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Etxe (ech-ay) curates experiences that enlighten the soul and deepen human connection. This blog shares our adventures, focused on place, culture, community and creativity. 

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In the studio: handprinted holiday cards

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Merry Christmas Eve! 

I'm home with my family in Arizona right now. My sisters are in the other room finishing up some homemade presents and starting to bake up a storm. It's been amazing to be home, so this will be the only post this week! 

Screen printing at Open Studios

I've mentioned before that I've gotten back into the screen printing studio! I was testing out a custom print for a future collection, which is still in progress, and also printing some holiday cards for friends and family. 

I like to send out cards every year because it's a nice time to check in with friends that live near and far (and most of my friends live far). I hope they have all gotten to their destinations by now because I made these cards as postcards and did not include a return address. 

When I was living in Spain, I made cards at the printmaking studio I was a part of in Bilbao. The cards were beautiful, an image done from local leaves and green inks, and really fun to make. They were pretty abstract and quite expensive to send overseas to my friends in the states, but totally worth it. One of my friends has it on her fridge and every time I visit her I am reminded that a small act of friendship goes a long way! Who knew I'd get prime real estate on a fridge!

I wanted to do something similar this year but with screen printing, which is a bit harder for me conceptually and artistically. It forces me to think through the whole process and also leave room for accidents, happy mistakes and strange evolutions. I love printmaking with a printing press because you are creating throughout the whole process and kind of making it up as you go. Because I'm still relatively new to screen printing, it's a bit harder to feel that comfortable spontaneity when I'm nervous about exposure time and ink drying too fast. Luckily the owner of the studio was there to help and she's pretty much the coolest, nicest, most helpful person in the world...I know a lot of adjectives, but really, she's awesome. 

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I've been going to Open Studios in DC, which is a screen printing studio in Ivy City in Washington, DC. I was introduced to the space by a friend and have been wanting to go for a while. The space is pretty big for an screen printing studio, with small private studios on one side and windows around the perimeter. Tons of natural light floods in, even on a snowy day. There are five big tables in the center so you can usually spread out all your materials while you work. There's an entire shelf unit of paint that has been mixed by others that you can use, as well as basic colors you can mix yourself. There's a printer to print excellent resolution black negatives (you don't even have to make your image a halftone - it does it for you) and a giant exposure unit that makes magic happen. 

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Holiday Card Makin'

I started with an image of Plaza Mayor during a Three Kings parade in Salamanca, Spain. My sister, friend and I spent Three Kings there one year and I had some photographs that I thought might look interesting as a screen print. 

The Image

Here's the original photograph: 

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This photo isn't even in focus! Lighting was obviously hard to work with and I'm sure I was most fascinated with the lights at the time. I'm glad I've gotten better at photography over the years. 

I remember taking this photo from the balcony of the hotel we were staying at in the Plaza. I don't remember the name of the hotel but I remember it being really amazing to stand out in the cold air and watch the parade. 

This is the photo altered to black and white:

I printed that photo as a negative and laid out two across and three down so I could print nine at a time. We played around with the exposure times and altering the photograph to get more information on the film. It took quite a few tries but eventually we got it to that perfect point--a festive image with just enough information. 

The Ink

I played around a lot and decided on a few colors--red, blue, purple. As I was pulling the prints I started mixing colors, like blue and purple, red and blue, red and this transparent silver (that didn't work), red and green. That's when I finally started liking the results. I think with any art making, you have to be in it for a while before you get anywhere close to where you want to go. And sometimes, by then, studio time is up.  

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The Holiday Cards

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And that's it! Hope you like the cards and have fun with your own holiday projects. I have to go start wrapping presents now...

Happy Holidays! 

Stephanie Echeveste