AURORA | Print different.
That’s how Red Delicious Press, north Aurora’s resident printmaking facility for more than a decade, is encouraging both artists and observers to think this Saturday.
BIG INK, a New Hampshire-based woodblock printmaking collective, is setting up shop at Red Delicious’ longtime home at 9901 E. 16th Ave. on June 8 for a live printmaking demonstration and exhibition.
The traveling collective, which typically performs live woodblock printing at museums and universities across the East Coast and Midwest, will be printing large pieces created by eight woodcut artists, including one who calls Aurora home.
The pieces will be printed from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. using a massive, one-of-a-kind press Red Delicious owner Elaine Scheffler purchased from a printmaking class held at the University of South Dakota several years ago. The facility across from Aurora’s City Park boasts three additional, smaller presses, too.
“It’s uncommon for artists to have access to a press this large,” Lyell Castonguay, BIG INK co-director, woodblock printer and teacher, said in a statement. “It’s also unusual that the public is invited to witness the printing process.”
The woodcut prints must measure at least 24 inches by 36 inches, per BIG INK standards. One of the earliest known ways to create illustrations for scrolls and books, woodcut is a relief-printing medium created by carving or gouging soft woods — often white pine or basswood — and then printed onto fine paper.
For nearly a decade, BIG INK has been toting its mobile press — known colloquially as “The Big Tuna” — to spread the niche gospel of woodblock printing.
It’s one Aurora artist and Red Delicious co-op member Michael Keyes has studied and practiced for nearly five decades. An Aurora resident since 2012, Keyes is one of the eight artists selected to print a woodcut on Saturday. He’s printing a scene from the family farm he lived and raised his family on for 18 years in Athens, Ohio.
Keyes said the permanent nature of the medium is still as daunting as it was when he first began woodcutting in the 1970s.
”It’s such a definite commitment, making that first cut” Keyes said. “Over the years, I’ve gotten a little older and more mature and just realized that the preparation is so important. There’s no shortcuts to make a nice cut. What you’ve imagined is going to take a lot of preparation and a lot of time.”
For that exact reason, Scheffler said she’s never been particularly attracted to the medium.
“I could never woodcut,” she said with a chuckle. “It takes so much pre-planning.”
Scheffler has practiced a slew of other printing mediums at the former Aurora Public Library space on East 16th Avenue for 14 years. She won the building in a competitive bid process coordinated by the City of Aurora after Denver’s 910Arts bowed out at the last moment.
While Scheffler said she’s excited to host BIG INK at her 10-person co-op — she was put in touch with the New Hampshire company via the Denver art collective Art Gym — she said she enjoys the relatively low-profile métier she’s fostered in north Aurora.
”We’ve been lucky because we’ve had this niche thing,” she said. “And we don’t have a retail situation, so it’s been perfect.”
IF YOU GO
What: BIG INK Pop-up Printmaking Exhibition at Red Delicious Press
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 8 at Red Delicious Press, 9901 E. 16th Ave. Free. Search BIG INK at Red Delicious Press on Facebook for information.