PRINTMAKING IS NOT SCARY: Calgary artist Heather Kai Smith is inviting anyone interested in printmaking to come down to her residency at the Epor Centre’s Ledge Gallery. Heather is working on Collective Mine – a functioning independent zine and print shop where visitors can learn more about the process, help create, make designs or sit for a portrait. Heather also co-organized Sled Island’s Picture Books this Saturday (June 23) at 11 am at the Old Y Courtyard (223 12th Ave SW) and invites anyone interested in the process to check it out.
Photo by Amy Jo Espetveidt, Quadrophonic Image
High above the foyer in the bustling Epcor Centre, Heather Kai Smith sits, looking out at those walking by. She sees. She sketches. She carves. She prints. She creates.
The Ledge Gallery sits at the +15 Level of Centre Court and is a cross between a fishbowl and an eagle’s nest. It looks down onto the comings and goings of the arts centre and gives those who work there a unique view of the downtown world. Heather is using it to create a functioning independent zine and print shop where visitors can learn more about the process, something she feels many people fear because they don’t understand it.
“It seems a lot of people are afraid of printmaking and bookmaking,” she said. “People always say they’re not an artist, they can’t do it, blah blah blah, but they haven’t tried it. People are afraid to make art. People think it’s really toxic, expensive and that they need fancy paper. But they don’t.”
Collective Mine consists of a residency June 1 through July 27 where Heather is working on creating her works (dates and times can be found here). There will be an artist reception August 2 as part of First Thursday (a monthly arts crawl in Calgary’s Cultural District) and an exhibition of the work August 2 through the 26th.
Visitors are welcome to stop by, chat and take part in the process, from learning about printmaking to assisting in the creation of a zine that will be displayed in the Gallery throughout August.
“It’s a project based on printmaking and how it can be filtered through personal observation and community multiplicity,” Heather explained. “These are observational pictures and then by making them into multiples [through print] it becomes a collective act.”
Heather also co-organized Sled Island’s Picture Books and recommends anyone curious about zines and printmaking to come down to the Old Y Courtyard (223 12th Ave SW) starting at 11 am on Saturday, June 23 and check out what they’re all about. During the day the Alberta Printmakers’ Society will provide a free silkscreen workshop allowing anyone to give it a try and local artists specializing in printed matter will be selling all sorts of cool stuff – prints, zines, books, t-shirts, comics, buttons, patches.
“There’s a bunch of local artists, publishers and book stores,” she said. “Sled Island also helped solicit out of town artists to send their work. It’s the first year and hopefully it keeps continuing. It’s another way we can get international artists and still have a local event.”
Between the fair and the residency Heather has been a busy girl but the whole process has been an organic one.
Some of her prints and sketches at Collective Mine are of people walking by, relaxing at the coffee shop below or of those who have come in for a sitting. Others are imaginary people who may exist in the world she has created in her mind. Heather plans to bind her work into a 8×10 book and create a bunch of mini flip books using the process of printmaking to animate.
“I was waiting to see how it went when I got [to the Ledge Gallery]. Part of it is drawing portraits of people who come in and sit, part is drawing the world I’ve created around those I see from here.”
Heather explained her style as a homage to old magazines and that process for creating images for print. She is using block printing with an etching process over top to make prints that look like they could have come out of a Sears Catalogue from the early 1900s.
“I’ve always loved figure drawing,” she said.
The residency has given her a chance to experiment and grow over the summer and she plans to show all the bits and pieces that went into creating the finished book at the exhibition.
“This program and getting to work at the Epcor as a residency is awesome,” she said. “You can keep your ideas shifting as you grow and work over the two months. I really like non-traditional printmaking.”
Collective Mine runs June 1 – August 26 and more information can be found here.