By Neige Christenson
The art form of the woodcut print is an ancient one.
My mother began making woodcuts in the late 1970’s when my parents moved to Vermont.
She was inspired by the landscape, and had time to express herself creatively.
She grew up in New England and appreciated the native flora and fauna.
Many of her images are botanical, landscapes, wildlife, or humans enjoying themselves in nature.
When she was alive, I never would have ventured to ask her if I could print up any of her woodblocks.
They were so integral to her identity and her artistic territory that it never even occurred to me to ask, even when she became arthritic and unable to make new prints herself.
This project of reviving four decades of her prolific collection of carvings and printing them up myself has been a soulful connection with my mother.
When I'm inking up the block, and I marvel at the intricate complexity of branches or fern fronds, I feel as if I am retroactively visiting her in her studio and that she can feel my pleasure in her artistry.
Yet also, in her absence I feel a certain freedom to enthusiastically appreciate and amplify the pieces that I most love, and make decisions without consulting her (such as sharing her woodcut images in other formats).
Now I’m finding new admirers for her work all across the country, which has been deeply satisfying.
Neige's Etsy store 🛒
Woodcuts Margot Made
Here's what Margot wrote about the process:
I am drawn to the craft of woodcut printmaking for many reasons... I like the tactile quality of the art, and the energy transmitted from the heart and hand through gouges and knives to wood, and then with ink, to paper, leaving its mark in print. I enjoy the challenge and simplicity of black and white design. I use planks of pine wood, sometimes an effect of sky or water comes from old barn board, which reveals its grain with the help of a wire brush. On the board, I sketch out the design, aware that the final prints will be the reverse of what I have drawn.
Similarly, when carving, the process is the opposite of drawing, one carves away what will be white rather than drawing that which is dark. Finally, printing ink is applied evenly on the surface of the carved black with a roller, and rice paper is placed carefully over the inked block. Then I smooth and burnish with the back of a spoon until the ink has evenly penetrated the paper. Then I pull off the print and hang it to dry. As the first print comes off the block it is always a surprise to the eyes, reversing as it does the image I’ve been carving, intensifying with ink its patterns"
- Margot Torrey