Preface, I was forced to learn printmaking at the time I informed my teachers that I enjoyed the outcome, not the process. I was awarded a grade reflective of that announcement. I have long since retracted my initial response to the genre and regret not having involved myself more. Seeing a need to learn the medium in depth I took printmaking, as a graduate student in Rome, Italy and made an edition of prints at the workshop of my friend, Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop. Printmaking has historically been a method for artists to make multiple copies, an edition, of a drawing. A hand pulled print is an original and archival work of art; as many of you already know; prints usually sell more inexpensively than do other two-dimensional media and replicate the look of the original art.
Recently Mr. Darby and I traveled to Darien, Georgia to visit the Ashantilly Center. Inquires about printmaking led me to this interesting and historic site. Today, I will take you with me to the Ashantilly Center in Darien, Georgia. A letterpress organized and founded by artist and ecologist William G. Hayes, Jr. its’ most recent owner.
Our journey was to begin between 10:30 and 11 on November 5; the printing demonstration was to begin at 12. However, I dallied along on this sunny Saturday and we did not leave until 11:30. On the way Mr. Darby’s navigation skewed, and we passed confederate flags and Trump signs as we veered off the path for almost an hour. After asking at a gas station in the next town, we reached our destination around 1 o’clock. Luckily, we did not miss the historical talk.
We entered the library of the main house through the kitchen, however historical; we were late and came in through the first open portal. Finally, taking seats on the front row, we listened to a historical talk given by Daniel McDonald Johnson author of, Blood on the Marsh, already in session. We learned all about the history of the county and of Darien itself. Darien thrived because of its functional waterways in close proximity to the ocean. The economy thrived with exports of rice, cotton and post slavery, lumber and slumped when it resources were exhausted. We also learned about the legacy of slavery in the area.
Side Note: Although deeply interested in slavery, and with subject matter focusing on issues of freedom and restraint. I have never directly referenced slavery in my work. Even with knowledge of my family ancestry vast, I steer from slavery as content in my work. Perhaps, it is my belief in the reality of pictorial recreation on canvas. Imagery so viciously dehumanizing. I plan to change this and am delving into relevant readings, such as, Twelve Years a Slave, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Interestingly, in the talk, the speaker discussed the treatment of the slaves in the region and that some owners were kind, others not so, and he showed images of the local slave population, which were fascinating to say the least.
Afterwards we ventured to see the printing demonstration in a separate small facility, Ashantilly Press. The building houses approximately five presses, and a growing collection of type. Mr. Darby took pictures of me working the press, shared below.
Artists as far back and as highly respected as Rembrandt van Rijn and Albrecht Durer were known printmakers. Other famous artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jasper Johns have been known for their prints. The history of printing in America harkens back to Currier and Ives the company that was the first to mass produce lithographic pictorial prints for domestic display. American could inexpensively consume these popular images. Letterpress on the other hand, was for advertisements, books, and newspapers. Artists today have found creative ways to incorporate words to imagery.
After seeing the presses and demonstration we lingered through the house noting the similarities and differences to the Thomas Jefferson home in Virginia and peeked at the collected trinkets left from the Hayes's. We talked with the members of the center and shared stories, cookies, and lemonade, it was a fine time.
I want to send special thank you to, Nicholas Silberg and Jerushia Graham for telling me about the center.
Final Note: I am looking for printmakers in Savannah, if anyone is interested in getting together and forming a group locally contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, if there are book artists in the Savannah area send me images of your work. I am tentatively organizing an artist book exhibit for February to coincide with the library's adult book festival.
If you'd like more information about the Ashantilly Center:
Assist me in establishing an independent printing center in Savannah: