Setting Up Shop: First, Make Room

Setting up a studio is a task all artists share. Why not make it easier on ourselves? Let's talk.

In an effort to exchange knowledge and skills, I want to share my projects and progress with you as I build a new home based printshop that is both professional and budget friendly. I welcome feedback and participation in what I hope won't be a one-sided conversation. How can we build our studios and get the most from often limited spaces and budgets? What has worked for you in the past? What is working for you now? How did you find a studio space in the first place? Let's work together to collect and share our brilliant ideas and problem solving solutions. 

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Project Update: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

Last week was filled with events and meeting new people, and this week I have been busy attending to Grey Gardens. My studio time hasn't been as plentiful as I would like, but I have made some progress on the large wood block I shared earlier. The drawing is complete and the upcoming print has a title!

Wood block for the upcoming print  If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now    © 2013 Kristen Necessary

Wood block for the upcoming print If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

© 2013 Kristen Necessary

If you are not familiar with Relief or woodblock printing, this drawing is not intended as a finished artwork. Think of it as a sketch, or better still, a map. I am using the drawing to lay out my idea, to guide my hand in carving an image from the block.

This block is 1/2" MDF with a Birch veneer. I haven't worked with this material before, typically I favor Birch Plywood or Shina Plywood from McClain's Printmaking Supplies. Yes, I probably should choose a less ambitious image when using an unfamiliar material, but that would just be too sensical. 

Detailed view of wood block for the upcoming print  If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now    © 2013 Kristen Necessary

Detailed view of wood block for the upcoming print If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

© 2013 Kristen Necessary

Next I will stain the wood with an intense color, I like to use hot pink. Using a series of wood carving gouges, I then remove areas that I do not want to transfer ink in the final print. As I carve, the contrast between the hot pink stain and the areas of unstained wood revealed by the gouge makes it easier for me to see what I am doing.

Physically creating two levels of surface height, I remove the negative space of the image with my gouge and the positive space of the image emerges as a raised surface. Ink is applied to the block using a roller or brayer, thus it adheres only to the raised (un-carved) surface of the wood. The ink is then transferred from the raised surface of the block onto a sheet of paper using pressure. That my friends, is the basic definition of a Relief print.

I am going to continue to document the creation of If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now in future posts, so be sure not to miss a step by subscribing to the blog using the link at the bottom of this update.

Are You Happy?

It's Monday. It's also the holiday season. These are the dangerous type of circumstances that can lead many of us into a full on existential crisis.  It happens to the best of us, even in the best of times. 

I have recently moved to a new studio, a new town and a new state even. For the past few years, whenever I change studios or workspaces (I'm counting my stint in day job cube-land here) this collaboratively designed poster by Alex Koplin and David Meiklejohn is one of the first things I make sure to hang on the wall. 

Are You Happy?     © 2009 Alex Koplin and David Meiklejohn.   Water-based Silkscreen o  n #100 French Speckletone %100 recycled paper, 16"x24" sheet.    

Are You Happy?  © 2009 Alex Koplin and David Meiklejohn.

Water-based Silkscreen on #100 French Speckletone %100 recycled paper, 16"x24" sheet.


I use this flow-chart as a map. If I feel unsure of where I stand, it reminds me to slow down and evaluate my surroundings. With non-nonsense clarity, it tells me to enjoy and be thankful for what I have, or to take the lead in working toward what I want. Changes can be big or small, simple or difficult, but time is always too short to waste. 

This is my simple adopted strategy for life and studio. I think it pretty much covers everything.

After two sold out print runs, the Are You Happy? print by Alex Koplin and David Meiklejohn is unfortunately unavailable at this time. For sale on the Moodgadget storefront from Merchline, you can sign up here to be notified by email when it becomes available. Or, read more about the print on Alex Koplin's blog entry here.

Work (in) Progress

I'm starting to pick up steam on this print-in-progress (finally). The image is my tedious take on ticky-tacky, inspired by a housing development in Des Moines, Iowa. Its hard to admit, but I've been working on this woodcut block off and on for over a year now and I have yet to touch it with a gouge. I first laid out the drawing in graphite. I am now going back with a black permanent marker and a white colored pencil to clarify my vision of how I want to begin cutting the block. 

In graduate school, a wonderful professor/colleague once teased that I was a secret printmaker, only showing what I was working on when forced into a critique. It's true, one of my big stumbling blocks in sharing my work is feeling like "It's (I'm) not ready yet".   This is an attempt to begin to share more of my process. It is going to take the time that it takes to complete this print and I am satisfied with the progress I have made this week.


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