Type Cuts

art, corvallis, embroidery, Prints

On the shelf above my workbench there’s a box.

DSC_0602That box contains my collection of type cuts–also known as printing blocks, or letterpress cuts. They’re images etched into wood or lead, meant to be printed alongside letterpress type.

Christy Turner type cut collection

It’s an eclectic mix of images that I’ve hand picked for one reason or another. These are a few of my favorites:

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This one is a simplified line etching of a traditional platen press–the kind of printing press used for traditional letterpress printing.

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As a Pacific Northwest native, I do love trees.

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And crabs.

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By far my strangest cut is this one–it’s about 3″ across, and was presumably used for creating dental records. Can you even imagine something as mundane as dental records being hand printed?

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But this one is my favorite. Surrounded by intricate images of elk and horses and trees and other oddities, this pointing hand is the jewel of my collection. It looks like metal but it’s not–this is my only wood etched type cut, carved from a single piece of wood rather than from lead (or lead mounted on a wood base).

The hand itself is probably recognizable–this design, called a manicule, has become popular in modern graphic design. They were originally used to draw attention to important text in documents and books dating back to the 12th century, a common form of marginalia on some of the earliest letterpress printed materials.

Given its history and delicate line quality, it’s hard not to love. I mean look at the individual carved lines–so much information in such sparse, elegant detail. This is what you think of when you think traditional woodcut design.

I recently used a few of my favorite cuts for a somewhat eclectic project, which I’ll explain in a later post. For now, here’s a teaser:
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Happy Friday!

Muscle Study

anatomy, art, embroidery, skeleton, work in progress

Unfortunately my giant mountain woodcut is on hold right now, because my neck is sort of jacked up and sore and I’m a huge sissy who doesn’t feel like coming home from work and carving. So while I wait for my next chiropractor appointment I’ve started a new project that doesn’t require quite so much physical effort.

Neck muscles!

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This week I discovered the library’s medical anatomy section–I spent most of Sunday sketching from a pocket version of Gray’s Anatomy and my own copy of Human Anatomy: A Visual History from the Renaissance to the Digital Age. Awesome book.

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My intent is to embroider this sketch first in black, then to lay in some color in the most dense areas of muscle. Usually muscular anatomy doesn’t interest me as much as skeletal–bones are just so more more solid and strong, where muscles flex and lack a lot of definition. But the issues I’ve been having with my neck and back have made me more interested in the way muscles fit together and work, which is what prompted this project.
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My usual embroidery setup has a new component, this awesome clip on light I bought from work. It’s meant for a music stand, with two flexible lights, one for each side. It’s absolutely amazing for embroidery–the two lights can be positioned to fully light whatever I’m working on, which is invaluable given that I usually sew in my dimly lit living room. Anyone who sews or cross stitches should consider getting a light like this–Mighty Bright Duet2 LED Music Light.
2014-10-13 18.53.27Sewing time!


Mountain Woodcut

art, corvallis, work in progress

The theme the past couple of weeks has been mountains!2014-09-09 21.49.36 Mainly because of the beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. This is a phone picture from a recent camping trip in the Opal Creek wilderness, and I have a lot more fairly similar pictures from places in and around the Willamette Valley.2014-09-20 17.44.36 HDR Having looked at these views (and bad cell phone pictures of them) most of my life, I decided I needed to learn to draw mountains and trees–a more daunting task than it sounds, trust me. First I did a smaller woodcut, about 3″ x 5″, shown here. But even with my micro Flexcut tools, which are seriously the most awesome woodcarving tools ever made, I can’t get much detail or texture in such a small block.2014-09-09 20.16.34So I decided to try a bigger block.

2014-09-10 20.49.54This is a roughly 2′ x 3′ hunk of plywood that’s been hanging around my studio for about four years. I don’t remember where the hell it came from, or what I originally intended to do with it, but it’s relatively unwarped and has a pretty sweet grain, so I’m guess I’m going to carve it. This is way bigger than I usually work, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s worth noting that this block won’t actually fit in my cylinder press–I’ll have to print it by hand with a baren when it’s finished, but that’s okay. I never expected to actually own a printing press, so I made sure to learn how to hand press before I graduated from school, thinking that would be my only option in the future.

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Here’s the finished drawing. The foreground/background differentiation doesn’t look great, but I’m hoping I can smooth some of that out with the carving, making it a little more gradated. Unfortunately the carving process has been slow, in part due to a strained neck muscle and partly because of my dedicated studio cat, Rosie. Apparently my woodblock is a really good place to sit.

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But fall weather is the best for printmaking in my opinion (and the best weather for anything else, period) so here’s hoping I’m able to get some serious carving in this week.



Skull Studies

anatomy, art, embroidery, skeleton, work in progress

For the past few weeks I’ve been absorbed in stitching these skull studies, taken from old sketches I did last summer. I don’t actually have any work in progress photos–these weren’t as much leisurely stitching as frantic, nose-to-the-grindstone work. Sometimes when it’s been a while since I sat down to a real project, I just feel the need to finish something, which is sort of backwards from my usual style–generally I get more pleasure from being actively involved in an ongoing project than I do from actually completing it.


Skull Studies #1 – Full Skull, embroidery on linen, 2014

Each study is about 3″ – 4″ tall, stitched with only 3 colors (white, black, and ecru). Most of my stuff involves simple lines and single colors, so I wanted to branch out into a fully filled in design for a change. After I’ve got all the wrinkles out, these will be stretched around wooden frames, sort of like paintings on canvas.


Skull Studies #2 – Maxilla, embroidery on linen, 2014

I really enjoyed sewing this way, blending thread colors to create depth, and even though these designs only used three colors, that layered thread makes a glorious texture both visually and physically–the layers get thick on the fabric in places, which I love, even though I’m sure it’s not ‘proper’ embroidery.


Skull Studies #3 – Mandible, embroidery on linen, 2014


Bonus depth of field shot of the full skull & the fabric texture. This linen is wonderful, all coarse-woven and unbleached and soft, and the satiny thread really stands out in contrast. Sometimes I really get sick of bleached surfaces–I look at standard white copy paper all day long at work, and between that and a computer screen, sometimes I really just want something that’s naturally colored rather than stark white.


Pacific Northwest Alphabet Book

art, bookbinding, bookmaking, exhibition, Prints, work in progress

A while back I was invited to donate a piece of art for a fundraiser in March. Because the submission deadline is actually in February, I’ve been working hard to finish a new book before the due date–an alphabet book of Pacific Northwest animals.

Thanks to the internet I was able to find an animal for every letter, which proved more difficult than I’d initially thought. Then I sketched each one, carved them onto woodblocks, and printed them onto sekishu paper, a process that took about two weeks altogether.

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My chaotic but excellent workspace.Photo Jan 26, 2 09 16 PM

The Challenge proof press. It was actually nice outside when I started printing this weekend, so I got to open up my garage door and get some sunshine.Photo Jan 26, 2 09 22 PM Look at all them prints.Photo Jan 28, 6 37 04 PM A is for anemone! And weirdly enough so is Z in this series, because the only Z animal I could find was another type of anemone.Photo Jan 28, 7 25 07 PMEven though the most time consuming part of the process is finished, I still have to trim these prints, mount them to the pages of the book, make the covers and sew the book itself. So here’s hoping I can get all that done before my deadline.