Kansas City is lucky to have the presence of Zigmunds Priede. Though some may not know it.
Not only is Zig an historically relevant printer, having worked for years at the esteemed publishing house ULAE, collaborating with the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Chuck Close, and many more, but who is also an engaging artist, feeling his way into his work with a mesmerizing sensitivity….. quietly influencing the eyes and hands of those artists and students who were lucky and open enough to fall under Zig’s tutelage.
For Zig, its all about the art. And in this manner, he goes about quietly, without sparkle or show, making his work with the intense deliberation of a monk. In this manner, Zig’s art has the feel of time, absorption, and depth that follows a life shed of clutter and noise.
For these reasons, Zig had been on my radar as someone who would make for an interesting and rich collaboration. But the question had long been on my mind, “What could we do that Zig has not already done for himself?”
Fortunately, having invited Zig to come work, he quickly answered my question, proposing that he would like to try woodblock prints printed on thin wood veneer. To the best of both of our knowledge, this is something that has not been tried before (please correct me if I’m wrong!). Which always makes for an interesting start.
We began our project with a day hopping between wood vendors in town, trying to locate the veneer which had the right qualities that Zig was looking for. At first, most places did not carry the sizes we needed, but after a bit of digging, we came across a vendor who sold giant 4.5 x 12′ sheets in an extraordinary range of varieties.
And man, it was a joy to flip through those sample books with Zig, weighing the options, and looking for the types that called out most. Kids in a candy shop.
After some time, Zig chose out a beautiful wood full of curl and cats eye, that was lustrous and nearly as shiny as a mirror; African Movingue.
Having ordered the wood, we went back to the shop, sampled some ink colors, and went over possible technicalities, questions such as “would the veneer split, as it went through the printing press?” …….all details covered, Zig closed out the day, leaving behind the wood block he had cut in his studio at home.
As things go, the veneer took about a month to arrive, but when I opened up the box onto a studio table and rolled it out, the vendor sent us the wrong wood. So back in the box went the roll, and back on the phone.
Another month and the correct wood showed up at last. Cutting it down to size was a joy, as the xacto blade ran through the grain like a knife through butter, giving us six sheets to work with…… each sheet punch registered, and Japanese Unryuo paper adhered to the backs of each one to help prevent splitting during printing.
We were ready to go!
Initially I began the printing, carefully inking the block, and running a few proofs to get the block “full” and ready. And then, another inking, and into the edition we went, placing the first piece of veneer into the registration pins, and carefully setting pressure at my “best guess” for veneer, then holding my breath as it passed through the press.
Pulling up that first sheet we both could see that this was going to be a good and interesting day. It was beautiful! Just the right amount of ink, with a perfect grain showing though. Wood on wood. The experiment withstood the test!
After a couple of impressions I invited Zig into the printing……… putting some classical music on the stereo, and watching Zig dive into the process of inking the block in different array’s of color, I could see that I would be useful only for the physical printing of the sheets. Zig was in his element.
Pulling back into the quiet of the music, and the absorption of Zig’s working rhythm, the afternoon slowly yielded up a wall of tacked up impressions, which would become the base layer for the hand work Zig had in mind.
At the end of the day, packaging up the prints to travel back to Zig’s studio, he left me saying, “These will look nothing like this by the time you see them again.”
And the results you can practically chew on!