The Journey Begins

Heading off on an adventure to Johannesburg, South Africa where I’ll be spending time at Artist Proof Studio.  I’ll be working in their pro shop on some of my own prints and teaching an etching workshop.  Excited doesn’t begin to describe my feelings.

I am taking this trip because of the support of the Augusta Savage Gallery, UMass, Artist International Residency Program, The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s local Northampton and Amherst Councils, and Zea Mays Printmaking.  I am so grateful to all of these communities for their recognition and financial support.


I’ll be writing about my experiences along the way.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

South Africa is a long way from Massachusetts. After 2 days of travel and the longest plane ride of my life (11 hrs) I landed in this beautiful place. The flora reminds me of Southern California – palm trees, climbing ivies and jacarandas. It’s very green because they’ve had a rainy spring.

I’m staying at Kim Berman’s (Director of Artist Proof Studio) for the first few days and already I feel at home. Kim and her partner Robyn are wonderful hosts. Kim took me to Artist Proof Studio today to meet Lucas, one of the studio managers and see the place.

APS is located in the old bus factory in the heart of downtown Johannesburg. It’s a vast space and the studio occupies a portion of it. At one time it was a real cultural hub with a theater company in the building and small incubator spaces. But it’s become victim to gentrification and many of the tenants have had to move.

APS itself is very large – with spacious studios where they do etching, litho, relief and drawing. They run an amazing educational program for post high school students. It’s a 3 year course of study in printmaking for selected promising young artists. The students pay nothing and are trained to be able to make a living in printmaking after they complete the program. I look forward to learning much more about it and meeting students. They are currently on summer break, but I think I will get to meet many, and their teachers are all taking my workshop.

Lucas and I went over the supplies I’ll need for the workshop I’m teaching, beginning on Tuesday. My list was a bit of a mystery to him – soy sauce and instant coffee? Candle wax and dish soap? Not the usual printmaking supplies! On Monday the two of us will set up the space for the workshop, mix mordants, make demo plates and fine tune the plans for the workshop.

The Pro-Shop where they do their editioning projects and workshops

Another view of the pro-shop

Tonight I rest with the hope of acclimating to the time difference quickly. I can already tell that there is so much I want to do and see, so many people to meet and so much to learn while I’m here.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Today was the day to get set up for the workshop. I’m told 25 people will be there – staff from APS and representatives from other print shops around the area and faculty from the University of Johannesburg. There seems to be a real hunger for the safer practices I’ll be introducing. We’re moving the workshop into the teaching space because the pro-shop is too small for such a large group.

On the way into the shop I went with Kim Berman to the University of Johannesburg where she teaches. We passed through the security gates where they were being extra cautious because they were anticipating a student demonstration. The general elections are soon and there’s tension around it.

There is security everywhere I’ve been. All of the buildings I’ve been in so far are surrounded by big walls, heavy gates and electric fencing.

I followed Kim around like a little puppy. She has so much energy and is busy with so many responsibilities. She met with a grad student, helped a colleague with her PhD thesis, submitted a budget and gathered up some trays for me to use in the workshop, all before 10 AM! On our way out we stopped at the paper making studio that Kim helped found. Everything Kim is involved in aims to provide education and income earning skills to young Africans.

Kim in the papermaking studio

The Hollander beater

Paper pulp on a screen

We then zipped off to Artist Proof studio, which is in the heart of the old downtown in Johannesburg. It’s an area that at one time was the business center of the city. When Apartheid ended, the white businesses fled the downtown for the suburbs and the area fell into economic neglect. But it’s undergoing gentrification which may threaten APS’s ability to stay in this location.

When we got to the studio a wonderful team of print shop assistants helped me set up for the workshop. We cleaned trays, weighed and measured chemicals, mixed up etching baths and made soapy water bottles, vegetable oil containers and soy sauce bottles in preparation for a lot of plate making tomorrow. We grounded some plates and tried out the new hot plate cover that Lucas welded just for the occasion. Innovation is in full force.

Everyone got involved in making the coffee lift test plate.

By 2 PM were were well on our way to being ready and they all had a staff meeting, so I bid my farewell and got an Uber back to Kim’s.

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