Monotype in Print and Enamel

A few weekends ago, Rickie Wolfe and I co-taught a new workshop, Monotype in Print and Enamel. She led class in the print studio on the first day, and I led class in the jewelry/metals studio on the second day. Our idea was for everyone to learn about and explore the similarities between the two media in a focused way (relying primarily on stencils and color in both studios, with creating monotypes as the unifying theme).

Like with Kamla and Larry Calkins, I have such professional respect for Rickie as an instructor and colleague. I also really like her art and her approach—she’s always learning something new (entire new skill sets!) and integrating it into her work. We have both taken classes from one another, so it was a natural next step that we teach together.

For me, the biggest difference between the print studio and the j/m studio is how soon visual information/vocabulary enters into the picture in print. Kamla and I have talked about this, and she thinks this is in part because there isn’t a steep learning curve for the tools and equipment there—without this in front of you, you’re forced to address your visual information/vocabulary right away (you can’t really do anything at the press until you have at least begun to resolve what you want to see on the paper).

In jewelry, you could focus an entire quarter on technique and process, with imagery a distant concern. It’s important, but you can still make a ring and bezel set a stone on top of it without having to pull from a visual vocabulary.

So I wondered: what would people make on the second day, what would they choose for their imagery? Would they stay with their coated tiles the way they did with their plates the day before, working into them again and again? (Yes!) What would their work look like?

Some examples of student work:


Rings for People Who Don’t Want to Get Married

encaustic, draw through

encaustic, draw through

I took an encaustic workshop (again) from Larry Calkins and Kamla Kakaria. As usual, I prepared for the wrong class–brought the wrong materials, was oriented all backwards to what was going on. It took me until the last few hours on the last day to figure out what I most wanted to do–which, incidentally, circled back to the class I thought I was in, 2-D rather than 3-D.

And I found out that I love draw-through as a mark-making technique. I’ve seen Rickie Wolf demo this several times in workshops I’ve taken with her, and I’ve always found it intriguing. But this time was different–I feel like I met a new friend, and now we’re super tight. The day after class ended, I went out and bought 4H and 7H pencils. Because draw-through is even better with a fine line (in my perennially fine-line-obsessed opinion).

To do this, all you need is a board or plexi to ink up, black oil paint (which Larry prefers over ink because oil paint pigments are so finely ground), a brayer, and the cheapest tissue paper you can find. Ink the plate, roll it out, lay your tissue paper down, and draw on top of it. So simple. Then you can work it into your base layer of wax.

Here’s Larry prepping his draw-through demo. . .

Larry Calkins

And then here is Kamla demoing her painterly approach to encaustic artist’s books. . .

Kamla Kakaria

This workshop came on the heels of Morgan Brig’s master class the weekend before, which I’ve yet to write about. And it preceded this coming weekend’s wire workshop. At some point, I am going to need to stop for some sleep!

In Process


I’ve been really interested in process this past year. Well–I’ve always been interested in process, often to the exclusion of nearly everything else. But these past months, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a practice, to have a space and stretches of solitary time within this space. . .and why I am drawn to this and what does it mean? Why do some of us prefer lingering in the “What if. . .?” to speedy resolution of the realized thing?

(As I write, I can hear my studio neighbor’s directive: “Do it faster! Get it done and get it out there!” It’s a temperament.)

Larry Calkins is a maker’s maker, a fellow process aficionado, and an engaging instructor. He and my colleague Kamla Kakaria are team-teaching another encaustic workshop in September. Already signed up for this.


Demo: Larry in process

I love taking classes outside of my area of expertise, because I can just let my thoughts wander while I work, listening to threads of conversations here and there—it’s relaxing. I always learn something new from Larry, and after so many years of working together, Kamla really is a lot like a sister.

The last time I took this workshop, earlier in the summer, I stayed a bit longer after it ended, talking to Larry and Kamla, trying to explain the whole “what is a practice/what are we doing when we work” thinking I’ve been doing. And while they both knew exactly what I was talking about, they didn’t have ready words for it either.

Maybe this time we’ll crack the code.

Work by Larry Calkins

Work by Larry Calkins

Layering Workshop with Kamla Kakaria and Rickie Wolfe

Color story: heading home from Pratt after class

A few weekends ago, I took a printmaking workshop from Kamla and Rickie. I’d taken an etching/intaglio class this summer, printing only black ink on a variety of papers, and distracted, I oriented myself in this direction for this workshop–which was instead monotype, and very much about building and layering image and color. Surprise!

Color, sigh. I am one of those people who can’t commit to color–to one, to many, to any. When I moved into my current apartment, I was able to paint it any color I wished. I spent a lot of time pondering this, painted a lot of “committed color” swatches on my walls. . .and ended up returning to the paint store, starting all over, and finally selecting two pale-ish, not-so-committed, but distinctly different colors: grey (bedroom) and cream (everywhere else). The woman who helped me carry everything to the car looked down at the paint swipes on top of all the cans and issued a statement: You like your whites. 

I felt deflated for a few moments. I’d spent weeks on my color selections. I’d invested so much time and research (shelter mags, interior design books from the library, frequent visits to Apartment Therapy) as well as thought and intention, and for what? To have a stranger point out that I’d once again gone with white.

But there is a difference between the colors we choose to live with on our walls and the colors we’re interested in working with in our art. In this workshop, I thought about color mostly as a means of generating and layering visual information–not something I was going to be waking up or winding down to every day.

Some images from the weekend. . .

Tap out--my first round of color testing

Inked plywood

I brought home from my studio a bunch of my wood color-test samples to take with me to the wood finishing workshop I attended the week after this workshop. . .and decided to ink over the paints on this one and print with it instead.

Detail from a long panel

Panels right off the press

I seldom finish anything in a workshop, and this one was no exception. The most important thing to me is getting the information and being able to test it. Leaving with an idea roughed out or a model made is a bonus. At the end of this workshop, I had several examples of what we’d learned. One of my favorite things about print classes and workshops is that it is fairly easy to go back into these random bits later, work them additively or reductively, and end up with a finished piece.

I just signed up for Rickie’s collage class in December, and will bring the above strips in to continue working on. Eventually, they’ll be cut down into an artist’s book.

What to do with your failures, the things that can’t be saved regardless of any additional working into? Cut them down, score and fold, and then adhere them into one of these amazing structures. . .

Rickie's scrap-prints ball

Rickie demoing Pronto Plates

Like Your Cool Big Sister: Kamla Kakaria

Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, accordion structure, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle Maker, October 13, 2011

Book lust! (Gift from Kamla!)

I’ve known Kamla for many years (since I’ve been at Pratt)–we share an office together. One of the best parts of my job is the toggling back and forth between work talk and art talk (which are often, though not always, one and the same). And then, and even better, because we’ve known one another for so long, she and I sometimes drift away from talk of work and art to talk about our own lives (our own art, relationships, struggles, accomplishments). . .Kamla is very much like a cool big sister.

Seattle Maker's Rebbecca Tomas with Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery in Seattle

Rebbecca Tomas and Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, Seattle

I love her work, especially when she uses encaustic materials and techniques–she has an amazing eye for color and layering. This month, she and Romson Regarde Bustillo are showing work at Shift Gallery (downtown in the Tashiro Kaplan Building at Third and Prefontaine). I attended their (second) opening last Thursday.

For Kamla’s part of the exhibtion, entitled InBetween, she created an interactive display of artist’s books. Kamla is one of the most prolific artists I know–she is always working and thinking. She writes of InBetween,

I make simple accordion books and pages whenever I am in between projects. In this current show I am displaying that work; that visual thinking. It is not planning or diagramming it is just thinking and doing.

To display her work, she hung rows and rows of shelving to hold dozens and dozens and dozens of her books. It was a great decision to present them in this way. We’re used to seeing books laid out on tables, or encased in a vitrine–opened flat to selected pages or in some other way contained. Kamla “hung” her books much like she would have hung any other of her work, right on the wall, and this created a sense of energy and flow and story as viewers considered the books as individual objects and parts of the larger installation.

Although she uses myriad materials in her work, what tied everything together, and made such an impact, was the singular structure she prefers to work with–the accordion.

Accordion structures pose a unique challenge to their maker. You must consider their content not just linearly page to page, but also spatially–page by page forming one large unit. Successful accordion structures then are those that can be experienced both sequentially (beginning to end, fold by fold), and “all at once” (fully extended).

I know how Kamla works–quickly and decisively. When I watch her teach or work, I am always aware of her depth of experience as a maker. She trusts what she knows about process and materials and doesn’t doubt. People really respond to this–her students love her and her work sells.

Following are some images from the exhibition. . .

Accordion artist's books by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerDETAIL, accordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerDETAIL, accordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerArtist Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, Seattle; photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle Maker