It's a strange thing to be an artist. One works alone mostly, holed up in a studio, tinkering and toiling, probing and pushing, flowing and floundering. For several years I worked alone with very little contact with other creatives, which in hindsight, was quite unhealthy and isolating. One needs other creatives in their life in order to talk the language of makers and feel like your work is meaningful. Other artists understand the value of making in a way that friends or family may not and I have realised over the years that having contact with other creatives is valuable and necessary for me to maintain a feeling of purposefulness and good mental health. That is one of the reasons that I started taking ceramic and printmaking classes - it just feels really good to be in the presence of people who love to make things!
So, it was with this in mind (and a desire to further my printmaking skills!) that I signed up for a linocut workshop in Bali with Shana James and I'm so glad I did because I've just returned from the most fabulous, creative and restorative trip full to the brim with enthusiasm and ideas! Yay! Not only did I learn a lot about the lino-printing technique, but I also got to spend time with a fabulous group of women (and one man!) with big, bold creative spirits.
The workshop was set in the grounds of the Arma Museum and Resort in Ubud, the creative heart of Bali. The Arma Museum contains two buildings which house both traditional and contemporary Balinese art - the private collection of the owner, Agung Rai. Artists work in the beautiful, lush grounds of the resort and are happy to discuss their practice with passer's by. It's a rich and fertile place in which to explore your own creativity, that's for sure!
The week long workshop was a joy to participate in. To have full days with no distractions to dedicate to one specific technique was a real treat. Shana has a very relaxed and casual teaching style which is exactly what you want in the humidity of Bali! There are no specific tasks, no deadlines and no homework - you work at your own pace and get all the guidance and help you need in order to go home with the skills required to make prints in your own studio or home. That's the thing I really loved - that I now feel confident to make beautiful prints in my own home without a press (they are SO expensive!) or any fancy equipment. I got the power!!! Yes!
Also, Ubud is just a great place to hang out for a week. The people are generous and kind and Balinese culture is evident in every corner of this creative town in the hills. The food is fabulous, the shopping is awesome (especially if you love textiles!) and there's plenty of interesting destinations to visit close by. For the spa and massage lovers (I am not one) I was told numerous times that massages are good and cheap and that the spa treatments are lovely too. When I wasn't workshopping I spent my free time eating and drinking my way through as many Ubud restaurants as I could. I was delighted with the quality of the fare I consumed - seriously, to be able to eat (*ahem*, let's be honest - afford!) several fine dining meals in a week is a dream come true!
So, at this point you're probably wondering if I actually made anything, haha! Yes, yes, I totally did. I made two prints - a small print of a squirrel (seen scurrying amongst the trees at the resort) and a larger print of a cat I met at a bar that we ate lunch at one day. I learnt quite a lot in making these prints but my biggest lesson was to take the time to 'design' a linocut image and then carve it slowly and mindfully. I made the mistake of continuing to carve my Lino when I was a bit tired and unfocussed and there are a few little mistakes that irk me, but you know, you live and learn! Ok, firstly let me show you my squirrel...
I made this one as a practice piece and I think it turned out kinda cute! All the little flowers tested my fledgling Lino carving skills but I guess that's how you learn. This one was printed using a spoon to rub and press the print onto the paper. I was very surprised at how good this technique is - you can bang out a really clean and crisp print without a printing press - um, yes, what a revelation!
After printing my squirrel I started on a bigger piece - another animal of course, this time a kitty cat! On our first day in Ubud we ate at a local bar and there was a ginger cat who lay fast asleep on the cool tiles in the middle of the restaurant. The sweet little feline looked so content and happy there between the tables of people eating lunch and drinking cocktails. I snapped a photo of the smiling cat and when it came time to start my second linocut I thought that photo would make a lovely print. The design came quite intuitively and in hindsight I think I should have spent more time thinking it through, but look, I love it for what it is and it's an authentic piece that reflects my time in Ubud so you gotta be happy with that! In the background I added a stylised design that I copied from a beautiful vintage textile I bought in a local batik store.
Ta daaaaa! You know, the thing I love most about this print is that it is about a specific moment in time and I'll always remember that when I look at it. I made quite a few prints and I'm planning on playing around by adding some watercolour and ink to the backgrounds of a couple of pieces. The green one here was made using the chine colle technique.
So, what a wonderful week! It was the best way to start the creative year off for me. I feel enthusiastic and ready to get some serious work done in 2024. I found it really hard to gain traction in 2023 with all the renovations, visitors (no shade - it was lovely to have everyone visit us in Perth!), trips away (again, no complaints) and general settling in to a new city. This year is looking like more of a blank slate and I feel ready to start building a creative career on the West Coast. Let's do it!
I'll leave you with a few more pics from my week in Ubud and a video of me printing taken by Shana's assistant, Ebony (herself an incredible artist!). I hope you enjoyed my little workshop wrap up and if you'd like more information on Shana's workshops then check out her workshop website and sign up for her mailing list to get updates on future workshops. I highly recommend! :)