Printmaking is an inimitable and intricate medium. It allows artists to engrave or etch an image onto a surface that will be used to create a series of pieces — each considered an original.
Local printmakers Ashley McGrath and Erica Lang chatted with Revue — here’s what they had to say.
Erica Lang, printmaker and owner of Woosah Outfitters, sparked an interest in printmaking in an introductory printmaking class at Central Michigan University. Lang switched colleges from Saginaw Valley, to Central, and finally to Kendall, where she realized that among other career paths, printmaking was something that finally felt right.
“It was the one thing that got my blood pumping,” she said. “When I was doing it, I felt calm. I never wanted to stop doing it.”
After learning all of the main printmaking techniques at Kendall, Lang said she was able to find what material and style suited her best.
“Woodcuts are my favorite because they’re physical,” she said. “You really have to put yourself into them. There’s no going back from it. You’re carving away matter so you can’t put it back. I really like the suspense of it. You don’t know what it’s going to look like until you ink it up. It’s really rewarding at the end.”
Lang said her work is inspired by the environment, but strong lines.
“My prints are all rooted in nature and being inspired by nature,” she said. “They all have a geometric feel in the design. I also really love black lines and line work.”
After graduation Lang focused on freelance, while selling her work whenever she could. But Lang wanted more for herself.
“It was always my dream to have a store front,” she said. “I liked the idea of people being able to come in and shop for things, but also see how it’s made and talk to me about it.”
In 2012, she found the perfect space to open up her own store but didn’t have enough funds for it. By creating a Kickstarter campaign, Lang raised the money she needed to open up her print shop, Woosah Outfitters.
“It’s a lot of fun being a printmaker in Grand Rapids,” she explained. “It’s my passion, so I love doing it. I think woodcut is the oldest process of printmaking, but it’s kind of making a come back. It definitely takes a lot of time to carve and some people appreciate something that takes a lot more energy to create.”
Fairly new to printmaking, vocalist and keyboarder in popular local band The Soil & The Sun, Ashley McGrath became interested in printmaking two years ago. Since then, she’s fully embraced the organic art form.
“As things get more digital, printmaking is becoming more special because it’s handmade,” McGrath said. “Anything handmade is becoming really appreciated because of that.”
McGrath said she works from home and creates mainly woodcuts and linocuts. She often hand prints with a spoon, but when creating bigger prints and larger quantities she works at Dinderbeck, a Grand Rapids community print shop and artist studio. But it all started while doing her first passion: Music.
“My band played at Rick Beerhorst’s ArtPrize exhibit. He’s a great woodcut artist in town and he first showed me how to carve,” McGrath said. “When I saw his woodcuts, I realized that printmaking was possible. It was my first time being exposed to it and something just kind of clicked.”
McGrath’s works, sold under the name Mashama Prints, are often minimalistic with natural images, such as flowers, trees and leaves.
“I started selling my prints at my band’s shows,” she said. “Until recently I was still learning, so anything I was drawn to I would make into a print. But the direction I feel I am going in is really the expression of the natural world. I grew up on a farm so nature inspires me. A single plant or flower is so complex and beautiful. I also enjoy incorporating my childhood memories.”
Even with a specific vision, McGrath said she is continually surprised with the end product.
“When you print, what it’s going to look like is always sort of a surprise and I really like that,” she said. “I’ve kept pursuing it because I have these feelings inside that I want to express — printmaking became that expression for me.”