Digital Handmade opened my eyes

I am in the throws of building enormous frames for my latest large linocuts Breath of Hermes and Summertide Brings the Derecho. I’m also planning for two new linocuts and they are in the messy stages as I try to push my linocuts to incorporate new techniques.

Digital Handmade sparks my creativity

My planning has been enriched by the discovery of Digital Handmade: Craftsmanship and the New Industrial Revolution by Lucy Johnston (2015). This beautifully photographed book highlights artists and designers who are using digital processes to push traditional media in new and challenging ways.

digital handmade
Johnston, Lucy. (2015) Digital Handmade:Craftsmanship in the New Industrial Revolution. New York: Thames & Hudson.

I was drawn to this title on my library’s new book shelf because of the ongoing dialogue in my head regarding use of new technologies versus the traditional printmaking value of the hand. As printmaker, I chafe at the use of the term gicleé prints to describe a photographic copy. But I fear this prejudice holds me back from creating new, more challenging work as I triumphantly tell people that everything I create is “by hand.” I had an aha! moment when I read the following quote from product designer Tord Boontji who fabricates intricate garlands cut from paper-thin sheets of silver, copper and brass:

“I was looking for a way to link decoration and technology, to create something that was not nostalgic. I realized by using this process it was possible to create something that would be impossible to make by hand, and therefore could not have existed in the past.” (Johnston, 36)

Getting out of my printmaker’s comfort zone may help my hands

As my hands and body age, I find there are things that I want to do artistically that are simply not sensible, such as cutting intricate repetitive patterns with an Exacto knife. For the first time, I am allowing myself to consider incorporating elements that are assisted by technology. Perhaps a laser cutter, or my husband’s 3-D printer.

Venturing out of the realm of traditional printmaking may be a challenge, especially when entering some printmaking shows or juried art festivals. But from what I can glean from my collectors, people are not drawn to my work because it is a traditional reduction linocut, but rather they are captivated by the image.

fractal jewelry
Necklace entitled Julia (2009) designed by Marc Newson. From Johnston, Lucy. Digital Handmade, p. 175.

Some of my favorite innovators

Digital Handmade is a treat for the eyes, with insightful quotes and brief descriptions of the work of eighty designers, artists and craftspeople. A few of my favorites were:

• Atmos Studio’s mapping of the world in thin sheets of wood.
• Tord Boontje’s Garland Light
• Sculptures by Wim Delvoye that transform classical forms into twisting energy
• Nendo Studio’s lacquered paper boxes
• The delicate rendering of the nervous system in nylon by design studio Nervous System
• Jewelry designer Marc Newson‘s fractal geometric pieces
• Textile artist Elisa Strozyk‘s use of dyed wood and to create sensuous, folding forms
• Lighting possibilities by Ariel Zuckerman that incorporate knitting and folded paper

I have to remind myself that printing with a press was once thought of as an extreme departure from the hand-copying of documents. Perhaps my studio is ready for some new innovation.

Do you see innovation on your horizon?


2 Replies to “Digital Handmade opened my eyes”

  1. You should not be held back from advancing your creative endeavors. The use of technology is not about your creative input to the process, it is about the choice of tools and materials. I do not often cut or sculpt my wood with hand tools, I use a bandsaw, an electric sander, a reciprocating chisel. This choice allows me to be more productive and is easier on my body. I can easily imagine the potential of using a 3-D printer to create your printing blocks, seems a natural choice of tool and still requires your creative effort to produce the image, your decision making to manipulate imagery, color and choices of opaque and transparent inks.These are the choices that are the hallmark of your unique style not the tools you choose. The wonderful thing about changing tools and or materials is that it allows you to do things that you may have avoided or not been able to do before. No one can grasp your future like you can.

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