When it comes to printmaking there are an infinite number of things a person can do says artist and freelance instructor Jenn Robins. The Victoria-based artist eagerly shares her knowledge during a week-long workshop held in Williams Lake.
“The print world is expanding so much now and it seems as if there’s almost a bit of a revival happening. There’s still very traditional techniques, with ways and rules that have to be honoured, but there’s also people wanting to stretch the boundaries.”
Robins makes prints on metal and embossing on metal too.
She also does waterless lithography — a technique created by Nik Seminoff from Saskatoon.
“This is a Canadian invention. There’s always ways in which we keep stretching what we do with process and materials.”
Seminoff was involved in making the photo lithography plate originally, which Japan purchased, and then went into the process of waterless lithography.
“In each case, what we’re trying to do, is get rid of all the toxins in our repertoire. That man is now in his 80s and often I speak with him. I’ve never met him, but he’s always so gracious. You find that in the print making community. People are really willing to share their stuff.”
Originally a music teacher, with a university degree that also encompassed courses in English, history and geography, a health incident changed Robins’ life and resulted in her return to university, at Okanagan University College.
“I thought I’d try two dimensional art. My grandmother was a wonderful artist, she really was. I didn’t really know what would happen when I enrolled, but I met Mary McCullough. She was my instructor for one course, and I asked if I could come and work in her print studio.”
McCullough agreed and told Robins by the end of her stint she would know what a print was so when she went into a gallery she’d know what something was.
“I was in the class for about five weeks and I never left. I do other things as well. I’ll paint with water colours or every so often go into another medium usually to teach me something more about colour, and then go back into the printmaking again. That’s what I’ve been doing for 25 years. I adore it. You never get bored,” she says.
Robins kicked the course off with a lecture at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus Aug. 10 and since then 11 women, including one from Prince George and one from Alexandria, have been busy at the Central Cariboo Arts & Cultural Society centre.
As she shows off some of the prints people have made in the workshop, Robins points out different types of prints they’ve tackled, such as embossed collagraphs and four-day photo etching, which is very complex and detailed, she adds.
Picking up once piece she explains it’s completely done by hand. Another piece was taken home and colour was added.
“Everything varies on how you actually cook the plate,” suggests.
As the participants mill around viewing each other’s work, Robins looks around and describes them as a “wonderful” group.
It’s the third time she’s been in Williams Lake to give a workshop and each time the Cariboo Arts Society has had more equipment in place, including a printmaker purchased five years ago.
“What is lovely about the group is that once it was decided the workshop was going to take place, there was a tremendous amount of work put in to prepare. One person’s husband made the light box, another did the electric for the light box. A few of them worked as a team to make it happen.”
Funding for the workshop came from the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District through the Central Cariboo Arts & Cultural Society.