A print with an all consuming nature

It has been over a month since my last blog post. Since then, I have been consumed by a very large intricate square print…and hundreds of circles. So without further ado, here are the two resulting print series:

Elizabeth Busey.  That Which Surrounds and Supports Us.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 28 x 28in, 2013.

Elizabeth Busey. That Which Surrounds and Supports Us (detail).
Linoleum Reduction Print, 28 x 28in, 2013.
Elizabeth Busey. Herbaceous Handwork.
Linoleum Reduction Print, 28 x 28in, 2013.
Elizabeth Busey. Herbaceous Handwork (detail).Linoleum Reduction Print, 28 x 28in., 2013.

These prints were inspired by microscopic enlargements of cross-sections of plant stems. The vascular structure of these stems supports the plant, transports fluids between the roots and shoots, and stores nutrients. Thousands of tiny vessels work in tandem to support a vast array of plant forms. Nothing short of miraculous.

The creation of this print involved creating the matrix of circles, mostly with my trusty Tama To japanese carving tool. Then colors were developed with many different layers of ink rainbow rolls. I wanted the prints to pulsate with life affirming color. After a while, it was necessary to begin carving away the matrix. Because it had taken me so long to create the matrix, this was a decision I made very gradually and painstakingly. Now only the darkest undulating ribbons and the large center circles remain on the block.

As I researched these structures, I was struck by how much they resembled the intricate lace of previous centuries. I discovered that instead of being a pleasant activity in which women participated when their work was done, lace making was an industry where women could make as much income as a male laborer. The catch was that the women had to be constantly working whenever there was daylight, hunched over their lace pillows, staying inside the home to keep the white fibers clean. Women became pale, and suffered from tuberculosis. At times, the demand for fine lace literally consumed these women’s lives.

As I mentioned before, I felt a compulsion to work on this print that I don’t always have. Certainly some of it was the shear number of hours it took to carve the tiny circles away. But more of it had to do with the summer — a summer where I was totally alone in my home for two weeks — a first in almost 18 years.  The endless carving and printing of thin layers, over and over again, was a way to fill the daylight (and some nighttime hours) in my temporarily transformed life.

What work consumes you?

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7 Replies to “A print with an all consuming nature”

  1. Wow, Elizabeth, your most devoted (in quantity, if not quality of devotion–I like to think I am one of the latter) collector calls you "my favorite living artist, Elizabeth Estabrook Busey." On facebook. She is not alone in this feeling!

    It has been so meaningful (and a little scary) to watch the creation of this gorgeous piece. I feel like I understand so much better how demanding your work is, at every single stage. And the results are stunning! MKP

  2. These are monumentally beautiful Elizabeth. I like your plant works (Kale) but the mandala-like effect of this print and the colors and scale are wonderful.
    This will win prizes…..
    I like the blue background version the best…..and I like that you chose to crop your stem so that it went beyond your border…makes the large format even bigger.
    How many good prints did you end up with? At that scale did you end up with registration issues or paper stretch?

  3. Oh Elizabeth, these are stunning! What Andrew said. Fantastic, mandala-like, mesmerizing. And how did I not know about the Tama To?! Thanks for that tip.

  4. Thanks everyone! I'm actually missing working on them now…

    In answer to your question Andrew, I ended up with 11 of the blue and 16 of the purple. The Blue one was an afterthought when the process was underway, but I'm glad I made that series as well. My trusty jig (a corner piece of thick sign plastic and the pins and tabs used for silk screen) meant that everything registered well and there was no paper stretching. (Keep in mind that my paper is dry.)

    Lori, I was going to be in Minneapolis in early August, but decided I needed to stay home and take care of family stuff, so I will have to wait for another opportunity to share our work in person.

    Annie, I highly recommend the Tama To. I'm always looking for an excuse to use it. Very meditative.

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