trial and error :/

In the midst of all of my preparation for the holiday season, I decided to make a limited edition of screenprinted calendars. I’d happened to walk into a screenprinting shop while hanging fliers for a bookbinding class, and I was excited when the owner of the shop said that he’d prepare a screen for me. It’s been many years since I’ve done any screenprinting, and every step of the process felt especially labor-intensive and thrilling. I tied on my apron with my old printmaker’s pride, took photos of each step of the process, and enjoyed the anticipation of seeing the final prints.

I’ll insert a disclaimer here: Those of you who read my blog regularly might have noticed that I often present my experiences here in a rosy light. Because I don’t really love reading personal stories that are heavy with self-pity or complaining, I tend to think of my blog as a place to put my best face forward; that is, I like to express a positive attitude with as much humor and humility as possible. And while I’ve recently noticed that my first wrinkles appear to be smile lines, I have at least my fair share of bad days and creative ruts. I’m an emotional person, for better or worse. It’s important to me to be a real person here, even if it’s only the internet and not real life, and to express my doubts and failures as an artist when that’s the reality.

With that said, I wanted to write about my attempt at printmaking because I felt unexpectedly satisfied with what ultimately turned out to be a failure. I realized tonight that even though I make my living (in a good month) as a bookbinder, I’ve still considered myself a printmaker at heart, and always had a longing to return to printmedia and be a “real artist” again. When I meet printmakers, I feel a wonderful kinship and pride at knowing such an amazing craft. And I’m not sure that I’ve ever  felt that same pride in being a bookbinder.

But…I’m a bookbinder! That’s my work. That’s how I spend my days and nights, toiling away in my much-too-small studio. I teach amazing students how to do what I do. Friends and fellow artists think of me as a maker of books. And what’s so wrong with that!? I thought that making these prints would give me heart-expansive pride and quiet joy…but it was not to be, and it felt more stressful than satisfying. And in the end, they just didn’t look very good. I spent bunch of time and some money on an unsuccessful batch of prints, and I’m happy to move on, continuing to work on the craft that I’ve grown to love so much. I can’t separate the creative work that I’ve done in the past six years – starting a business, becoming a bookbinding teacher in spite of the terror that made me want to give up, moving to another state and working so hard to support myself by doing the work I love instead of getting a job where I could probably make more money  – from my personal happiness and pride.

So at the end of this day I’m sitting in my studio in my printmaking apron, barefooted, drinking a beer, remembering times when creative failures made me break out in a sweat, or burst into tears, or obsess over all the time and money wasted. When I told Andy that all my work on this set of prints was for nothing, but that I was kind of relieved to move on after all the hard work of the sort that I used to love, he looked up from his book and said, “If you’re not upset, I’m not upset.” Well said.

Rockpile has a few special offers going on now on Etsy:

Use coupon code ROCKPILE15 at checkout to receive 15% off of your entire order (now through January 31)

Orders over $75 receive a $10 shipping credit (through December 31)

Also, through the end of January, all orders over $50 receive a free, limited edition gift.


Many, many thanks to all of you who have already helped to make 2012 such an exciting and successful year for Rockpile!

remembering summer, settling in to winter

I know that it’s not actually winter yet, but it’s 4:15 and it’s almost dark in Massachusetts, and the winter feeling is setting in. I’m resistant to leaving the house in the late hours of the day, and I’m already fantasizing about post-holiday winter projects. My general habit is to work steadily through November and December, preparing for holiday sales and events, and daydreaming about the lazy days of January. Cold outside, warm inside, slow and unhurried with time for projects that are just for fun. I read an article about Freida Kahlo this morning and thought that January might be a good time to make a painting. And in the car today, driving with a silent radio, I had a new inspiration for a January quilt.

I finally got prints of the photos that Andy and I took on our day trip to North Adams late in the summer. I love how they capture the spirit of the season, and especially the spirit of this particular late-summer for me. August is an amazing time to move to such a beautiful place, and our laid-back days felt particularly like a gift.

We stopped by the side of the road to stand on the warm rocks. It might have been the most beautiful day of the year, with daylight to spare.

I’ve found that I can survive the seasons more gracefully if I value each for its gifts on my creative process. And then somehow, even though the sunlight is already gone for the day by dinner time, I won’t dread the cold, dark days of January or all of the creative moments that winter brings.

Busy days at Rockpile

The past month has been busy, but I’ve hardly taken any fotos and haven’t wanted to blog without them. Sometimes I look back through my recent photographs and realize that I’m spending way too much time inside; more natural light, more vitamin D as the days get shorter, more fresh air: goals for this month! Highlights of October included my first Western Mass session of Beginning Bookbinding, many long days spent in my tiny studio making books for a local craft fair, and preparing for a small edition of screenprints for the holiday season.

My past several posts have reflected my focus on making a home in my new location, and I’m happy to report that I’m ready to move forward on that front; that is, I feel at home! Not that every day is amazing or that I’m making millions off of the long hours of book binding, but I do spend far fewer hours missing the mountains (while holding them and my beautiful friends there very dear). Feels like progress, with more (hopefully) to come. Lots of love to all of yous.

a new look

I’m doing some updating to my website this week! Please excuse this awkward in-between stage and stay tuned for some news on the class page (one or two winter workshops still in the planning stages), photos of new work, and more random ramblings about life in New England.

what’s going on in massachusetts?

I write that as a question because there are still some days, after two and a half months of living up here, that I ask myself what exactly it is that I’m doing here. I ask myself that question because I constantly need clarification. In many ways my life is in transition: I’m working toward my birth and postpartum doula certification, continuing to grow my bookbinding business, establishing a reputation as an instructor in a new place, and, as always, trying to prioritize the relationships in my life, including my relationship to myself.

Moving is hard. I think that I must have forgotten how long it took me to feel at home when I moved to Chicago and Asheville, or maybe I thought that this move would be easy because of all that I’d learned in the past ten years. And while this one has been easier than past moves, I also realize that with more self-awareness comes more searching for deeper happiness and a more serious commitment to all the things that I apparently require to be happy: a safe and beautiful home, work that feels important and sustaining, a community of amazing, creative, and loving friends, lovely surroundings, and more…

Thankfully, Western Massachusetts is slowly but steadily providing me with these things, but there are still some days when I get in such a rut that I give myself a headache and it’s all I can do to lie on the couch reading a book for the whole afternoon. Truly, though, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Last weekend Andy and I celebrated our fifth anniversary with a trip to Maine, and I remembered, like I do every time I leave town, how much traveling renews my creative energy and makes me excited about so many aspects of life. We went to the beach one night after dinner and took photos in the near darkness. My mom said that it looks like we’re on the moon:

We ate doughnuts on the beach the next morning, and Andy decided that we should come back for another visit in January…haha (but I think he was serious).

Being on the beach was amazing, and the drive from MA to ME was so beautiful with all of the leaves changing. The trip also reiterated to me how grateful I am for my traveling companion (on our journey to Maine, and on this transition overall).

It felt nice to get away from home for a few days, and to temporarily let go of all my efforts to get settled and make a perfect life in Northampton. It’s also helpful, though, to ask myself what I’m doing up here, away from most of my friends and community, and to answer the question as earnestly as I can on a daily basis. Over times my headaches should subside, and who knows…It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to think that leaving New England will give me the same bittersweet feeling as leaving Asheville did.

More will be revealed on that front, and thankfully I have lots to do to keep my mind and body occupied. My new favorite slogan is “Carry water, chop wood.” So I’m gonna get busy. XO