An Insider's Look at Printmaking in Lubbock
Lubbock's thriving art scene is comprised of painters, potters, illustrators, glassblowers and more who inspire us with their creative vision. One of these artists is Victoria Marie Bee, a printmaker, photographer and artist-in-residence at the Charles Adams Studio Project (CASP). We caught up with Victoria to chat about what inspires her and how we can learn from her talent to create a masterpiece of your own.
VL: What led to your interest in printmaking?
Victoria: In the fall of 2011, I started the Master of Art Education degree program at Texas Tech University. One day, Dirk Fowler, professor for the visual art component, brought in a bunch of posters. They were unlike anything I had ever seen. Much like the day I knew photography was always going to be a part of my life, I knew that day was to be the start of another passion: letterpress.
I borrowed a tabletop line-o-scribe press and some type from my professor and set up shop in my tiny one-person darkroom. In that small space, I spent hours experimenting with overprinting, setting type, locking up the press and more. I made postcards for friends, broadsides for poetry readings and birthdays—even collaborated on a national project with Kentucky for Kentucky.
During the fall of 2014, I set up a meeting with Charles Adams and CASP Director Chad Plunket to discuss bringing letterpress to everyone. They went with my crazy idea! With grant money, Charles Adams Studio Project found a Vandercook SP-15 from the LA Printing Museum and a C&P Press with vintage cuts and furniture. Charles purchased some type, and more came from selling my letterpress prints at the First Friday Art Trail.
VL: What’s your favorite thing about using a letterpress to create something?
Victoria: Do you like wine and prints and texting and ink? If yes, chances are you might also love letterpress printing and how it got started. In the mid-15th century, Johannes Gutenberg realized books were only able to be purchased by the very wealthy as each individual page had to be carved by hand on blocks of wood. He would go on to invent a “screw press” modeled after a wine press; a lacquer-like ink he created himself out of soot, walnut oil and turpentine; and (most importantly) movable type. Letterpress was the biggest revolution in print technology, allowing manuscripts to be mass-produced at relatively low costs.
In terms of the artistic process, I love the repetition involved with letterpress. My aesthetic also uses materials that I utilize in all artworks (such as lace), and I often explore the concept of “press” in my art. Three of the main themes in my current art research include pressure versus the act of pressing, creation from destruction and revealing the beautiful within the grotesque.
For my ongoing series, PRESS(v.), I use the scanner and letterpress printing to draw the viewer uncomfortably close, and I search for the sublime in personal histories of the body. I flip the power of pressure and actively engage in the verb press. I am especially interested when the physical process itself embodies part of the concept, such as in the persistent and unrelenting actions involved in the action of pressing.
My work is influenced by Emily Dickinson—for her words, her envelope poems and how she pressed and preserved nature in various indexing formats (including her extensive herbarium of pressed botanical specimens). This inspired me to start pushing objects and images onto fabric or paper with type-high materials in a press bed and manipulating garments and pressing them with other materials in a camera-less scanner.
VL: What other letterpress artists inspire you and why?
Victoria: Dirk Fowler (f2 Design) is the reason I’m a letterpress printer and why the art form is important to Lubbock's art community. [Fowler] is an internationally-known printer and I’m so grateful to him. Curtis Bauer (Q Ave Press) is also a local printer who, alongside Jennifer Snead and others, helped start the Letterpress Studio in the English department at Texas Tech University.
VL: What upcoming printmaking workshops do you have scheduled?
Victoria: On March 24, I’m offering a workshop with the local group Coffee & Creatives that all creative people are welcome to attend. I’ll also be teaching an introduction to letterpress class that will start in March. In my introduction classes, students learn how to hand-set type from our expanding collection of metal and wood typefaces, proper use of a Vandercook SP-15 and other proof/relief presses in the Helen DeVitt Jones Print Studio, how to mix ink for custom colors and more. It is one of the most popular classes at CASP, so sign up as early as you can!
Also, I’m working on two intermediate letterpress courses (anyone who has taken my introduction course can sign up for these) that will be posted this spring: the first in collaboration with a local book artist and the second that will focus on experimental letterpress methods of printing.
Additionally, CASP will host “Print Saturdays” from 1 to 5 p.m. every Saturday in April for all ages interested in exploring different methods of printmaking. For just a few dollars, you can come print designs on anything from t-shirts to notecards.
For a full list of upcoming classes and workshops: visit casp-arts.org, follow CASP or Victoria Marie Bee on Facebook or @casp_lbk and @vbee on Instagram. You can also email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to set up a private workshop for a group.
VL: When are the printmaking studio open hours and what do visitors need to know about open hours?
Victoria: The studio is open every Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. This is subject to change in June, but we always post changes on our Facebook page and Instagram account. We encourage people to take a class before coming to open studio hours for training on the equipment and processes. Print Saturday/Sunday workshops (offered at least three months of the year, plus extra events for certain holidays) give people a taste of printmaking. It’s only $5 an hour, and you’ll want to bring your own paper. For screen printing, bring your own ink. There is a minimal ink fee for all other processes. We work with all levels of artists (children to professionals), so come on by and talk with us and we’ll figure out how to help you get printing!
Thanks, Victoria! Come print with us and share your art using #LiveLoveLubbock!