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Under the Midnight Sun

(January 2006) posted on Mon Jan 09, 2006

The prospect of teaching Native American artists how to screen print led Andy MacDougall to Canada's Yupon Territory, a place known for its hidden treasures. Find out how the workshop he conducted helped these craftsmen strike gold of their own.


By Andy MacDougall

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Teaching the process
We started with an overview of the process and how it worked. I brought an assortment of screen-printed products to give them an idea of the range of things in everyday life that are made using the process. As their focus was more on making art than stereo faceplates, we looked at some progressive proofs of art prints to demonstrate the separation of colors and the ways of producing such graphics. Almost all of the older artists had some understanding of the process, as their original designs had been printed in limited-edition runs and on T-shirts. However, none had ever done it, because the work was always sent away and usually handled by a gallery.

For those readers who are not familiar with northwest native prints, the bold, colored shapes and sweeping curves are typically cut from Rubylith by hand. So converting carvers to ruby cutters wasn’t too much of a leap. The artists had come prepared with drawings (Figure 1) and sketches, and with fresh X-Acto blades substituted for the knives, chisels, and adzes they normally used on wood, they set to work turning their visions into some film positives (Figure 2) for their first attempts at creating a screen print.
 

We got an assembly line going to process the screens and started with screen reclamation and degreasing. The screens dried quickly in the dry, arctic air, and then everybody got a chance to coat a screen or two with emulsion. A bank of cupboards served as a drying box, and once the doors were closed and a heater turned on, the waiting game that drives all new screen printers crazy started: “Hey, I’m done with my art. When are we going to make the screens? Are they dry yet? Can I turn that lamp on?”
 

Luckily, the day had gone by quickly. With assurances that we would start exposing screens first thing next morning--and the promise of some actual printing happening shortly afterwards--we all trekked over to the dining area. Our cook, Donna, who we had met briefly earlier in the day, surprised us with the first of many gourmet meals. Talk around the table drifted from screen printing to international travel to an account of a moose-hunting expedition the previous week.
 


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