Some reflections in Venice

We’re struggling a bit with the facilities at the studio – lack of materials for printing the plates mainly – so we have instead been enjoying Venice……’s some photos to illustrate.


A four eyed Nicki consulting the map yet again.


Reflections on the canal.


Our first plates are ready to print, and hopefully we’ll be able to start it tomorrow. The plates are collographs, all made from found materials, torn paper and cardboard with acrylic gesso, mediums
and PVA glue. This first set will be printed in Venetian red, pinks and browns, intaglio and relief.
We will make a second set of plates using similar materials and construction methods, which will be printed in the jade green of the canals, blues and aqua.

We will need the print gods to be with us, however. There are many hurdles to leap over to realize our plans.

Good day at the Studio

We had a good day at the studio today. We printed the large plate I made earlier in the week, and although it has a long way to go, I can see it has possibilities. The colors are wrong, the press it was printed on is too small, the blankets have cuts in them and there are other problems as well.


Me, contemplating the print and thinking hard.

Here is Nicki making a new plate. We are going to make about a dozen plates, all from recycled materials, and print them together to make large format prints.


What we have so far:


It takes three people to print one of Melody’s large format prints.



Lost in Venice

We have porridge! Daphne and Nicki found some fiocchi d’avena at the Rialto. Not the a plastic bag full of rough cut oats, but a very sophisticated tin. It remains to be seen what the contents look like.

Despite last nights experience, I took the wrong vaporetto again this morning, and arrived at the studio late and a bit distracted. Daphne and Nicki arrived sometime later, and both spent some time
on the drypoint I had started. Here’s Daphne working away:


We had another studio lunch – this time penne with tuna and tomato, and a special lamb shaped Easter cake contributed by Melody, like a panettone. Here we all are:


Christa, Stefano, Gianfranco, Christiana, Melody, Nicki and Daphne with the remnants of the cake.


Christa is making a book which includes her drawings and poetry.



A word about food.

We have been eating extremely well, cooking breakfast and dinner at home and eating lunch at one of the many excellent trattoria around Venice and Murano. Fresh produce is easy to find, very high quality, and shopkeepers have great pride in their wares and their presentation. It is foolhardy to attempt to handle the fruit and vegetables. Dirty looks will be rained down upon you. The butcher cuts and ties his meat with the care befitting a work of art.
Today, for example we lunched on Murano. The food was delicious. I had grilled sardines, Daphne had Carbonara, and Nicki had Spaghetti Vongole. It was piercingly cold in the wind, so we each had a hot chocolate to follow. Hot, dark and sensuously delicious, it was neither too sweet nor too bland.
We sat there warmed to the core and deeply satisfied, when the waiter approached us. ‘Are you……Australian?’ , he asked. ‘Yes, how did you know, from our accents?’ ‘No, you had fish and chocolate! I once had a customer who had vegetable soup and a hot chocolate. She was from New Zealand.’ Antipodean eccentricity versus the suave Italian culture. Apparently one has hot chocolate
With cake in the afternoon, NEVER after fish.


All that was left: sardine tails and Vongole shells!

We are having minestrone for dinner tonight. In Italy, it appears, you are expected to make stock from scratch. At least we have been unable to find any packaged stock other than the dreadful cubes. Nicki went to our local butcher and asked for some bones for the stock, and unfortunately, as it turned out, asked for ‘ porco ossi’ or ‘pollo ossi’ which caused great hilarity. He said ‘I have no bones at all’ and then something incomprehensible which reduced his clientele to gales of laughter.
Apparently porco is an extremely rude word in Italian.

After a two and a half hour vaporetto trip back from Murano (don’t ask!) we staggered into Harry’s Bar thinking of having a warming drink before walking back to our apartment through the rain. We figured that since it was such an institution, we needed to do it once before leaving Venice, and now seemed to be the right time. What a disappointment! Full of well heeled tourists (of course) completely lacking in atmosphere, and with prices for a single drink equivalent to what we have been paying for a whole meal, we decided it had to be done, to bite the bullet and pay up rather than leave. Daphne ordered a tea for 9 euros. When it arrived it was a small teapot full of less than boiling water, no milk, and a selection of TEABAGS!!! Nicki and I had another hot chocolate each, nowhere near the quality of the one we had in Murano. It was half the quality for twice the price.

Nicki’s First Print

A bit of a slow start today. We finally arrived at the studio at around noon.

However, Nicki made her first print today – her first print ever, that is! It is a dry point on recycled aluminum. Unfortunately, the paper was pretty awful.


Here she is, with her work, Textures of Venice.

Ben and Jenny are going home tomorrow, so everybody at the studio had a lunch, cooked by Gianfranco, in their honour. Since Jenny is vegetarian, it was spaghetti con pomodori, with olives.
There was a glass of red wine, and Gianfranco’s good coffee afterwards.

Here is Ben with the woodcut blocks for his large format prints.


He struggled to get them into a tube to transport them back to England. Because of the weight of the paper and the tube, he is desperately hoping he can get them accepted as on board luggage on the plane.

On the way back to our apartment afterwards, we stopped in at an art and hardware store to find materials for the collagraphs we will be making. I made risotto with rocket and mushrooms for dinner, and we bought some delicious small cakes. A glass of prosecco, and an early night for us all.


First steps

Well, we managed to catch the vaporetto with our big box of plates. (Picture tomorrow!)
At the studio, there are printmakers from all parts of the world. At the moment, there is Melody from Mongolia, a Ben from Whitstable, England, Jenny from Ithaca, New York, Chris from Portugal, Christa from somewhere else in America, and we three Aussies………..and Gianfranco, our host.

Melody is printing very large etchings of ballerinas. Her mother was a Russian trained ballerina.


Jenny makes large woodcuts. She is a keen environmentalist.


We made more rubbings, cut up some of our new plate, and Nicki and I each started a dry point based on some of the photographs we have taken, while Daphne investigated the fonts available for letterpress printing and made a rough mock up of the book we intend to make. As our first excursion into printing together it worked very well.

Desperate for oats to have for breakfast, we have tested Daphne’s Italian to the limit. No one here seems to understand the concept of porridge. Our local Providore suggests espresso and biscotti is the breakfast of champions. His idea of porridge is that we cook it for ten minutes, then throw it out and go to the cafe for espresso and biscotti. Apparently what we want is ‘farina d’avina’ or perhaps
‘fiocchi d’avina.’ Or perhaps we forget about it and go to the cafe.


Off to the Studio

Today is our first working day at the studio. I’m quite looking forward to it. Last week we went to scope out the studio and it was large, well equipped and pleasant with its own kitchen and bathroom. I am here with my friends Daphne and Nicki. Daphne is a bookbinder, and Nicki is a photographer.

Through our combined efforts, we’ve been able to chat people up and they have given us enough materials for free to make many more prints than we need to. We will give them a print to thank them if it all goes well. People have been really helpful and informative if we tell them what we want and what we are doing. Daphne’s Italian has been amazing. I have asked her to try and find out where there might be a luthier, where I might be able to buy beeswax, where we might be able to find a commercial lithographer, and although she doesn’t know the correct vocabulary, she is able to get a response from people which allows us to follow up and achieve what we want to.

First thing we are going to a commercial lithographic printer to collect a lot of large used aluminum plates. We need to get there early, before the tourists want to go to Murano, so that the vaporetto isn’t too crowded, and we don’t inconvenience people with our large package. He at first offered to give us used ones that were still dirty with ink, but then he decided to give us clean ones, found us a sturdy box to put them in, and he will make a handle for the box to make it easy to carry.

We are making rubbings of textures we find in the streets of Venice. It does create a bit of a stir! The sight of three women of advanced age squatting on the ground with charcoal and paper attracted a crowd three deep at times. It was my idea to do this : I thought the rubbings would be a reference for the work we will produce, a way of getting a sort of intimacy with the city, and also a simple introduction to printmaking for Nicki and Daphne.

We also had a discusion about making a book from our rubbings, the photos we are taking and prints, locally sourced papers, fabrics and so on. So, we’re collecting material for this project, too. Daphne will be in charge of this – telling us what sizes to make the pages and so on. We won’t have time or material to make it here in Venice, but when we go home we can do it. It will be a record of our time here, and a reference book for future work.

Nicki has been in charge of navigation, and has done a wonderful job in a city notorious for it’s complexity and difficulty.

We are loving our time here.