As supplement to their print-making undertakings in Keri’s class, last week the Grouse ventured across town to Oehme Graphics to see the artform from the eye level of a professional. Founder and master printer Susan Hover Oehme guided the 5th and 6th graders through a tour of her remarkable studio, which attracts internationally recognized artists with its amazing resources. The rollers in the press, for example, are of the quality one might find in a high-grade studio in New York or Milan, creating 500 psi between seamless blankets to afford far more detail and delicacy than is typical in most print studios. Each work produced within Oehme Graphics is actually museum certified as original, since the artists are always on hand to manipulate their mediums and to work with the staff to produce new compositions. Accompanied by the artist in residence, Ms. Oehme demonstrated for the Grouse the process of a current exhibit in production. The paper, a cotton-fiber imported from France, had been soaked in water for an hour, then blotted with a towel and run once through the press to extract excess water. Ms. Oehme then placed an etching of oil-based paint on plexiglass, adjusted the pressure settings, and sent the work back through the press to create a base layer of blues in various tones. She then applied a second plate consisting of dry water-color paint pressed into damp paper, which she aligned with the blue plate and sent back through the press again. We happened to be the first group to witness the experiment, and the results were spectacular. Ms. Oehme explained the alchemy of the process, which, as evident in her tone, combines chemistry and math with a love for the creative process. Such fine-tuned machinery and calculated techniques have been used by master artists for hundreds of years, and the quality of the finished work is staggering.
Following the demonstration, students took a tour of the larger studio, which includes facilities for photo and solar etching. Ms. Oehme showed, too, one of several plates of copper and electrified steel used for an upcoming show at the Tread of Pioneers Museum; it dates from 1913 and functions to reproduce a photographic image. The upstairs features a lovely apartment for the artist in residence, and a magnificent gallery where we viewed a sample of the expansive collection produced within the space. In addition to her collaboration with renowned artists, Ms. Oehme offers workshops for adults and children, along with the prospect of internships at the studio.