Annapolis County group forming printmaking collective

Heather Killen
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By Heather Killen

TC•Media

NovaNewsNow.com

 

The Elephant Grass Print Collective is hoping to get printmakers to grow again like bad weeds.

The collective was formed after Kings County artist John Neville decided to downsize his home and wanted to loan his etching presses on a long-term basis to a group willing to make them available to the community.

Annapolis Royal artist Wayne Boucher passed this information along to a few of his colleagues and several eagerly stepped up to form the Elephant Grass Print Collective.

Bonnie Baker, Micheline Gushue, Janel Warmington, Janet Larkman, Jane McBurney Racine, Sheila Breau, and Kate Wasteneys started looking around for a studio that could house the press being offered by Neville.

This group is dedicated to building up the local printmaking and letterpress traditions by providing community access to the equipment. It takes its name from a type of Norfolk Reed that grows around Annapolis Royal.

According to an old story, a passing circus train stopped at the Annapolis Royal station one day to water and walk the elephants it carried on board.  A few weeks later, a tall silvery grass sprouted up along the path taken by the elephants.

Afterwards, locals started calling the plant Elephant Grass. Botanists prefer to describe it an invasive plant, used as thatching material by the Acadian settlers farming the region in 1600s.

 

Bringing back old techniques

The group’s aim is to reintroduce traditional and contemporary printmaking to the community. As desktop publishing upset the traditional printing industry, many viable presses were sent to the landfills.

The group hopes that any presses that may have survived in backrooms and storage areas will eventually find their way back into use at Elephant Grass. The group aims to play with tradition techniques and digital methods, even applying the art to new mediums, such as textiles.

Finding a place suitable to house the Neville’s equipment proved to be a challenge, but in late May, a space opened in the basement of the former school in Parkers Cove where Baker and Boucher both have studios.

The group of seven decided to take the spot and split the rent for one year. The idea was that the collective would eventually become self-supportive through fundraisers, daily rentals fees and workshops.

Soon, other ‘patrons of the presses’ were offering up various equipment and supplies until the collection grew to include three etching presses, a C&P Pilot Press with 10″x8″ chase, a bookbinding press, letterpress accessories, UV light box for developing polymer plates, as well as rollers and nontoxic inks.

“We have a plethora of presses here,” says Bonnie Baker. “There’s a press for every member.”

She added that there are very few open studios where artists can practice printmaking or access this type of equipment. So while people may still learn the traditional techniques, there are very few places to practice what they learn.

 

Learning from each other

The EGPC studio is located at 30 School Street, Parker’s Cove, about eight minutes from Annapolis Royal.  The members have a range of experience, from none to some, and according to Baker, everyone is eager to learn from each other.

“It’s a really big deal when we pull the blankets back from a new print for the big ‘re-veal,’” she said. “But of course there’s no privacy when something doesn’t work.”

The group plans internal fun days where they experiment with new techniques and this has also led to a few ‘disaster days’, where they still learn, but it’s not as much fun, according to Janel Warmington.

So far, the group has been busy getting started with workshops and shows. In July, the artists had a group show at MYM Gallery, at ARTsPLACE in Annapolis Royal and an open house in September.

“We all understand that if we want something, we have to work for it,” Warmington said.

 

Fundraiser underway

The group is putting the finishing touches on its latest fundraising project, a boxed collection of prints (one from each artist) with a guest artist print designed by Wayne Boucher and printed by Micheline Gushue.

These boxed sets will be limited to 18 and are priced at $95 each. They will be available at the Christmas Market in Annapolis Royal on Dec. 7 and through the group’s website.

For more information on the group visit them online at www.elephantgrasspront.wordpress.com, or on Facebook. They can also be reached by phone 902.532.0829

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