Thanks to an arrangement among the groups that run Frank Lloyd Wright’s public houses, virtual tours of the architect’s buildings are streaming on partner sites every Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.
It is, however, a bit confusing to figure out what is going on where. Your best bet is to visit the Conservancy site for links to participants, or to search #WrightVirtualVisits.
She is offering limited editions of the 12 prints featured in the book. Customers in the U.K. and Europe can order the prints from her website; Lost Art Press is offering these prints to the U.S. market. The deadline to order is May 15.
We asked Molly to share her process; you can read about it below.
Introduction It was an honor and a challenge to be asked to make some prints for “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown” – the subject is personal and the specs a little unusual, and maybe more technical than I’m used to. The chairs and tools have turned out to be wonderful subjects for study, and with help from the two Chrises (Schwarz, Williams), I’m really proud of my small part in the book.
Basic details Original linocuts carved, inked and printed by hand using an Albion press. Editions are limited to 75 or 50, printed on Japon Simili paper using oil-based relief printing inks.
Relief printing The majority of my prints are made using relief printing, in this case linocut. Relief printmaking is the process of taking a surface and altering the height to leave relief areas that take up ink from a roller. Paper is placed on top and pressure applied to transfer the image. Anything carved or cut away will print white. Working in reverse and positive/negative is something to get your head around at first, but I hope it will keep Alzheimer’s at bay in the long run.
All the prints for “Good Work” went through a process of looking and drawing, transferring the sketch to a lino block in reverse using tracing paper, carving away the white areas and leaving a relief image ready to take the ink.
I also dabble with intaglio processes (etching), and planographic printing (stone lithography) but find I return again and again to linocut and woodcut because I love the carving process. The original drawing is often very minimal when transferred to the block and I “draw” the rest with my set of gouges. The best way I can describe it is that there is a resistance to the gouge that is just enough to accommodate the intention of the line you wish to create. Think too much about it or let your mind wander and you will lose it. It is a wonderful test of focus as falling out in your mind often means a mistake that has you starting the whole plate a second time.
Plates The plates used for “Good Work” are a mixture of grey hessian-backed lino (sometimes called battleship lino), and Japanese Vinyl, a two-sided synthetic rubber plate with a very smooth surface. Lino is made from pressed linseed set on a hessian backing to hold it together; it carves beautifully and can also be etched with a mixture of caustic soda (several of the images have this effect – it allows tone to be built up in addition to carved marks). I much prefer the grey lino but ended up using the vinyl for the larger chairs mainly because of the ease of cleaning and durability. However well you clean a lino block (I use plain vegetable oil which also helps condition the surface), the vinyl will stand up better to repeat printings and larger editions.
Tools I use gouges made by a Swiss company, Pfeil, and 90 percent of my carving is done with the finest No. 12 V-gouge. These little wooden-handled tools fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and are incredibly good.
Printing I help run a small printmaking organisation in the seaside town of Aberystwyth. Despite it’s small stature, Aberystwyth boast a university, the National Library of Wales and a strong group of printmakers. The workshop is member run and open to all styles and levels of printmaker. We run classes and exhibit regularly as a group, and talk a lot about process and equipment in the same way I suspect woodworkers do.
We’re lucky enough to have a cast iron Albion press dating from the 1850s, and the majority of the book plates were printed using this wonderful machine. Albions were used for commercial book printing until the middle of the 19th century, and afterward by private presses and artists.
The inked plate is placed face up on the press bed, paper is carefully placed over it and the toggle mechanism draws the flat metal platen down in one steady press to transfer the image.
Paper The paper I used for this set of prints is the machine-made Japon Simili (made in Holland, not Japan). It has a warm tone and its fine, smooth surface makes it ideal for relief printing as it reproduces fine detail beautifully. For relief printing I also use Somerset rag papers and the occasional piece of fancy Japanese paper (mantra whilst printing: don’t f*ck it up!).
Inks These prints are printed using oil-based printmaking ink from Intaglio Printmakers, London. I have tried many inks and find these are the best for my work in terms of texture and coverage: less flat than the water-based equivalents and more durable. The only disadvantage is drying time; this mid-Wales coastal area is extremely humid (we even have Welsh “rainforest”) and drying times can be a week or even more, depending on the season.
Kara Gebhart-Uhl, Christopher Schwarz and I have selected a few of our favorites from “Honest Labour: The Charles H. Hayward Years” – some have already been posted; there are some still to come. Chris wrote about the project that “these columns during the Hayward years are like nothing we’ve ever read in a woodworking magazine. They are filled with poetry, historical characters and observations on nature. And yet they all speak to our work at the bench, providing us a place and a reason to exist in modern society.”
Our hope is that the columns – selected by Kara from among Hayward’s 30 years of “Chips from the Chisel” editor’s notes – will not only entertain you with the storied editor’s deep insight and stellar writing, but make you think about woodworking, your own shop practices and why we are driven to make. When Australian toolmaker Chris Vesper (vespertools.com) read “A Kind of Order” it prompted him to write a few responses – read the first, “Everything in its Place,” here; another is below.
Time Saved is Time Gained
One thing I’ve observed from many years of visiting all types of workshops all over the world: Everyone does it a bit different. There is no right or wrong; it’s what works for you with as little judgement as one can muster. But I have found that certain things can increase shop efficiency and personal enjoyment quite remarkably. Like stepping back once a year for a really good clean up and a think outside the box to re-organise things. Buying or making new storage for your tools (not some latest plastic storage gadget that promises to upend your life with happiness, but genuinely practical ideas like robust drawers, shelving, cupboards, racks etc.). Maybe move the workbench or a couple of machines to suit you better. Chances are if you’ve been thinking for 12 months that you really should move that material rack but haven’t, you probably should have moved it 18 months ago.
One extreme of a workspace is a floor you could eat off during work hours and barely a tool out of place – because everything has a place, and all is organised just so. The other is what appears as mess and utter chaos to the casual observer (hopefully not on the level of compulsive hoarding – that’s not healthy for anyone). But the keeper of said chaos will likely know exactly where everything is, able to reach into the darkness of a dusty corner shelf or bottom drawer and procure quickly any requested item, no matter how obscure. Many people who operate at both extremes (and everything in between) are perfectly capable of producing beautiful work in a reasonable time frame. Some work in an eternal mess; some simply cannot do this. The manners of the brain are an interesting thing.
I prefer the cleaner and more organised end of the shop spectrum – especially working as a one-man business in a very poly-technic workshop (woodworking and metal working, along with a few other tricks like laser marking in house, metrology and some hobby welding, restoring an antique machine). Forget pride or satisfaction – I genuinely find much efficiency is gained from knowing EXACTLY where a certain tool or device is, and being able to lay hands on it immediately – no rummaging through the sedimentary geological layering that sometimes happens.
I ponder my early struggle to separate the precision metal working stuff from the ravages of woodworking dust. Apart from the obvious of using better extraction than in my early toolmaking days, I’ve now overcome this problem completely by simply putting things away and keeping the things that are not like the other separated. This is relevant no matter your shop size. Small shops need to keep ahead on organising lest conditions degrade to the point where one could have difficulty getting in the door due to the goat track having suffered an overnight avalanche (not to mention fire risks and other more serious safety matters). In larger shops it’s also critical as one does not want to waste time walking to the other side of a shop only to realise the item required is somewhere else.
One method I’ve found to be immensely convenient is to have many smallish rubbish bins (trash cans, y’all) placed strategically and unobtrusively around the workshop, sometimes grouped around a specific work area. Nothing fancy. Old paint buckets or similar receptacles mean I am never more than one step – or at best an easy lob – away from a bin. I’ve found it best to have several per area, including one at either end of my benches. So with two benches in my work area and a table in between them, that means I have four bins there alone to cover two benches. Works a treat.
It saves so much time and eliminates double handling when cleaning up your own mess, even in a small workshop.
This ethos was hatched one day whilst I was absorbed in a job and needed to chuck something in the bin. I had to walk several steps to chuck it, walk back and make a second trip (and I likely dropped something along the way).
Think on how many steps you walk to throw out a rag, or the packaging of something you just opened. Consider if you can turf it with little care or precision into a bucket probably less than one meter (about one yard, y’all) away from your body, then not give it a thought until you empty all the smaller bins into your main bin (which I do perhaps once a month). Sure that part takes a little time, but is a small investment in your own time compared to what you’ve already gained.
Peter Galbert (author of “Chairmaker’s Notebook”) has just released the first of his two-part video series: “Peter Galbert Teaches Milk Paint.” (The second part, which will go in-depth on using more colors, will be available in May and is included in the purchase price).
I just finished watching part one, and it is fantastic – like pretty much everything Pete does, from his chairmaking to his book to his teaching. The video is a good mix of wide and close-up views, and the pace is just fast enough that you get the instruction you need without any superfluity.
Shot in Pete’s enviable shop (with a cute cameo from Georgia, his dog), the video starts off with an inspiring gallery of some of his work (painted in a variety of colors) and an explanation of what milk paint is and why he likes it. Then Pete provides an overview of the process.
He then breaks each step down into easy-to-follow instruction.
First up is surface prep, for which your approaches will vary depending on the type of wood and whether you sanded or scraped it. Then, Pete shows how to properly mix the paint (much thinner than you might expect), rest it, and strain it for easy-to-apply coats that go on smoothly. He applies two coats of red, sanding between them, before mixing the black (which is thinner still) and applying two coats.
Once all the paint is on and dry, he shows you how to mix and apply an oil finish, and how to adjust the mix for your desired sheen.
Plus you get a good look at the gorgeous details of Peter’s continuous-arm Windsor chair as he goes along.
With Pete’s help, I think even the most novice of milk-paint users will be reassured that a great finish is simple to achieve, as long as you proceed apace. And even if you’ve used milk paint a lot, I suspect you’ll still pick up some pro tips.
If you’ve met Chris Williams, then you know “soothing” is not the most likely adjective to describe him – typically I’d choose “hilarious,” “enthusiastic,” “skilled” … something that gets across his larger-than-life personality and absolute love for and mastery as a maker of the Welsh stick chair form.
But as I was working away alone in my basement shop, I was listening to Chris chat with Kyle Barton and Sean Wisniewski on the Modern Woodworkers Association podcast (episode #290), and it was just so nice to hear his voice again (and OK – his lilting Welsh accent), that I felt as if he was in the room with me … though he’d no doubt be appalled at the state of my basement shop – it is, as Chris would say, SHOCKING! And it was soothing too, for that hour and 15 minutes or so, to not feel quite so alone. (But don’t worry – I’m fine.)
Chris was on the podcast to talk about his new book, “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown,” about Welsh stick chairs in general, and how his own view of chairmaking is very much determined by his place in the world (that is, a small, rural village in Wales). He expands (expounds?) on some of the information in the book, sharing more about his own woodworking background, and more on how John Brown changed the trajectory of his life. Chris also offers his thoughts on what makes a “good” Welsh stick chair, and how his own have evolved – along with my favorite quotation from John Brown on the subject: they are “a smidgen off ugly.” He also talks a bit about a new book he wants to write.