unnoticed, often finding his inspiration locally.
Kathe Welch - Oakland, California USA
Gilda Machado-Zimmerling - Templeton, California USA
I decided to add a couple of owls to this garden to watch over all the beautiful creatures. They are known for may things amount them is their wisdom and their quality as protectors.

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finally! Prepping the Beast

Real work begins!

There is MUCH to do now and will be so for the next few weeks.
I just finished clearing out the studio to make room for clean and efficient printing of 400+ woodcut prints. Clean press, blankets of various thicknesses and compositions ready, newsprint prepared, ink and knives hanging in my magnetic holders awaiting eagerly... I even bought new clothes-pins so that I could hang them all to dry without stopping much more than to wolf down my next Power-Bar.


But first, a few details yet to attend to. Blocks have to be inspected for potential printing problems, backgrounds carved a bit deeper in some cases, lines enlarged. Tough to tell who is going to give me grief during the printing process but mostly a matter of cleaning up the backgrounds.
Then I have to finish building a "chase" of sorts to keep the roller from hopping off the block. This time I am going to actually joint a full chase to fit the blocks, front-back-side-side. Since the paper is the same size as the block, I predict nothing but smooth printing without hops and slips. Okay!

After the chase is built, the puzzle pieces are glued down to their respective matboard backings. I use a foam roller to spread a mixture of white and wood glue evenly over the matboard and then just set in place the large skeleton block and all its puzzle pieces carefully, quickly!


This year we only had a single block Missing In Action. The process of replacing the block requires a tracing of the "hole", transfer to wood, cut the new block, tweak as necessary, design and carve. Simple, but takes about a day to do it. That is my task for today so I best get to it.
Sadly our first rescued feral cat passed last Friday so I immediately thought of a memorial for our Cricket (1998-2013), now frolicking in our garden forever free of earthly burdens.

Pictures of the cutting of a "sub" block:
Tracing of the missing block, I just slip the paper under the block and draw the outline

After cutting out my tracing, I placed on a block of cherry ply and draw the outline.
The thickness gauge made certain that the blocks were same width.

After clamping the block to my cutting bench, I saber saw the shape.

Perfect fit! Now design and carve, piece of cake!

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Fantastic Garden Update


One of the great rewards of directing a puzzle print collaboration is receiving the puzzle pieces back, nicely carved with wonderful imagery. After properly photographing and recording the newcomers, I get to place them in the puzzle and watch them interact with their neighbors.

In our garden, cats and birds and bugs and weeds and trees interact peacefully, giving each other life and love. Here is a very short slide show video of the garden growing before your eyes:

Puzzle Print Headquarters:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I am starting to load up the rollers!

So close...

I received my shipment of paper with word that the backordered 100 sheets of beautiful Stonehenge Natural are now on their way. With that, I can almost start to proof these beautiful blocks and begin to tweak and tinker. Almost!
Huge thank you to Daniel Smith for their generous discount and superb customer service!
Ten blocks have yet to arrive, with only two people that have not contacted me at all. Good thing because I have tons more ideas for my substitute blocks than just two. I guess I will have to choose.

Just the other day, my cats brought in what looked to be a rather strange scorpion but ended up being a two-tailed lizard! One of the tails had grown out of an injured part of the other and was sticking straight up in the air like a scorpion's tail. I would have photographed the poor little thing, but I wanted to get it out of its "play-dead" trance as soon as possible.
While I carried it carefully toward a cat-free zone, one of its eyes kept opening just a crack to survey me and my intentions. I carefully placed it under a protective leaf and by the time I returned with my camera the clever two-tailed dude was gone under the yuccas. You'll just have to believe me...and wait for the image!

Anyhow, here are three more contributions.

Ellen Shipley - Santa Clarita, California USA

Every garden has its weeds, hardy less-than-appreciated plants bent on staking out their own little corner of the world. My dandelion lady is having a "Bad Hair Day." Haven't we all? ;-]

Carol Myers - Watervliet, Michigan USA

This fairy sculpture that is in my real and fantasy garden is especially meaningful, as it is the same fairy that my 27 year old daughter Lizzie had tattooed on her back. 6 weeks after she was married in 2012 she became ill with autoimmune liver failure, and after five months of critical illness and hopes of a liver transplant she succumbed to complications. I can still hear her musical laughter and see her delight in butterflies as she becomes a part of this fantastical garden.

Mark Vosmeier - Fort Wayne, Indiana USA
It's Harvest Time in the Fantastic Garden! There is a bumper crop in the garden, and Mr. Scarcrow decides to share some corn with two of his former nemeses., With a sound so reminsicent of those old cartoon magpies, "Heckle and Jeckle," the following conversation is overheard:
First Crow: "I say, ol' chum, isn't this corn simply scrumptious?"
Second crow: "Indubitably, ol' bean, most indubitably!"
Both crows and Mr. Scarecrow (altogether): Ahh hahahahahahaha!

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fantastic Garden is nearly complete!

More Denizens

Dorothy Schultz - Calgary, Alberta CANADA
Bulrushes are a favourite image and I thought their odd shape and fuzziness fit well in our fantastic garden. Loved participating in this project!

Carol Hetherington - Canberra, Australian Capital Territory AUSTRALIA
It’s nerve-wracking, isn’t it, when you get that little piece of cherry – you have only one chance to cut a design; there’s no starting over if it doesn’t work.  That’s my dilemma each time I’ve received that little block from Maria.  I get very enthusiastic and put together a wish list of possible designs.  I’m a novice woodcut printmaker so my confidence slowly ebbs as I discard one design after another as being beyond my capabilities.
In the end I decided on the white Warratah (the gorgeous red Warratah is the floral emblem of New South Wales). My initial carving looked cleanly cut and I was happy with it but then I read Maria’s comment that we should carve deep as some plates had to be re-carved last time because the carving was too shallow.  My block doesn’t look so neat and cleanly cut any more but I hope it prints OK.  My inspiration for this subject stems from being a long admirer of (Australian) Cressida Campbell’s beautiful White Warratah (and all her woodcuts).

Linda Beeman - Owosso, Michigan USA

My biggest fear is losing my eyesight. Legally blind without my glasses, I sometimes need help FINDING my glasses if I set them down not in their usual place. Losing them...well, I would have to just sit down and not move. What would happen if I drank the 'shrink potion' like Alice did? My glasses would hardly fit me any more and I'd have to leave them behind. What would I be able to see in that world? Could I find my way? Would I be absorbed into the textures and colors? Scary thoughts. Intriguing thought for an artist.

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Down to the Wire

Oh so close!

We are getting down to the last few stragglers! I was really surprised only one is a snail, the others are rather fast critters like hummingbirds and dragonflies. But sometimes it is windy and all critters have a hard time making headway.


Barbara Mason - Aloha, Oregon USA

This cherry wood was darn hard to lines are wider than I would was odd carving away the lines and leaving the body of the image...more things to learn. Maybe if I live to be 150 or so I will have it down.

John Furr - Pickering, Ontario CANADA

Lynda Furr - Pickering, Ontario CANADA

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sunny Garden

Three More to Enjoy

Ah yes, the sun ever-present in the US Southwest. About this time every year I wish for respite from its powerful rays. But then again, a deliciously mild winter around the corner. The "rays" of the Yucca seemed appropriate setting for this block.
Lizards abound here, keeping the bug population in check and my cats entertained. They often scurry up block walls and hibernate in stucco cracks; the block was held up precariously by that stick in the picture (it is a professionally trained stick) while I snapped the photo.
Lastly the texture of the leaf immediately reminded me of one of the trees that did not survive one summer and had to be cut down. The wood texture changes every year as it dries out and provides refuge for tiny insects.

Diana Hartley - Phoenix Arizona USA

Welcome to Arizona where Summer spends the winter and Hell spends the summer.Every garden needs a little sun and we have plenty to spare.
Simona Hernandez - Sacramento, California USA

Happy garden surprises…a lizard discovered by excited children and last year’s squash seeds taking root this year!  My garden is your garden.

Allan Greenier - New Haven, Connecticut USA

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Batch of Garden Denizens

All Gardens Share Critters

Through this project I have been amazed at the similarities between gardens here and there. Sure, a desert garden is much different than a rain forest garden or a European or Australian garden, but it never ceases to amaze me that the same critters and plants reappear regardless of locale.

The mantis abounds here in the desert as well and thrives among fruit trees like our hardy Pomegranate, where it finds those pesky bugs that open the ripe fruit and ruin it just before I was going to pick.
The lotus (don't miss the artist's inspiring comments on this one!) seemed to belong among our own hard working Century Plant, which is said to bloom once in its lifetime and immediately after begin a journey to plant heaven.
The toadstool belonged sheltered under the folds of a rather large seashell (about 2 feet wide!) that we inherited along with the house.

Bee Shay - Nantucket, Massachusetts USA 

Sarah Wojciechowski - North Royalton, Ohio USA
For my puzzle piece I decided to portray a lotus blossom. The lotus flower represents fortune, purity, and hard work. It grows in muddy water, and it is this environment that gives forth the flower’s first and most literal meaning: rising and blooming above the murk.The second meaning, which is related to the first is purification. It resembles the purifying of the spirit which is born into murkiness. The third meaning refers to faithfulness. Those who are working to rise above the muddy waters.

Sarah Cvilicek - Reno, Nevada USA
When I think of a fantastic garden I think of all of the possibilities and who is living there! A whole world is there and magic happens. So for me I see little houses for fairies and gnomes! It is my hope that a gnome takes up residence in my toadstool house! 
Happy Magic in this amazing garden!

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

More Garden Denizens

Three More!

Richard Stockham - Birmingham Alabama USA
A snake in the grass and an apple rotting to the core. How much more fantastic can a garden get?

Barbara LaPlaca - New York USA

I am a novice carver though not a novice illustrator, painter or photographer. I managed to impale my left hand about 60 seconds into my first cuts but forged on, my hand safely wrapped so as not to dye the wood red with my carelessness. Somehow, flowers, leaves and other natural looking things sprung from the block.
I hope you are pleased with my results.

Michelle R Unger - Edmonds, Washington USA

It's a thrill to be a part of this!

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

It's a show! It's a show!

Finding Common Ground

Well, the show is almost over, but the reception is this Thursday.
In case you can't read the "fine print" this was a collaboration among Nevada artists.

"Geographical Divides: Finding Common Ground features sixteen artists who were asked to explore the geographical and cultural differences in Nevada, if such differences truly exist. The assembly of printmakers--eight from the North and eight from the South--produced two prints from each collaboration. Visually exploring connections and disconnections between southern Nevada and northern Nevada cultural attitudes, aesthetics and geographical distinctions, these sixteen artists communicated and visually responded to each other's unique economic, environmental, political and social settings, further dissecting this notion of a splitting geography and/or communion of Nevada's polarities."
Geographical Divides: Finding Common Ground
Collaboration Printmaking Exhibit among Nevada Artists
Historic Fifth Street School, Mayor's Gallery
401 S Fourth St - Las Vegas Nevada

Monday, September 2, 2013

Only 22 strays

More Contributions to the Great Puzzle!

Gillyin Gatto - Machias Maine USA
bobcatpath at myfairpoint dot net

My block depicts myself in my "clothing free" garden and some old friends who used to inhabit it along with me.

Diane Cutter - Ceiba, Puerto Rico USA

Because I live in a tropical environment, bromeliads abound in my garden.  None of them have been purposely planted.  They are all happy accidents, appearing nestled on a tree limb high up or peeking from under other plants on the ground. They seem to thrive well in their untended airborne state.  Their spiky leaves and petals are bright bits of red, pink, orange in a sea of greens and are especially brilliant when lit up by the sun.

Terry Sargent Peart - Seattle, Washington USA

When I think of a garden I think of peace.  Our front yard garden is a very peaceful and relaxing place to be.  One of the first things we planted when we moved here was a Buddha statue under our huge Cedrus Deodora tree which dominates the yard. Like anything left outside in the Pacific Northwest, our Buddha is slowly turning green.  The statue has become one with the garden, radiating serenity and inviting guests to linger and enjoy.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."  Buddha

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pieces, pieces, pieces

Three More

Marilynn Smith - Nahcotta, Washington USA
Flowers  are one of my favorite things to paint or carve. My image staarted with a begonia from my hanging basket out by the bay and evolved into a flower for the Fantastic Garden.

Paulette Olive - Phoenix, Arizona USA
The inspiration for my piece is the flora present in the southwest United States. I found a prickly pear cactus bearing fruit, photographed it and carved it's likeness to represent the plants that grow in this part of the country.

Randie Feil - British Columbia CANADA
From the time I was old enough to enjoy observing, reading about, and drawing them, insects have fascinated me.  The backyard of my childhood home was home to various species, but it wasn't until I was perhaps eight or so years old that I found a Junebug.  I'd never seen one before and so I popped it into a jar and headed off to the local library, where a thoughtful librarian showed me how to use the card catalogue (this was the 1970s) to find a suitable reference book.  Libraries (and Junebugs) have been amongst my favourite things ever since. 

Fantastic Garden Headquarters: