As a print-maker Betsy draws original sketches onto linoleum blocks, carves the illustrations in relief with woodcarving tools, rolls ink onto the cut lino, and prints the blocks onto paper or cloth ... all by hand. As a sewist she designs and sews home textiles that are block-printed with her art. She also hand-prints t-shirts. Except for her vinyl stickers, none of her work is digitally reproduced. Everything here is hand-printed! I live in Royal Oak in one of the city’s oldest homes, a Queen Anne cottage that’s in walking distance from downtown. My husband and I travel often to Presque Isle in the northern tip of the lower peninsula. I am a school administrator, English teacher, and professional editor. My husband is an architect, and we have two children.
Linocut prints are multiple-originals as works of art. I begin with my own drawing, carve the sketch into a block of linoleum, roll ink onto the block, and press paper onto the block to make a print. My artists' tools are woodcarving gouges, brayers, a wooden spoon as a hand-press, and a dual-roller press for large blocks. My media are artists' linoleum and block-printing ink. I use black ink by tradition, though I enjoy dabbling with colored and especially gold ink on occasion. I embellish some prints with watercolor.Each print is slightly different, due to ink saturation and chatter pickup (background flecks). Block-prints are considered original art because each is printed by hand and is slightly unique. Original prints can be confused with reproductions -- digital copies of art. I create original, numbered prints in a limited series.While making new prints gives me the most joy, I discovered that people have more 'art confidence' purchasing usable items than they have purchasing wall art. I happily delved into textiles, and I make block-printed pillowcovers stuffed with large feather pillows, zipper clutches, scarves, totes, and tea towels. I make these items myself. The Big Mitten Linocuts textile line is growing!
I went into printmaking because I love the idea of 'multiple originals.' Printmaking is a special medium, allowing the artist to invest time, talent, and sweat in the master block, and then giving her license to share it over and over. Each original print is slightly unique, reliably flawed (even if only the artist knows how), yet consistently beautiful. Nature, the subject of almost all my art, is the ultimate print-maker. When you pick a daisy, you don’t feel the need or the greed to pick every daisy. You eyed one daisy, plucked it from the ground, put it into a bud vase, and called it yours. Printmaking -- the artful act of duplication -- gives the same result.
My art is inspired by pristine and natural places in northern Michigan, the mitten state. I choose to illustrate and carve nature because I marvel at how pattern, function, and simplicity result in a beautiful life form that is rewarding to capture as an artist. I am self-taught. My art has been shown in galleries in southeast Michigan and it is in several art gallery shops.
What do you most love about the creative process? I love carving blocks. Once the block is carved, I can do so many different things with it. Will I make prints with this single block? Will this block be combined with others for a multi-block print? Will I print linen with this block to make home textiles? Will it be used to make a wearable accessory or t-shirt? Some blocks have multiple applications, and I love the flexibility.
What do you least love about the business side of creating & selling art? Photography. It’s so difficult as a non-professional and without a professional digital camera and lighting equipment. Even with a good phone camera, there’s then the tedious process of editing, getting all angles, etc. It’s such a bear!
What is your favorite piece of work that you have created? Red-winged Blackbirds of Bell Bay linocut print. It’s not my largest piece, but it’s based on my own kayaking experience in Presque Isle in northern Michigan, and I love how I captured the birds alighting the cattails. It’s a detailed piece with hand-colored wing details. What are your goals for the future, both artistically and in life? My art career comes after working for 30 years as an editor, English teacher, and school administrator. I am living my life goals -- delving into my art career. I hope to create art full-time.
What do you enjoy doing besides making art? Kayaking, hiking, playing games, cooking for friends, mixing cocktails, and especially listening to live music. Just sitting outdoors in nature, doing absolutely nothing but taking in the sight and sounds, is the best way to spend time. What would people be surprised to learn about you? My most interesting job, which I had in high school because I knew how to sew, was as a seamstress who repaired hot air balloons in a big barn in Rochester.
Quotes you love or live by? "The arts are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward … you will have created something." ~ Kurt Vonnegut
You can see more from Big Mitten Lino Cuts at Yellow Door Art Market and online!