Monday, May 25, 2009

Tugboat Printshop, Pittsburgh

Here is an interview with Paul and Valerie Lueth, they work together making amazing woodblocks. I first found their work at Tiny Canary, Columbus. I had the hardest time choosing which print to buy, so I have 4 of their woodland series prints I couldn't live without.

Q. It is a little unusual for artists to work with other artists, and I wanted to ask, when did you start printing together?
A. "The Woodland Creatures" series was our first collaborative series, though we did design + print some woodcut t-shirts before that. Working together seemed like a very natural step to us both. After our move from Nashville to Pittsburgh, we were looking to try something "different' and "new" with printmaking and felt that working collaboratively could offer that. We are both pretty meticulous artists in our personal work--and are both aware of each other's tendancies to be this way. Collaborating allows us to work through ideas much faster than we would individually, the resulting artwork becoming stronger through our deliberation and scrutiny. It's been really delightful to see how our ideas can meld together to create such simple, appealing images. People are always trying to guess who did which part...but our collaborative work is truely that. It would basically be impossible to point out any part of our prints that didn't have both of our hands involved.

Q. At what point did you realize that you could work together?
A. We had been working together for some time, as we are married (ha, ha)...but we thought it could be a fun thing to do long before we actually started to work together. Using woodcut as our medium really 'fuses' our styles together seamlessly. Since all information is drawn on the flat surface of the wood and then cut out, all of our marks exist together on the same plane.

Q. Do you taker turns designing? or do you each have particular aspects that you are more keen on?
A.We do a lot of talking and brainstorming about our ideas before an image makes its way to the block. This cultivates an excitement about diving into the project and allows us to really elaborate upon many ideas with one another before drawing even starts. Typically, we are working on 3-6 blocks at a time pretty intensely, with about 3-6 more ready to go in the shoot. Working on multiple blocks simultaneously allows us to switch blocks back and forth when drawing and cutting...making the collaboration much easier (elbow room!).

Our latest project and biggest collaboration to date is "America the Beautiful." This 24" x 32" woodcut print is a whopper of an image--5 total blocks all hand-drawn, hand-carved and hand-printed. Because the block was so big, we were both able to work on it at the same time until we started the cutting...then we worked in shifts round the clock. We finished the key block in 2 weeks time--a pretty tight timeline for a block of that complexity and scale! "America the Beautiful" was conceived for a the Manifest Hope: DC exhibition celebrating the inauguration this past January. We are seriously excited about how this image turned out and look forward to tackling additional large scale pieces in the near future. The wheels are always turning!

Q. I Found this quote on you blog, "Tugboat Printshop is our printshop, frameshop, and studio space in Pittsburgh, PA. We specialize in original woodcuts + etchings but also make drawings, gardens, renovations, dinner, and good time when driving on the interstate." I love on your blog that you refer to "good time when driving on the interstate." I love driving too, I tend to get ideas when driving long distances, sort of like just before bed sometimes. Can you tell us a little interstate story?
A.Hmmm...well the good time on the interstate is certainly true! We're always on a deadline, working to bring new prints to every show that we do--so we usually end up scrambling out the door, pedal to the metal to our destination. We're starting to take more leisurely drives now, though...stopping at the interesting roadside getaways. Our latest favorite is "Roadside America" (Exit 23 I-78). A tiny handmade villiage built by two brothers over the coarse of their lifetime. It will blow your mind! If you ever go, be sure to stick around long enough to witness the 'pagaent'. Also, delicious pies abounding at the restaurant just around the corner.
Thanks Paul and Valerie!

Photo: Valerie Lueth