Tuesday, July 2, 2013

European Tour 2013 (Part 1)

Travel has always been a burning passion of mine. Before I knew I was a printer or a designer, I knew that I was a traveller. Being transplants in Minnesota from the East Coast, I used to love taking the family road trip back to Pennsylvannia. It was cool when I got to sit in the front seat with my dad and he would teach me all this cool stuff, like stuff about the truckers, stuff he just knew. Stuff about taking the less populated roads, visiting the places that few knew about, seeing the sights that many overlooked, the real important stuff, the stuff that made me the traveller I am today.

I just returned from a trip that changed me in many ways.

I found my people, I find them in the darnedest places. They are never where I think they should be, they are usually the last place I look. Sometimes they are in Gordo, AL (Kennedy Prints!), or Nevada City, CA (Full Circle Press), if I keep my head out of my ass I can even find some right here in St. freakin Joseph, MN. This time they were in distant lands, places I have never been but always wanted to go.

I am not even sure why this time I decided to follow through with applying for a grant but I really wanted this to happen so I applied through the Central Minnesota Arts Board, I think I got in it hours before the deadline, with the help of my intern, Katherine, since at the time I was visiting a friend in Florida. A month went by and I prepared myself for the reality that it very well may not come through. So the night when I got a call from Heather Allen, of CMAB, I was expecting a "nice try kiddo, but maybe next time", so when she said you got it, I about shit my pants. I received the Established Artist Award, which was a pretty awesome chunk of money that I could use towards my artistic endeavor. When I got the check the first thing I did was Skyped my friend Gota in Sweden and told her I was coming, picked the dates,  and booked the ticket! As soon as I was entering the numbers from my credit card I knew there was no turning back and I better make this fucking epic.

My first stop was Tallasen, Sweden, to a small printshop called Tryckkammaren ran by a woman named Gota. I met Gota a year ago when I curated a kick-ass broadside exchange called "End of Times". She was invited in by another printer, who also has inspired and impacted my life in many ways (APKj). We got to know each other through the very social media that sometimes makes me want to bash my head against a wall, yes, Facebook. We became friends via the interwebs and I knew there was something about this woman, there was something that already connected us, you know those poeple, they are instantly family. Gota is a extraordinary printer and began telling me that I simply had to get myself to her printshop to co-teach a workshop with her. "Sure" I said, "I'll get right on that" I said, thinking the whole time, when in the hell am I going to have the kind of money to get over there??

Cue the grant money. 

Right out of the gate it was hugs and warmth, love and wine, generosity and excitement. We were like toddlers at Toys R Us, we could not stop talking about our presses, what we loved about what the other had been working on and what the hell were we going to do in this workshop? As we were talking and the gals that signed up for the class began to show up we saw how totally stoked they were too and it was time to lay some ink! We decided to narrow our field a bit and have an "assignment" so people had something to focus on and an end product to share. I came up with the theme for our exchange, Gratitude, since words can hardly come close to explaining how grateful I am for these experiences.

Everyday began with a nice pot of coffee and soft boiled eggs, then we made our way to the printshop and just started, whatever it was, and everyone was so focused. I learned how to make polymer plates (which I will be doing at my own printshop now!) and I taught them how to make pressure prints!

We worked in the printshop from morning, stopped for lunch, which was always amazing, then worked until it was time to go to bed. These folks were serious, it was awesome. I was carving like mad, did a new small animal print for my series, made a goofy self portrait, a broadside for the portfolio, three really cool books and finally a huge Thank You poster for my amazing hosts.

Besides the whirlwind of printing and learning and teaching, one of my favorite things was heading to the sauna. Holy shitballs. I am tellin ya USA, this simply is the key to longevity. We would walk to the community sauna, heat that mofo to about 1,000,000 degrees and get naked then when we were just about to lose consciousness we would run and jump into a freezing cold spring fed lake. You heard me, I got naked. With strange Swedes. I knew you wouldn't believe me so I asked my pal Gota to take a few naked pictures! Yeah, I know, I am a titch nuts but i'm jis sayin, when in Rome, er Sweden, ya gots to DO. 


I made some serious friends on this trip, I got out of my comfort zone, I went on the path less travelled and I am a better person for it. I was inspired by people that, even though they are on the other side of the earth, are not so different from me. I found my people, I sorta thought they might be hiding in Sweden. 

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