The Spider Songs

The Spider Songs

I stopped making etchings about eight years ago.  I’d made a suite called the Autumn Etchings, and at the time I thought that was about as good as I had ever done it and that this juncture would be a good place to stop for a while. I was tired and it had been a rough ten years making nothing but etchings.  I learned a lot about how to make pictures and I loved etching, but also, having to finance a shop and sell the etchings was a full-time job in and of itself.  I was forever traipsing off to New York or New Orleans or L.A. with two portfolios jammed with etchings,flats, and interleaving.  I had a good time, but it was tiring as hell.  I also had missed making one-of-a-kind work; drawings and combing drawing and collage.  After the Autumn Etchings, I decided I’d not make any new etchings until I had something new to bring to it.  I eventually got rid of my presses and made my studio over into a drawing studio instead.

For ten of the years I made etchings I worked with Teresa James.  I hired her from a coffee shop and together, with the help of Stephen Campbell, we taught each other how to build an art business.  Teresa opened her own gorgeous studio, White Wings, about eight years ago and luckily for her, she’s not made all of the mistakes I have.  The years we worked together were hard.  Etchings sold for a fraction of what my one of a kind works did, but I was learning to be a better draftsman and expanding what I knew about drawing.  We had two shops;  one at 13th and Wabash across the hall from World Tattoo, and the one in Bucktown that is now FireCat Projects.  We had to hustle to scratch out a living, but with a shaky economy, we found a new generation of younger collectors that could more easily afford multiples and we were able to make a go of it.   Our collaboration culminated in Max and Gaby’s Alphabet, 26  five-color etchings for each letter of the alphabet that I made for my children.

We learned some bitter lessons about making art in Chicago; that a great many Chicago collectors buy their work elsewhere and that print-making had been relegated to a second-class kind of art-making here depite the rich legacy of phenominal artists who made prints in this city.

We didn’t care; we went about making our work for the best reasons possible. We had to.

In the last few months, I’ve started making some etchings again.  This time, Teresa is my publisher.  She and her assistant, Kari McCluskey, have helped me ease back into it without any difficulty.  I’d forgotten how much fun I’d had working with her.  Her new shop is bright and immaculate, unlike BigCat in its heyday.  It is a joy to work there.  We made a couple of things and I really enjoy them, so we’ve decided to make a new suite of work over the next several months and I’m really excited about it.  She and I were always a good team.  She was measured, patient and methodical and I’m a rabid ape.  Somehow, it all worked.  I’m grateful for Teresa’s hospitality and generosity of spirit.

This piece was inspired by my trip to Tokyo and a lovely, quiet park named Togo Ginga.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I am grateful for all of you.

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