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A Recipe for Kitchen Printmaking

Story by
Quinn Russell Brown/UW Magazine
September 2020Perspectives Newsletter
Profesor Curt Labitzke printmaking in his kitchen.

Printmaking professor Curt Labitzke in his kitchen-turned-studio. Media credit: Jackie Russo

 

Class officially starts at 9:10 a.m., but the Zoom lobby opens at 9. A lot can happen in those 10 minutes. “Oh, gosh,” a student whispers this morning. Her webcam is turned off, but she accidentally left her microphone on. “I need to put on pants," she says to herself — and to the whole class. Professor Curt Labitzke can only laugh. He's gotten used to the little moments of absurdity that can happen when a group of people gather virtually. “You should do that," he tells the scrambling student.

Close up of print "portrait" created from home

Labitzke, who has taught art in the UW School of Art + Art History + Design for 36 years, has never experienced anything like that before. He takes it in stride, just as he will when his WiFi cuts out during the first 20 minutes of final presentations, or when a cat jumps on a student’s laptop during a lecture. “That was a big cat,” Labitzke pauses to say. “I have a big cat, too.” (It’s not the last time that cat will come to class: In week three, his paws will find their way onto the student’s workspace and drag ink onto a sheet of paper. It looked great.)

These are the kind of odd and at times exasperating moments that can make remote learning seem inferior or even impossible. But listening to students who took Labitzke’s monthlong summer class, “Printmaking Without a Press,” it’s clear that something special took place. “I learned more technique in this quarter than every other quarter combined,” art major Hongjun Jack Wu, ’21, tells the group on the final day of class. (If you’re counting, that means Wu has had nine quarters of art education.)

“Between work and stress, I was burned out,” added Amy Hemmons, ’20. “I feel like I’ve developed a momentum, and after this class is over, I’m going to continue doing art.”

Labitzke is a gallery-represented artist and the longtime chair of UW’s Printmaking Program. But he had never taught a class online until the pandemic hit, and the subject he teaches is inherently based on students and teachers interacting with physical objects together. So how did he pull it off?

Continuing reading the story on the University of Washington Magazine website, including a hands-on tutorial for making your own prints at home.