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My Studios IV: Chicago Printmakers Collaborative

The main workshop at the CPC
When I moved to Chicago for good in February 2002, I got in touch with a printmaking workshop that I had visited for a few months in 2001, called the Chicago Printmakers’ Collaborative. The CPC is run by a great printmaker, musician, and artistic entrepreneur called Deborah Maris Lader. It’s in a two-storey building under the El tracks on Chicago’s Western Avenue, near a vibrant area called Lincoln Square. It’s a fully equipped printmaking workshop, with two large presses, big work tables, a screenprinting room and an aquatint/etching room. When I first started using it, there was a small exhibition space at the back, but Deborah converted that into small studio spaces. I never rented an actual studio there, preferring to pay the monthly membership fee and work in the open printmaking area. But at the time, from 2002 to 2004, I was lucky enough not to need a day job, so I was at the CPC virtually every day, which is why I think of it as one of my studios.

For three years, I made prints and virtually no other form of art. I had learned printmaking in London in the second half of the nineties, with a great German printmaker called Thomas Gosebruch. He taught me a lot about etching—everything, really, including stuff that he had learned in Paris at the atelier of Aldo Crommelynk, who was Picasso’s master printer. At the CPC, I had the time and facilities to try some etching and printing techniques that I hadn’t used before, such as viscosity prints, collagraph, and linocuts. One of the best things, though, about working in a place like the CPC is that you’re never working alone, but always side by side with other artists, from whom you can continually learn new things. An artist called Carrie Iverson taught me the paper-litho transfer technique: soak a Xerox in a mixture of gum Arabic and water, roll it with oil-based etching ink, and the ink sticks to the toner and is rejected from the white areas. You can then transfer the inked-up image to pretty much any surface. I experimented with transfers on paper, wood, glass, fabric.
'Gran Habano', mixed media prints fixed to cigar boxes.

This technique led me to the large Cuban prints on cigar-box sculptures, which I exhibited in four big solo shows in Maryland and around the mid-west.
Some of the people I remember who passed through the CPC back then: the scary guy from Michigan who came from some sort of survivalist family, and who created etchings filled with rotting corpses and gruesome murder victims; the old guy who came in once a week and always did prints of the Chicago skyline; someone who worked on special effects for the film industry, and who started working on large viscosity prints after I taught him the technique; the extremely talented printmaker from Mexico who created fantastically detailed linocuts, and whose work I saw years later in a café exhibition in Guanajuato.
I stopped going to the CPC in 2004. There were a few reasons for this, one of them being that I had just bought a house with my wife in a little town about 140 miles west of Chicago to use a weekend getaway. There was a small barn behind the house, which I intended to convert into a studio. I had also just acquired a huge etching press from a workshop that was closing down in Highland Park (a northern suburb of Chicago), which I had shipped out to the house in preparation for creating my own mini-printmaking studio.
I will tell the story of how that dream developed, and then ultimately fizzled out, in the next post in this series.

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