volume 8 number 4
As Patricia and I prepare to depart for our eighth summer in Nova Scotia, the pace of preparations is increasing. Still, we have much practice at it by now and we are not terribly flustered, just busy. After this summer, we realized we will have lived in Canada for a total of two years... my how time flies!
It is good time spent for us. The pace is slower. The phone doesn't ring nearly as much as in Vermont with unwelcome solicitations and recorded voices. We have good and dear friends whom we look forward to seeing. The coastline is beautiful and crowded is never a word used to describe an experience on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. We're looking forward to it.
In anticipation of our summer, I've completed the last print for the season and one that both remembers and anticipates our time by the sea. I've photographed it in stages so that you can once again see how these reduction linoleum cut prints take shape. What follows is a step-by-step explanation of a reduction linocut print with illustrations. I hope you will find it interesting. I do.
The carved linoleum block ready for the first color printing. It took two days to do the drawing on the block (in blue indelible marker) and almost another two days to do the carving for this first stage. The initial stages are often very time consuming and get lighter as the print progresses, sometimes.... The blue gray is the original surface of the block with the tan areas being the carved portions.
Step 1: Here is the print of the first color from the carved block above. As you can see, there is much planning that goes into anticipating what will happen as the subsequent colors are added.
This is the block after carving in preparation for the second color. I would love to tell you that this didn't take as long as the first stage, but it did. You'll note that the block is backward from what is printed. This creates issues when there is type involved in the image and I've made the mistake of not remembering this before... oops. The original surface is still blue-gray. The first stage of carving is stained a milky light blue from the first ink. The second stage carving is tan.
Step 2: Here's the print with the second color added. Although it is beginning to take shape, there is much more to add from here. You'll note the three holes on the left-hand side of the paper. These are fitted to pins on the press bed to keep the paper in the same position every time so that the colors line up (register) correctly. This tab is removed after the print is finished.
Step 3: (No need to show you the block each time.) Now it's really coming together with the third color and you can clearly see where it is going from here.
Step 4: The fourth impression involved the use of two colors. The ink is applied to the block with a brayer (a rubber roller) and it is a blunt instrument. Because there is significant space between the two colors, I can roll them on separately without overlap. The upper color (violet-gray) uses a fair amount of opaque white and breaks the usual order of color application (light to dark) by going lighter than the previous color.
Step 5: This impression also used two colors - a dark violet-gray on top and a dark brown-green on the bottom. You can see that the nature of the image has changed considerably with the addition of these dark darks. It begins to really snap together.
This is what the block looks like after all the carving is done and before printing the last color.
"Seaside Rest" 8-color Linoleum Block Print, 9" x 12"
Step 6: The final color, a violet-black pulls everything together and the print is finished. I started out with 48 sheets of paper and ended up with 39 acceptable prints. The rest had registration problems where the paper stretches or the block shifts during printing. The result is an uncomfortable double image look that I don't include in the edition. I let the print completely dry for a couple of days (oil-based inks), trim off the registration tab and then sign and number each print to finish off the process. This is the only print I've done this month.
During the course of each year quite a few folks come by to see the gallery or stay in our little bed and breakfast. We always enjoy meeting new folks and sometimes encounter information and connections that surprise us. The building we live and work in, "Union Block" (named in honor of the Union Army in the Civil War, above) was built in 1862 and is at 103 Main Street, right in the middle of downtown. On the front of the building is a very large bronze plaque that says, "Amedeo De Angelis." It was modestly applied to the building as a condition of Amedeo's will when he died in the early 1950s. It cost a small fortune to make and apply, according to anecdotes I've heard. But like many immigrants to the United State, Amedeo was justifiably proud of his accomplishments in this country and wanted them memorialized in bronze.
So a few weeks ago the grandson and granddaughter of Amedeo came into the gallery and we had a wonderful conversation about him, his shoe store, his cousin's shoe repair shop and this building. A couple of days later, she sent me two photos that I'd like to share with you.
Amedeo De Angelis' Shoe Shop at 103 Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, circa 1915 (Amedeo De Angelis, standing above on the right)
Our front door is just out of the left-hand side of the picture. The windows remain the way there are in this photo with cast iron posts/columns at their corners. The iron rail by the steps down to Amedeo's shoe shop is still there. On close examination in Photoshop we can see that the windows have ladies hats in them and one gentleman's straw boater hat in the far left window bottom. Down the street is a lunch counter that accommodated both ladies and gentlemen, according to the sign (how very modern!). There is the "Wizard Tailors" shop and a shipping crate on the sidewalk with "J.E. Rogers, Brattleboro, Vt" on its side. The streets are cobblestone and you'll note, by way of comparison to today, that they are a good deal lower than the current pavement at the curb stones - which I believe are the same granite that is out there today.
Here's the same view today (without Amedeo).
Interior of Amedeo De Angelis' Shoe Shop at 103 Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, circa 1925 (Amedeo De Angelis, left)
The interior of the shoe parlor in the basement looks quite different than it is today. This picture was (I believe) taken later than the previous one. Amedeo is a little heavier and older. The interior features blown glass, Edison-style light bulbs connected to knob and tube exposed electrical wires on the ceiling. There's an 8-day, wind-up "Regulator" oak school/calendar clock on the wall behind a very fancy cash register. (The granddaughter tells me the clock is hanging in her kitchen and is, "...still working efficiently today.") There are lots of polishes, shoe laces and other stuff on the shelves. And on the lower right you can see the cast iron shoe shine stands to rest your feet while getting your shoes polished. Two of them are in the shape of horses.
Joe's Shoe Repair Shop at 82 Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, circa 1987 (photo by Roger Katz)
But the story doesn't end there. According to his grand children, Amedeo's family worked in shoes in Italy before he came to the States. And they tell me there is still a shoe store (albeit, a very modern one) run by Gianfranco De Angelis, son of Pasquale, Amedeo's brother in the town of Popoli in the Abruzzi region of Italy today. In Brattleboro, Amedeo's cousin, Joe De Angelis, also had a shoe shop that was still operating across the street from Amedeo's original shop when we moved here in 1987 (above). Joe ended up closing his shop around 1990 and the basement space (must have been a shoe shop thing) was then occupied, as it is to this day, by Mocha Joe's Coffee Shop. My friend Roger Katz took this photo and we're still trying to figure out why he would have included that young woman in this photo of such a venerable landmark. Hmmm....
I hope you enjoyed my stories this month. Our gallery and bed and breakfast will both be open and operating this summer even though we'll not be in Vermont. This summer, your host will be Maureen Volland, from Pennsylvania. Maureen is an artist and will be working in my studio as well as hosting the bed and breakfast.
The first weekend in June is a very busy one in Brattleboro with the Strolling of the Heifers parade and celebration along with our monthly Gallery Walk from 5:30 to 8:30 on Friday, June 5th.
If you would like to purchase any of my prints online, you can just click on the image and that will take you to a page from which you can purchase the print of your choice. Or you can give us a call at the phone number at the bottom of the page or drop us an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
William H. Hays
All Contents Copyright 2015, The Artist's Loft Gallery