Friday, December 20, 2019

Life In a Christmas Card Factory

Like I said yesterday, the holiday is coming up on us fast, so these cards need to get done soon.  This is my first Friday off since Thanksgiving, and the second since the summer,  so I couldn't afford to waste it.  Late morning I showed up at the Studio with my new card block,  my bag of cutting tools, my printmaking supplies, and some paper.  I had things I had to get done today.

I made a few last minute adjustments to my block drawing, then get started on the cutting.   Small block, and a lot of details, but nothing I couldn't handle, so it was just a matter of starting at one end and cutting until I finished it, about 90 minutes work.  I was in a mood for some Neil Young, so brought with me a disc with the Live Rust album, starts with some acoustic but works its way to some serious rock and roll.  Not that I could easily hear much anyway,  as when I arrived the thermostat was turned way down and the room was quite chilly.  I turned it up to about 70 degrees, which meant that the heat (and its loud fan) ran continuously the whole time.  Never got that high (got near 65 in the room) but when I switched from cutting to printing, I turned it down again so I had a little peace.

Time to print.  I took the piece of paper I bought yesterday, my metal straightedge (well chilled from being kept in the car), and tore it down into several card sized pieces of thin watercolor paper.  When I arrived I had brought my printing bag in from the car, also very well chilled, but as I cut, the ink had a little time to warm up.  Decided it was time to set the mood with a little Christmas music and started with one of my favorites- the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.  Basically the full length versions of the songs from the cartoon special done by the jazz trio that  made the music from the special.  If you have seen the show, you know what it sounds like.  Quickly I ran into problems.  The paper, the best option I could find in that store, was cold press paper, and had a little bit of texture, kind of pebbly. I could deal with that.  Bigger problem was that it was difficult to keep this small paper on the block without it moving during the hand printing process, so many of the proofs ended up with some smearing.  I may be able to fix a few in the coloring stage, while others will just be for practicing color combinations.  I found a big scrap of hot pressed (smoother surface) paper there in the Studio, and tore a few card sized pieces, and added them to the mix.  Looked a little better, but the small block and the stiff paper meant I still had challenges.  When that disc ended I switched to another Christmas one- a radio broadcast of the "Another Country" Christmas radio show from WMSC in 1992.  One of my priorities when I got the disc recorder component was to make disc copies of recordings I only had on tape (such as radio broadcasts and out of print records), and this week hiding inside from the cold, I ended up listening to some of them, including some from radio stations that no longer exist.  Not the case here (as far as I know Montclair State still has a radio station) but recorded from the airwaves on cassette on a visit back to New Jersey from grad school, one of my old friend Kathy's Sunday shows.  Only half a dozen of the songs are actually Christmas songs, the rest being various alt-country, including some bands I listen to year round, but those half dozen songs mean I only listen to it this time of year.  Our station had transmitter issues, so the 90 minute cassette included a lot of moments of static and interference (the worst of which did not make the 70+ minute disc version), but when listed to on the old boom box in my school studio, was indistinguishable from a live radio broadcast, so it was like a little bit of home.  As a result, listening to the disc now reminds me of being in Carbondale- the associative power of music can be very strong. But I digress.

I found another large scrap, this one of Okawara, and I remembered that a few years ago I had a similar problem printing on a stiff white paper, and used the Japanese paper as a solution- softer. easier to print on, and thin enough that I could easily mount the cut and colored pieces onto card stock for card use. Not ideal, but I'm running out of time.  And there was enough to pull four proofs, all perfect of course.  I think I can salvage 2 or 3 of the proofs on the watercolor paper, so I'll have enough for the coming week.  As the third disc was ending, I was cleaning up my ink.  Since I have no idea if the building will be open next week and when, I just brought everything home- the proofs, my watercolors- I can finish making cards in a few days once the ink has dried. Meanwhile, there are grades to be calculated, but that's another story.


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