Monday, March 05, 2018

New Doors...

A few years ago, I had a realization.  I realized that I couldn't keep the pace up that I was going at.  All-nighters and forgetting to eat from being distracted by my work and constantly being plugged into the internet, answering questions at all hours of the day and night was starting to take a toll on me.  The most scary thing was when I started to notice that my vision wasn't as good and that my hands were hurting more and more.  Granted, I think my sight is still pretty good and my hands aren't that bad if I take care of them.  But still.  I realized that I couldn't keep things going as is.

The trickiest thing is that I enjoy my work.  I am happy to stay up all night and immerse myself in what I call the, "Deeper Well".  If I'm enjoying the project that I'm working on, I will push through achey hands and a stiff back.  I can be a little obsessive.  But there came a point where I was constantly sick and I was emotionally drained and not enjoying it so much anymore.  I was spread thin.  William forced me to go to bed and he took away my devices, so I couldn't pretend to sleep, but actually work, and we had a conversation.

Basically, we talked about ways that I could take the burden off of me and prolong not only my life, but my career as a maker.  At that point, we were just spitballing ideas and that path ahead was still foggy.  But then things started changing.
Intaglio etching by Andrew Thornton
I did a lot of research and tried to figure out what was actually doable.  We tossed around so many different ideas.  We knew that we wanted to take the burden off my hands, so we spent a great deal of time looking into ways of replicating my work and maintain the integrity.  One of the things that I've been intrigued by is prints.  In college, I did a lot of work with printmaking.  I worked with artists like Gunars Prande, Charles Yoder, and Dominick Rapone.  And it really changed my way of working.  There was something magical about multiples and it was a gateway to working in collage.  The thing about printmaking is that it's actually quite a lot of work and is very demanding.  I used to call my classes my Tae Bo workout, particularly when we were working with lithography.
Intaglio etching by Andrew Thornton
One of the thing that I enjoyed the most about printmaking (particularly intaglio printing), which is something that is hardly ever seen, are the plates.  I loved running my fingers over the etched plates and feeling the subtle textures.  Etched metal is a beautiful thing, but I didn't want to work in just metal.  So, the idea of a laser came to mind.

Silkscreen print by Andrew Thornton
Lithograph print by Andrew Thornton
I liked the idea of a laser, but the ones we looked at were cost prohibitive to say the least and actually quite complicated to operate.  But then, as we continued our investigations, we found a new one that met our needs.  It wasn't in production then and we would have to wait for it to be built.  We also found a generous investor who helped make it possible.

A lot has happened in the three years since we made the decision to get the laser.  We moved into town and William quit his full-time job.  We are now homeowners and are planning on opening another store.  And now, after three years... we have our laser!
Laser-engraved Botanical Pendants by Andrew Thornton

Here are some of our first pieces that we made with the laser.  We took some of the Strange Botany pieces that I made for a little zine and used those botanical images for the first pieces.  We wanted to test the capabilities (and still are) of the laser to see what kind of line-weights and shadowing we could achieve.  I'm quite taken with how they turned out.

Laser-engraved King Kitty Pendant by Andrew Thornton
When we decided on getting the laser, I didn't want to make it just a tool to make multiples and work out the issues of production... but as a new medium that could help me connect to my 2-D artwork and to expand my current ways of making things.  I'm always curious how something will push my creativity and open new doors.
I really love the sepia tone look of the laser-engraved wood, but I also have a little bit of a love affair with color and surface treatments.  So with these Abracadabra pendants, I experimented with different ways to alter the surface of the laser-engraved wood and add a little bit more of the artist's hand back into the pieces.

All of the pieces are available in-store at Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA.  But if you can't make it out to Southwestern Pennsylvania, we'll be adding them to our Etsy shop as we can.  CLICK HERE to visit our Etsy shop.


CraftyHope said...

Laser cutters are magic things, aren't they? I LOVE what you're doing with yours and so glad you finally got to make this dream a reality!

Ann Schroeder said...

I really love all the things you've already done with the laser and look forward to more!