An Interview with Josi Etter

Josi Etter is a visual artist living and working in Rochester, NY. Josi was a Printmaking & Book Arts, artist-in-residence from 2019 – 2021 and currently teaches a variety of classes at Flower City Arts Center. Her exhibition, Stars + Bars: No Country for Beginners was on display in the Sunken Room Gallery at Flower City Arts Center throughout December 2021. Below, Josi answers questions about her artwork and process.

For those that were unable to see Stars + Bars: No Country for Beginners in person, can you describe the exhibition?

Stars + Bars is a critical view of a country filled with paradox and difficulty.

It is artwork about American people and places and their internal and external struggle.

I try to explain and visualize our discord in a subtle, graphic and aesthetic tale. 

It is a view from a foreign insider’s perspective. The work consists of etchings, sculpture and some interactive parts (“Merchandise Stand”, “American News Raffle” and the conceptual artwork: “Who is for sale?”).

Can you describe your latest body of work?

I come from a painting background and this show is something very new to me. 

The work is created using a “drypoint etching technique” with a combination of acrylics, pencil drawing and gold leaf. Color is used very sparse, lines and shapes are the main focus. It is a very precise and time consuming technique and requires a lot of patience. Etching does not leave a lot of room for errors. 

Although the lines are drawn fine, the work seems bold and is certainly figurative.

In addition, I enjoyed creating different kinds of three dimensional sculpture for the show and think that they are a good supplement.

What did you learn during your time as an artist-in-residence at Flower City Arts Center?

I learned that I am a very inquisitive person. I always want to see and learn what other people work on. It is very inspiring to have other artists and people around who create high quality work.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. I look quietly around at people, streets, landscapes, nature, pictures and there it is….

Keep in mind that the American culture is still new to me, and therefore I do see things with “fresh, curious eyes”.

What is your favorite time of day to be in the studio?

The hard work is generally done in the morning. It is the most quiet time and I have the most energy. Though I collect ideas and sketches during any time of the day or during the stillness of the night.

What motivates you to create?

That is a really hard question to answer…

It’s an inner urge. I think it just has to get out! 

It’s like a cup which overflows and when it’s full, it spills over and that’s what makes interesting art then. Maybe that’s how it works?!

What do you think makes a good artist?

The ability to observe and to feel a lot of empathy for your surroundings. You have to be a good reader of the world and be able to find things within yourself to mirror them on to some sort of canvas. 

You also need time – time is a good teacher.

One has to find the intricate balance between truth, beauty and craftsmanship. That makes good art for me.

Maddy Underwood: A Month in the Letterpress Studio

I’m Maddy, a designer and printer, originally from Nashville, TN. I was so lucky to be able to spend the month of September playing on the letterpress and making use of FCAC’s extensive wood & metal type collection.

I had recently attended a workshop at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, where we explored using a laser engraver to make printing plates for letterpress. One thing I found really exciting there was using a combination of laser cut lines and thick gel medium to create a more painterly image for printing.

Because I had been drawing so many birds in my sketchbook recently (I am a bird enthusiast on the side!) I wanted to make some posters playing with this gel medium method. I also just wanted to make some posters for fun, using some of the wackier type I could find (such as the type on this Rochester, NY poster I did).

The work I did over the month helped me explore a new, more spontaneous side of letterpress that I’m excited to dive deeper into. Thank you to Megan and everyone at the Flower City Arts Center for having me!

RISOdency Update

Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting to know the Risograph duplicator and am finding it to be an incredibly versatile and useful machine for experimenting with image making. We’re so lucky in Rochester to have FCAC as a space where community members have access to specialized tools for art making!

I had the opportunity to teach an introductory workshop and whenever I teach I always learn more in the process. I really enjoyed seeing what color combinations and layering techniques the students used. FCAC also has a swatch book for the seven colors they keep in stock, which is helpful for the planning stages of any project.

Most of my interest in the Risograph comes from a need to expand my book making practice to larger editions. The cost effectiveness, speed, and eco friendliness of the Risograph far outweigh its drawbacks.

I have been primarily experimenting with the use of photographic imagery and was able to do this for the FCAC 2020 Printmaking and Book Arts calendar. The first two layers of my calendar month (June) were linoleum blocks printed on the Vandercook No.4 and the final two layers were printed using the Risograph duplicator.

I am also very excited about the potential for variation when printing on different colored papers. Below are a couple examples of images I’ve been working with so far: