My husband has been working on a little island in Southeast Alaska for nearly four years now, and the commute was getting hard on both of us. A few months ago we decided I should at least give the place a try, even though I'm a notorious home-body and very intense nester. I've loved most every minute of living in Kentucky and could write at least a short book about the virtues of this unique landscape and community. I'm not going to dive into the pain of tearing, moving, and cleaning up the last six years of my life, but there was definitely some relief in purging. But should I leave my printing press in storage? Should I drag that 200lb machine with all my supplies on a 12 day drive and three day ferry ride to an unknown tiny fishing community? What am I doing with my life? You get the idea.
I friggin brought it.
Here's everything I owned in the world as of December 12th, 2017:
My legendary vagabond father was a primo co-pilot for the 12 day drive.
After dropping him safely at the airport in Seattle, I drove my little mobile home onto a Ferry in Bellingham, WA. Two nights of sleeping in a plastic deck chair later, I arrived in my new hometown on Christmas day.
The Food Connection
I don't know how this work could get any more satisfying. All summer I have been acting as a "produce purchasing coordinator" for a group of residents in the East End neighborhood of Lexington. Neighbors chip in whatever they are comfortable paying to a collective budget, and I contact local small-scale farmers to order fresh, local, and usually organic produce at a bulk discount. In this way we support local farmers, cut out the middleman and bring fresh affordable produce to a historically underserved community. Check out Fresh Stop Markets for more about this economic model.
Photo by Mya Price
The Art Connection
Even though I have been a member of the Lexington Guild of Printmakers for over a year I can rarely make the 45 minute drive to meetings. In July, I happened to be present for the announcement of recent grant funding to introduce printmaking to new audiences. Someone suggested "I heard there's a new farmers' market in the East End, do you think we could do a demo there?" I tried to sink lower in my chair but knew this had my name written all over it. It was decided that each Guild member would come up with a unique design to be printed on canvas bags onsite for the participants in the Fresh Stop Market.
Inspiration for the Designs
We have been known to get pretty creative in sourcing food for the market shareholders. In June, we received a tip-off from a community member about a plum tree, simply overflowing with fruit, on a vacant lot. We assembled a winning team of harvesters including a very cooperative infant and set out to glean from the tree. We ended up with over 40 pints of the sweetest plums money can't buy; headed for our neighbor's tables.
This raised curiosity about how many other forgotten food sources may be found in the East End. A resident gathered stories and created a list: a pear tree, an abandoned blackberry patch, an old cherry orchard and so on. The lineup was impressive, and happened to match the number of printmaker's scratching their heads over designs unique to the East End.
Dibs on the Plum Tree!
This was one of the fastest turn-arounds I've managed. It took one weekend to design and carve the 11"x12" block.
Demo Day and Bag Giveaway!
Our community veggie shareholders were thrilled with the event and the canvas bag souvenirs. I spoke to several members who were happy to see outside recognition of the East End neighborhood as a place "where good things are happening." I hold so much gratitude and respect for the many community members who poured hours into organizing these markets and encouraging their neighbors to take advantage of local food resources.
Last weekend the Printmaker's Guild hung a show of all the pieces designed for the printed bag as well as produce-themed reflection pieces from each of the artists. Hats off to this amazing group of artists, farmers, neighbors, and the magic that happens when they work together.
Find out more about these artists on the Guild's Facebook page.
Since last August I have been working for Bluegrass Farm to Table, housed within the Mayors Office of Lexington, Kentucky. This work has demanded my growth in so many ways, including artistically! Many of my recent graphic design projects have been for an event or program managed by our office. Being a quasi government employee has presented it's challenges, but also provided the opportunity to enter my work in the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government National Arts Program Exhibition. Yes, that's a mouthful. The National Arts Program was founded in 1982 to provide employees of government, hospitals, airports and other large organizations a forum to showcase their visual artistic talents. I think thats an awesome mission!
As an entrant, I had to self-identify as an Amateur, Intermediate, or Professional artist. After a brief confrontation with self-doubt and financial desperation (hefty cash prizes in each category) I decided that if I expect others to take me seriously as an artist, I must do the same for myself. I am a professional artist. Yes, I AM a professional artist.
The evening of the reception came at the end of a truly rotten day. I planned on showing up to support the mission of the program and quickly scoot back to my rural sanctuary. I ended up caught in lovely conversations and taking home first place for professional entrees.
I am so, so grateful.
I've had my fair share of disappointments, but every affirmation makes me more confident in stepping forward with developing my skills and creating this work.
The third and final installment in the weeds series is underway. This will be the first print I run in the new studio space. I'm already dreaming of what's to come next.
It's a great feeling to see my work out on the town. The ladies over at Herb and Willow coffee shop and gallery are doing a lovely job of showcasing Kentucky artists and breathing new life into Berea.
After almost two full years of literally building my studio in the Berea Arts Accelerator, I'm moving everything into my own full studio space- a stone's throw from my front door! For a couple months I entertained the idea of moving only the essential equipment into my house and concentrating on linocut work for easy clean-up. With three people and an ever-increasing number of animals in a tiny house- this was less than appealing. As such things happen, the sky opened up and our landlords offered their full basement apartment for the same rate I had been paying for my studio in Berea.
I could not be more thankful or excited for this fresh opportunity to cut down on drive time and increase my productivity. Of course, I'm going to miss the camaraderie of a shared studio space, but I'm looking forward to crying without shame during audiobooks and cranking out new work.
I knew that when I set out to make a wild plant series, yarrow would certainly be the star. This plant was completely unknown to me until my housemate started to point them out everywhere and recite their list of medicinal uses.
One morning I cut my finger washing a filet knife; the little knick was bleeding like crazy. Candace ran upstairs to grab dried yarrow from her collection and thrust it at me commanding "chew this, then plaster the cut with it." I humored her, the blood soaking the leaves, and then- like a faucet-stopping.
I titled the piece The Vulnerary meaning "for the healing of wounds". Herbal enthusiasts will know Yarrow as Achillea Millefolium. The word Achillea refers to the ancient hero Achilles. He used Yarrow for himself and for his soldiers to treat external wounds, fight fevers, and improve circulation. Millefolium means "of a thousand leaves". I certainly learned to appreciate those thousand leaves while carving this block.
A few weeks ago the loose structure of this piece came into my mind and slowly crystalized. I finally sat down to lay it out on lino and start carving. It took a seven hour sprint, but these prickly beauties are officially on paper and off my conscience.
I was asked by a long-time supporter of my work to paint a rain barrel for an upcoming auction. The proceeds were to benefit Sustainable Berea, a non-profit doing great things for the community. Because I'm a sucker, I said yes. There were a few days of "what am I doing??" but that painting class in community college 5 years ago was worth the money. I'm faithful to my monochromatic kingdom of printmaking, but I'll admit this scratched an itch for color.
"One of the artists setting up a booth is Grace Wintermyer, a Kentucky printmaker whose work deals with the natural world, often focusing on elements that fall beneath our notice. Like many of the exhibitioners at Kentucky Crafted, Wintermyer utilizes artistic practices that seem out of a different time."
Read the full article HERE
Even though this year i juried in as an independent artist, we decided to set up a booth as a gallery group again. The weekend was an absolute success...thank you to everyone that came out to support Kentucky's craft economy! I took every opportunity to walk around and gawk at the incredible diversity of artists represented at the show. Maybe next year I will have time to put in the hustle and fill my own booth!
Check out this video from our first year in the 123 N. Broadway building. Our work has come a long way since this was recorded; a humbling and exciting promise of what's ahead!
Thanks to my new stamp and an endless supply of stickers, every package is looking a little more polished.
Perhaps one year I will start preparing for this show more than a month in advance. I know that's the wise and responsible thing to do, but deep down I thrive on the mad last-minute scramble. Something about the 3am nights fueled by hot chocolate and cheap beer, groggy mornings at the local coffee shop, and ramen dinners make victory all the sweeter. This will be a great show.
I can never print enough of these peppermint moose cards. This was my first attempt at a two-color print; the process is moving faster than that I thought!
With the help of much chocolate last night, I finished a nice little group of prints commissioned by Partners for Education. They requested a small piece that would call to mind springtime in Kentucky. We settled on few eastern redbud branches in a traditional oak egg basket. It took some brain melting patience and many crumpled papers to get the tiny flowers and basket weave to where I wanted them. Hopefully the folks who receive these appreciate them. As a small business owner I certainly appreciated the free tax help they provided for ME earlier this month! Many thanks!
This past weekend my gallery mates and I packed up most of our inventory and schlepped it all to the Lexington Convention Center for Kentucky Crafted: The Market. For me, at least, this was a whirlwind introduction to one of the larges high-end craft shows in the area with hundreds of artists and a full day devoted to wholesale buyers.
The Berea studio was an absolute wreck last week while we built our display units and boxed up artwork. Compared to my potter peeps I felt pretty lucky with just a box of matted prints and a few framed pieces to carry in. After three days on my feet I had talked to hundreds of people, made some great contacts and been completely blown away by the professionalism and generosity of the other artists. There were only three other printmakers in the whole show but it was great to get some feedback on my work and be inspired by successful printmakers.
As a group at Gallery 123 we were obviously the youngest vendors in the room. I can speak for all of us in saying that we are so grateful to Kentucky Crafted for allowing us to exhibit as guest artists. It was truly encouraging to see all the opportunities for wholesale and commission work while getting our names out there as emerging artists!
In order to purchase my press, I took a loan from the small-business lender and all-around amazing local organization MACED (Mountain Association for Community Economic Development). Once I got the studio organized, I was asked to design and hand-print their New Years cards for the entire mailing list! The focus for this landscape composition is "a bright new year" and features common elements of the Appalachian region. I'm super excited about this commission, and in completely new territory when it comes to the volume I'm going to be producing. Here's to the challenges of 2015!
When we entered the space in July, even the excitement of starting this new project could not quell the feelings of "Ohhh man, this place is creepy." The warehouse space had sat empty for a long time, occupied previously by both a casket maker and a puppet store. Not the most thrilling legacy, but a space with huge potential.
We were hoping to open our doors October 1st, so the space had to be turned around in less than three months. I spent so much time at Lowes that it felt like a second home. The five of us had barely met before taking on this program as a full-time job. We soon bonded over inhaling copious amounts of dust, learning to use a circular saw, and wondering when the city would finally fix the toilet. It was seriously awesome.