Printmaking students work with visiting artist

By: Margaret Duff

Printmaking students of the Myers School of Art volunteered their time to join the assembly line of students and faculty working with visiting artist Nicole Hand last week.

Hand came to the university through the thinkInkeditions program, and her objective, along with sharing her artwork and skills with students, was to print an edition of 74 color etchings.

Hand’s work consists mainly of intaglio etchings. Intaglio etchings are, in short, copper plates that have been treated with a variety of physical and chemical processes in order to create textured surfaces that ink will stick to when rubbed on. These plates are each run separately through a printing press with the same sheet of paper to create the print.

Much of Hand’s art follows themes of family lineage and the domesticity of women, and she achieves these subtle suggestions through the use of imagery and symbols such as plants, paper bags, string, etc.

The thinkInkeditions program was created to offer students a chance to meet and work with professional artists twice a year. While the fall semester is reserved for an artist who has just finished graduate school, the spring semester’s visiting artist is somebody who has been out of school for a considerable amount of time and has made a true name for him or herself as a professional artist. Hand is no exception.

Having received her MFA, BFA, and BS at various schools throughout the nation, she currently teaches printmaking, bookbinding and drawing at Murray State University. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally in more than 250 exhibitions, and she has given many lectures and workshops.

Senior printmaking major Leah Gay was a consistent volunteer in the print shop during Hand’s visit.

“I was really looking forward to meeting Nicole Hand and learning intaglio techniques while working for her with my classmates, because I am working on large copper plates myself this semester,” Gay said.

Hand brought her plates to the school with the etchings already in place (as it takes weeks, even months, to achieve the perfect etch.) Where University of Akron students helped out was in the actual printing process. Each student was assigned one of the four plates, with extra students in charge of keeping track of the wetness of the paper and pulling the actual prints.

Rubbing and wiping ink on and off of a plate is something that takes a huge amount of practice, and Hand assisted students in learning how to properly wipe ink from the “white” areas of the plate, how to rub the plate with a flat hand and minimal pressure in order to avoid oxidation of the ink and how to wipe the plate gently so the aquatints are not removed from the copper.

In addition to teaching students how to properly wipe intaglio plates, Hand gave students group and individual critiques, gave an evening lecture Tuesday night and gave talks to printmaking classes on her processes and artwork.

One of the most beautiful things that Hand had to teach was the importance of community between artists.

“Nicole gave me lots of advice for moving forward in my work when I had a personal critique with her,” Gay said. “Last year when Nancy Palmeri, the first thinkinkeditions artist, came to our school, I was really inspired by her. She also couldn’t say enough great things about Nicole Hand.”

Printmaking is an incredibly communal art; artists use other artists’ presses, light tables and other large and expensive pieces of equipment that are difficult to acquire on one’s own. They also participate in large conferences, hold many group exhibitions and make more collaborative artwork than artists of other mediums.

Artists have a lot to teach each other, and as Hand discussed the methods, processes and mediums of her own are, it is clear to see the value in working together, and that art does not happen in a vacuum.

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