I got totally behind here doing my first in person fair in 2 1/2 years not long ago. It was the 50th anniversary of the Pink Palace Crafts Fair. I got to sit out in person, see friends, talk art, and see people interact with my book P is for Possum. It's been out in public for almost two years now, but except for a couple of times in the museum store down at WAMA, I haven't see folks looking at it or enjoying it. I loved getting to tell the story of making it (hiding in the forest for the early pandemic with bright colors and a big fat marker and coming out with enough sketches for a book). And I loved watching kids looking at it.
BUT I'm running off this week to a small in-person pop up in St. Louis this Sunday evening, so I'm not going to dig out photos from PP right now. Instead, here are sketches from Urban Earth this past Saturday with the Memphis Urban Sketchers. We had a ball, and it's a visually neat place to roam around. It was also the first day of Inktober, so after my first watercolor sketch, I did a couple of quick ink ones to get the month started off right. I'm sketching almost daily, so at some point I'll scan more in to show here. But I have a house guest for the month and am also taking some vacation time, so this month especially I'm going to give myself some grace.
I have a bunch of proofs of prints that just didn’t print right — the paper moved on the block, making it fuzzy (the black and white one), or I didn’t get enough ink coverage (the base layer of the black under the blue). Usually I reuse those to test a block or do a first layer of ink on a throwaway sheet so I get good coverage on my better paper. Sometimes they get a number of layers of ink after sitting around the print shop for a while. I was printing my moon block in silver for the Black Feather Farm commission, and while I had the silver ink going, I wondered what would happen if I played with some of these sheets. I got out my pelican block and tried it on a couple of of proof sheets and then cut down to the part that worked. I’ll have to get creative about signing these, since there’s no white edge around them, but it was fun to move a little looser and seat-of-the-pants in my printmaking. These will be a 1/1 print, meaning it’s unique and unrepeatable, and I think I’ll take a few to the Pink Palace Crafts Fair later this month for fun.
Rodin used his small cast figures in different combinations and ways as he got older and had a whole range of sculptures already done and available. I’ve always planned one print from the beginning, done it the way it was in my head, and set the block aside. I’m realizing that I now have a good number of blocks that it might be fun to combine in different ways, so I’m starting to think about new ways to experiment with them.
This past weekend was the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, a longtime fair in Memphis, and I was the demonstrator for printmaking. It’s special for me to be out there. I started going to the fair with my parents as a kid, I remember getting to choose my special Christmas present just as I got old enough to fall in love with the silver handmade jewelry, and now I get to be a part of it. I don’t generally do outdoor fairs, and I don’t own a 10x10 tent, nor do I want to, but this fair puts me safely inside an enormous tent (which was key this past weekend) and lets me sit out and see all my friends and neighbors passing through the show.
It’s fun to sit and carve in my lap and let people see the laborious process (though deeply satisfying) that goes into each carved print. I like talking to the kids who love art, the teens who have done a block or two in school art class, and adults of all stripes who make art or appreciate it. I even get a little work done! This past weekend I worked on five different blocks. I had one large one going already and did a bit more on it, though you hit a point where damage can happen to something intricate if you’re in and out of concentration all day. I started a new large block for most of Saturday, but again, I felt like I needed more concentration to finish that one out. So later in the weekend I jumped to a smaller block based on a recent gouache painting of cherries. That gouache and all its friends are still up in my still life show Daily Pleasures at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis through November 3rd. I’d been thinking for a while of trying this one in a print as well, and I grabbed a scrap piece of Lino and drew it out Sunday morning to give me something new to work on. Above are yesterday’s color tests. I’m hand rolling several colors at once and printing it all in one go, a simpler form of color work than carving an individual block for each separate color.
One last tiny block I did was a snail, based on a sketch I did out west this summer. I had my sketchbook out with me, as I always do, and happened across that sketch. I always need new note card designs, so I’ll get this one printed for the later fall shows.
Here is one of the larger blocks I was also working on. The other hasn’t progressed far enough to really show yet. I’ve only got a small percentage done, even though it took a while to get there. Both are continuing my series about water that is mostly oils, but I’m working on getting some prints to go with the larger paintings. This one still needs a bit of work in the water, where light meets dark, but it’s mostly done now.
It's Inktober on social media for artists, and I've been covered up in Pink Palace Crafts Fair preparations lately, but I'm also trying to do an ink sketch or two every day. I took advantage of the gorgeous weather lately and rode my bike out to Shelby Farms park on the Green Line the other day. It was glorious. One of these times I need to sketch the buffalo, but that day I just did the Clark Tower off across the fields. I love my milk crate that carries sketching equipment (and snacks) as I get to new places I couldn't easily get to under my own power before. I'm new to biking, being a seriously late bloomer, but I'm having a ball.
Today I rode out to Dixon. It's one of my favorite destinations, so I'd been wanting to find a route I feel good about taking. It was fun to get there on my bike, see the current exhibitions, do a few sketches, and ride home by way of Burke's bookstore. A happy day.
I made it through the Pink Palace Crafts Fair week, which is always a crazy ride but a really fun time. I so appreciated everyone who came out in the rain to support all of us local and not-so-local artists. It was fun to catch up with a whole group of different friends, and I'm always touched when people come to see my art year after year, tell me what piece they have (and sometimes show me a photo of how they got it framed), and maybe even take home a new piece to keep the old one company. I missed a couple of days of Inktober sketching in the hooplah, but I managed most days, so here are a few that I did but hadn't scanned in yet.
This last one served as a model for a demo linocut I started carving during the demonstrations at the crafts fair. I have more work to do once I pull a print and see what it looks like. I love coming home with a sketch I want to spend more time with and make more art from.
for my upcoming show at Eclectic Eye in November, but I also enjoyed a good chance to do a print that has been dancing in my head and wanting to get out. It's still in progress, but the first full proof is below. Keep an eye on this space as I work on it and also get back to oils on paper. I've been giving myself a few quiet, slow days to recover from the craziness of last week, but each morning I've gotten up wanting to work on this print for a little while with my morning tea. That's how I know I'm living the life I've wanted to -- vacation is a chance to do more (if perhaps different) work that I love.
It's that time again! Calendars are going to the printer this week. I'll have them in time for the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, as well as all my fall shows. They'll be at Burke's Books, of course, and likely other places through the fall. I'll keep you posted here.
The easiest way to get one, of course, is to order it off my website and have it come right to your mailbox. You can order one right now for $18 in my online store (operated by Square) at https://squareup.com/market/martha-kelly-art/
If you're in Memphis and can pick one up at one of my fall shows (Pink Palace, my Friday, November 3rd opening at Eclectic Eye, or my holiday open house Dec. 15-16th) or from me sometime in midtown, choose the pick up option to avoid shipping. Otherwise, I'll be so happy to send it right to you.
It's Pink Palace Crafts Fair time again, which means I'm working till bedtime every night this week, but it also means I'll hang out with cool people and see a bunch of friends this weekend. Today was my set up day, and I also made some signs for my booth with my vintage wood type. It is such fun to be able to make your own signs saying anything you want them to. I dislike the word "empowering," but this is one instance where I feel a strong connection back to generations of people who found that having a printing press leveled the playing field and allowed them agency. There's something powerful about the ability to print professional, legitimate text, even if you're just making signs about postcards.
I've also been doing a bunch of printing ahead of this show, reprinting ones I'm out of stock on and also working to get new prints ready to have. It's lovely to see all my recent work coming together and to take stock of what I've accomplished as I get everything packaged and priced and headed for the show. Come see me if you're in Memphis! 10-6 Friday and Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday. I'll be on the back side of the demo tent area, facing the food tent and near Baucum pottery (for longtime fair goers).
I just finished the St. Francis print that has been in my head a good while now. I managed it in time for the Blessing of the Pets at Memphis Theological Seminary, and I was glad for them to use it in the worship.
It's a very personal print. My housemate Neil is representing St. Francis. He also does a rocking Jesus in his bathrobe, patient man. That's my beloved Mr. Darcy, of course, receiving the blessing. My sister's donkey Crispin and one of her llamas is represented (the llamas were off campus last time I was there, so this is more of a nod to her having them than her particular llama, since I couldn't sketch and photograph it. The cat is Mikey, once of the best cats I've ever known, who now lives with my ex but is still in my heart. And the baby owl was the reason for this print. A friend of Neil's rescued it and brought it to visit one day. I photographed and sketched it, and a friend of mine suggested that instead of Jesus, Neil would look great as Francis with the owl on his shoulder. So the print was born.
It's on 14x22" paper, and I've just put it up in my online store at https://squareup.com/market/martha-kelly-art. I also printed several just after getting home to my printing press so I could have them at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair in Memphis this weekend. They should be dry enough to package tonight. I'll be out there in the demonstration area showing printmaking the next three days. 10-6 Friday and Saturday, and 10-5 on Sunday.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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