Printmaking is all about process. In a home garage printmaking studio off Allumbaugh called Wingtip Press, Amy Nack meticulously rolls thin layers of ink onto a printmaking plate, letting the zen of repetition take over. She places the plate onto a giant printing press, covers it with fancy paper and a thick piece of fabric, then cranks the machine's large wheel. After passing under thousands of pounds of pressure, a unique piece of artwork emerges.
Unlike painting or sculpture, printmaking is all about multiples. To achieve a set of perfectly replicated images--a feat more hindered by human imperfection than one might think--a printmaker must be conscious of a number of variables, including the exact number of times and in which direction they ink the matrix, an etched plate made from materials like copper, wood, linoleum or stone.
"Printmaking is so process-driven that it's really hard to explain it to someone unless they do the steps," said Nack. "You have to think inside out because it's going to print backwards."
Two years ago, Nack and artist April Hoff opened a public printmaking studio called Wingtip Press in Nack's garage. The studio features three large presses--a Conrad "Constantine" etching press, an antique Kelton "La Contessa" etching press and an Ettan "Li'l Etta" etching press--as well as a book press, a hydraulic press for papermaking and an assortment of etching tanks, work tables, paper cutters and storage cubbies. For printmakers who no longer have access to college workshop facilities--or don't have $5,000 to plunk down on a smash-through-your-living room-floor heavy press--the above tools are like a printmaking buffet.
Though Wingtip Press isn't the only communal printmaking studio of its kind--Portland, Ore., has a number of cooperative studios like Flight 64 and Atelier Meridian--it is the first and only one to open in Boise.
"Before Amy opened Wingtip Press, it [required you] having your own press or signing up for a class at BSU if you wanted to print anything," explained Wingtip member Maria Carmen Gambliel, director of folk and traditional arts at Idaho Commission on the Arts. "There was no commercial space available for a printmaker ... with Wingtip Press, the landscape is totally different."
When local artist Deb Jones Yensen graduated from Boise State and was no longer able to use its presses, she turned to Wingtip Press for her printmaking needs. Because large printing presses are so hard to come by, printmakers often have to share space, which leads them to trade knowledge, as well.
"For myself, I really like being able to print in some kind of a communal environment, so that we can bounce ideas off each other and talk about what you're working on and just brainstorm different things," said Yensen. "I really prefer being able to do work here rather than by myself."
But for artists who still have access to Boise State's printmaking facilities--like Benjamin Love, Wingtip Press' first member--the studio holds a different draw. Nack hosts semi-frequent printmaker dinner parties that she has dubbed A La Soupee, "where elite printmakers meet to eat ... serving slow food and slick talk, stone soup and poly plates." Love has made connections with a number of local printmakers through these gatherings.
"It's a different community [at Wingtip] in the sense that it's people who aren't students, generally ..." said Love. "I went to two dinner parties there that were really great just in terms of hanging out and being able to talk about art with people who are equally as committed and impassioned about making things."
In addition to Nack's soup-filled dinner parties, she also hosts printmaking exchanges, where artists submit multiple prints around a single theme and walk away with a portfolio containing prints from every member of the group. And furthermore, Wingtip also hosts a number of educational workshops, like last weekend's book arts workshop for kids.
"[Nack] sponsors workshops by different local artists or artists from somewhere else," said Gambliel. "Those are very helpful because we learn from each other and since we are not in class, we learn the short cuts and the long roads to something."
Though Wingtip is growing at a steady pace, it's still only a part-time endeavor for Nack. In the future, Wingtip hopes to obtain 501(c)3 nonprofit status and eventually move into a larger location.
"We've got plans to do more than just a little workshop with the refugee population," said Nack. "We're thinking of maybe finding some [refugees] who have interest in this and maybe mentoring them and getting them going. We're working on that, but we don't have anything official."
Whether she's reaching out to new community members who are interested in the art of printmaking or connecting those who have been working solo on their own small presses for years, it's obvious Nack has a knack for what she does. And lucky for local printmakers, she's willing to share her expertise and her garage.
"I'm totally sold on it," said Gambliel. "Wingtip Press is our connecting point; it's the community for us."