Monday, May 12, 2008
Etsy Printmaker Interview : Fustian
Marissa Buschow in the real world, fustian in the internet world.
I was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Texas. After a brief episode of floundering about without direction at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, I moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and got my B.F.A. in printmaking from the University of Kansas. And no, I have no idea why I picked Kansas (why do people always ask me that?). Unfortunately I'm not very good at art classes, so that experience was a rather frustrating one, especially as I became more and more interested in birds and biology. I left Kansas, annoyed with art and artists, and returned to Texas where I quickly discovered that, hey, art can be WAY more fun on your own! Especially when you make it about whatever you please! Who'd have thought? In any case, through some mysterious turn of events, I am now living in Auburn, Alabama, where I work for the university's biology department and mess with bluebirds all day. This fall I'll be banding birds while living in a tent in Idaho (no electricity! no internet!! aaaaarrgh!), and past that? No idea.
What printmaking medium do you most often work in?
Almost always I work in relief, especially woodblock. I don't have the facilities for any other kind of printmaking - though I have fantasies! The traditional Japanese style of woodblock printmaking, moku hanga, is certainly my favorite, if only because of its flexibility and portability.
How did you get started in printmaking?
It occurs to me that museums should probably use my example as a success story to get more funding: I wandered into the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, where they had a room full of woodblock prints from artists in Provincetown in the early 20th century (not that I knew what I was looking at at the time). They were so ludicrously pretty that I got a hankerin' to try it myself. As soon as I could, I signed up for a woodblock printmaking class at Smith College and, well, discovered my passion.
Describe where you work
I'm rather poor these days, so I work on a coffee table or, if I need more space, a fold-up plastic table. I have to watch out, though, because my pet lovebird likes to chew up paper.
What's your creative process for any given print? (e.g. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I'm one of "those" people: I work from photographs. Most of my prints are about specific species found in the wild, so I want to be as accurate as possible within the limits of the medium. Oftentimes I'll encounter an animal or a bird for the first time and simply become obsessed with it. In order to get it out of my system, I have to make art about it. Other times I use printmaking as a learning process; for example, my sparrow series is my way of cementing tricky identification problems (as any birder knows, sparrows are damn hard to tell apart!). Occasionally I'll work from an unplanned sketch, but those are few and far between.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
Getting lots of copies! Isn't that why everyone else does it?
In all seriousness, though, it's because the way I work translates easily to the medium: I'm a fan of intensive, planned pieces, in which 90% of the enjoyment is in the process, not the result. I love losing an afternoon to a block or having to spend hours how to fit all my colors and layers together. If only I got paid hourly!
What's your least favorite part of the process?
Registration. I loathe registration - because I'm awful at it.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
In the art world, any and all relief printmakers, especially those that work a lot with nature (if we're dropping names here: Mary Brodbeck, Sherrie York, the people at Tugboat Printshop, a dozen more folks on etsy; dead people: Frances Gearhart, Utamaro, Hiroshige, any of those old school New Englanders). Also, I look a lot at scientific illustration, especially from 18th and 19th century naturalists (the notorious Audubon springs to mind).
In the non-art world, wildlife. There are innumerable beautiful animals out there that go largely unnoticed, whether because so many people stay indoors and in cities, or because they haven't been raised to notice such things. Without that whole "nature" thing, I have no idea what I'd do with myself.
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
Honestly, I made a lot of crap in school. I blame it on my teachers. Since I don't like to think about that phase of my art-making, I will say that in my art since then I've become much more ambitious with color and I use a lot less negative space. I think it's because I'm getting better at the technicalities of moku hanga, so I'm not as timid as I once was.
How do you get past creative slumps?
I wait it out. Probably not a good thing to do, either. I'm not one of those people who make masterpieces during their bad times, so if my life is going through a rough period, the art's just gotta wait 'til things settle down.
How do you promote your work?
Hmm.... I don't? I'm really bad at that.
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
My first printmaking teacher told the class, "Don't worry, your first print is going to be crap." I would have to agree with that - the first half dozen, even! There's so many technical tricks to learn in printmaking that it often frustrates those who want instant art, instant success. Patience! Practice!
Thank you to Marissa for allowing us to take a peek into her life as an artist. It was a pleasure for me to interview her.