meet art wall artist: marcy davy of all things grow

January 21, 2010

Marcy Davy's shop All Things Grow had me at first glance. I was immediately drawn to her clean and simple screen prints with their organic subject matter, and thick bold lines. There is a definitely a unique identity to Marcy's shop. I also love that most of her prints come stretched and ready-to-hang. Marcy agreed to give us a peek into her creative mind for an artist's interview. Ready? Set. Go.

(AW) How would you describe your aesthetic?
(MD) I like to take rustic, scientific, and natural themes and push them with color and design until they are graphic, modern images.

(AW) You primarily use screen and block printing techniques, both of which are rather "large" processes as far as how much space they take up. Do you have a dedicates studio or workspace?
(MD) Right now, the entire operation is based right in my apartment. I've gleamed a lot from printmaking instructors over the years, and eventually realized that I had accumulated enough tips to make printmaking in small spaces work. It helps that I make both block and screen prints in extremely low-fi ways--I pull woodcut prints without the aid of a press and do not use an emulsion process for screen prints. Both of these methods are extremely cost and space efficient. I do have a large storage area for materials, supplies, and tools, and an office to store finished work in, so that helps a lot. It also works for me because I tend to pull prints in whole work-day type affairs, rather than a few here and there, so I basically flip my apartment into a studio for a day or two, and then flip it back into living space. The situation occasionally forces me to get very creative--especially when I am pulling large editions before a show and am trying to dry hundreds of prints simultaneously, but overall, it really works for me!

(AW) Take us through the process from inspiration to creation.
(MD) I generally plan images in clumps. I spend a few weeks kind of cataloging potential images in my mind. I also keep a digital "inspiration folder" where I dump images, photos or color combinations that strike me whenever I come across them online. I kind of let all of that stew and at some point say to myself: "I have to get it out--now!" --and then I draw. I start with lots of thumbnails, consult all of the images I've been saving and then surface with a handful of polished sketches that I color in with marker.

Turning those polished sketches into prints is where it gets tricky. There are so many ways you can turn an image into a print. The image can come from the positive space or the negative space. The moment you layer colors, something entirely new can show up. That part of the planning takes a lot of logical and analytical skill and can sometimes be a bit of a stretch for me. I make really quick full size drawings to determine how layers and space will work together.

The next step is actually getting the image onto the piece of plywood or screen. If I'm making a woodcut, I draw in sharpie directly on plywood and then use hand and power tools to cut away the image. With screenprints, I draw on layers of contact paper and then cut out the sections ink will flow through. The contact paper is applied to the back of the screen and works like a stencil, keeping ink out of covered areas and flowing through open areas onto the canvas.

Once I clear those hurdles and get the image onto the wood or screen, it all becomes a matter of practicing the craft--knowing when the ink is too thick or thin, how many passes to make with the squeegee, and so on. Printing is a process of constant troubleshooting and problem solving--not relaxing but definitely very engaging.

When all prints are finished they're trimmed, stretched, labeled, packaged--everything necessary to turn them into a finished product.

(AW) You sell online and at craft shows. How has doing/offering both helped your business and what does each one offer?

(MD) Most of my prints are sold at shows, and I prefer them--there's a sense of community and suport at indie art shows in particular that is extremely difficult to replicate online. I'm a somewhat hesitant online social participant in general--I recognize that it has become a very convenient and instant way to communicate, swell, market, and dispense information, and I'm grateful for that. I have made wonderful connections with other makers and buyers online, and I use blogs and social networking daily for these ends. I'm not so convinced that the online "community" is a perfect substitute for the real thing though--it keeps us tethered to our homes and out of touch in a lot of the ways that are important. That said, there's nothing like an art show, like being there. I love meeting people who connect with my work, love hearing their stories and putting pieces in their hands. I don't make images with explicitly personal subject matter, but in having created them from start to finish they end up becoming very personal to me. My sense of meaning and purpose as a person who creates is enriched in ways I never could have imagined by that part of the process. I try to replicate it online by joining communities of makers and in communicating with buyers as much as possible, but I still prefer the real deal.

(AW) What would you say is the most challenging aspect of running your business or perhaps growing your business?
(MD) The hardest part for me has been in knowing when to say yes and when to say no. There are so many opportunities out there, and figuring out which are the best use of my time and energy has been a constant process of trial and error. For me, it has meant paring down on mulitple sizes, processes, and custom projects in order to stick with what i know works. It has also meant taking leaps of faith on projects or opportunities that may be out of my realm or not promise any significant monetary payoff, but offer the promise of a rich, new experience.

(AW) What's a teeny-tiny thing that makes you happy?
(MD)The drippity drip sound an oar makes when I pull it out of the water.

Of course, something nature-oriented. You obviously live what you love, Marcy. Thank you ever so much for taking the time to share these pieces of yourself and your work. It truly makes me want to look over each print again with my newly-schooled eyes.


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