Fit to print

A group of local artists have carved out Oxbow Press, a community printmaker’s press

The co-conspirators behind Oxbow Press prepare for the printmaking hub’s grand opening this weekend.

The co-conspirators behind Oxbow Press prepare for the printmaking hub’s grand opening this weekend.


Oxboo Press

2035 Dickerson Rd.
Reno, NV 89503

(775) 303-8086

Although printmakers may be thought of as a niche group, this group of printers wants to share their art with the community and let everyone get a little ink on their hands.

It all started back in 2005, when Candace Nicol moved back to Reno after finishing up her master’s degree at Boise State. She wanted to make connections with other printmakers in the area and get more people involved in the art form. Nicol, who currently teaches classes at Truckee Meadows Community College, found co-conspirators in Nolan Preece, a professor of art at TMCC, and Jim McCormick, former instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno. They started the Printmaker’s Conspiracy in 2006, a social group for all things printmaking, so-called because they realized that a lot of people don’t really know what printmaking is, and the name poked fun at the idea that it was a secret or exclusive club. The group now has more than 25 members and continues to grow.

Under pressure

The momentum behind the Conspiracy led Nicol, with support from Reno artist Vicki LoSasso, students at TMCC and UNR, artist Galen Brown, Preece, and others to push for a space where printmakers can work and collaborate with the community. With Nicol’s energy and enthusiasm, the idea has taken off, and Oxbow Press will officially open its doors for a grand opening celebration the first weekend in June.

“We started on the first day of spring,” says Nicol. “It’s amazing how much we’ve gotten done. It seems like the community really wants to support it.”

The printing press already has a slew of resident artists and students who are involved and will occupy studios at the new space. Membership is growing, and Oxbow Press already has more than 200 fans on Facebook. The idea is that the press will be a resource for the community.

Preece, who is president of the board for Oxbow Press, has always been an advocate for printmaking in the area. “We plan on doing a lot of educational things. That’s what the Printmaker’s Conspiracy was formed around in the beginning—as an educational resource.”

The summer schedule already includes a number of classes. A reduction cut workshop will be held during Nada Dada weekend, June 17-20, with Arizona artist Wendy Willis, and Nicol will be teaching a screenprinting class and a four-color etching workshop. Katy Govan, recent graduate from UNR’s MFA program, will be teaching book arts at Oxbow in the fall.

What a relief

Perhaps some of the mystery behind printmaking is that the term covers a wide variety of techniques. However, they all start with the same basic premise: a surface, sometimes referred to as a matrix or plate, from which the print or impression is made. To make a print, sometimes you need a printing press, which is a device that applies pressure to the paper or other printing medium, and the plate.

The easiest printmaking process to explain is probably stenciling. Screenprinting, a form of stenciling, uses a piece of fabric mesh, called a screen, to create a template that ink is pushed through, similar to taking a lettering stencil and coloring in the cut-away areas. No presses need to be involved in this process.

Relief printing is also easy to understand. In art, a relief is a form that is raised from a surface. Plates for relief printing can be created from wood or linoleum blocks that are carved away around an image or design, leaving behind raised areas that are then printed. Or materials can be applied to the surface of a plate, as in collography, such as wire, string, leaves or anything, really. The ink is then applied to the surface of the plate, sticking only to the raised areas. Paper is placed on top of the plate, and pressure is applied by rubbing the surface of the plate with a spoon or running it through a press.

Intaglio processes are the opposite of relief printing. Instead of the raised surface of the matrix being printed, the part that you carve away is inked and printed. One intaglio technique, engraving, consists of the artist carving an image directly into a metal plate. Ink is applied to the entire plate and then wiped off of the surface, leaving ink only in the engraved lines. The plate, along with a piece of paper, is put through a high-pressure printing press. Other intaglio processes include etching, which is much like engraving but uses acid to etch lines into the plate; drypoint; mezzotint, where the entire surface of the plate is roughened and then the image is brought out by smoothing areas; and aquatint.

Candace Nicol and Nolan Preece intend Oxbow Press to be a community resource for current and future printmakers.


Making an impression

Oxbow Press aims to be a resource for educators, students and working printmakers. The resident artists will be offering lots of workshops and classes for professionals, children and the general community. Starting in August, Sundays will be family days, with projects for parents and kids to work on together, including the popular gelatin printmaking.

The press consists of a community print shop with two etching presses, a bathroom and kitchen, inking stations, screenprinting exposure stations and washout bins, and solar plate-making equipment. There are also three private studio spaces members can rent and an upstairs loft with studio space for students. Oxbow Press uses non-toxic, eco-friendly materials. In addition, the press has dedicated gallery space.

Paying members will have access to the presses and facilities during open studio hours. Membership categories range from yearly and monthly to daily and hourly. If you are an experienced printmaker and have references or take classes at Oxbow, you can come by and pay to use the equipment for an hour to run an edition or make a screen for printing.

Oxbow Press would like to achieve non-profit status. The goal is to apply for grants so that the press can offer scholarships to students and residencies to artists. It will be a place for creativity, experimentation, and events.

“My goal is that hopefully the young people will take this over,” says Nicol, who is very interested in collaborating with Reno’s Holland Project on printing workshops for teens. “We need younger people over there.”

Alexandra Sorrell, a student of Nicol’s at TMCC, has been involved with the beginnings of the press. As a printmaker, she enjoys etching. She also does prints with solar plates, mixes that with chine-collé, then prints relief over that—generally reduction cut linoleum block. Her prints will be featured in the press gallery during the grand opening along with works by Nolan Preece, May Aboutaam, Carole-Ann Ricketts, Vicki LoSasso, Isidoro Leon, David C. Laws and others.

“Besides taking classes, it’s the only access we have to presses,” Sorrell says, explaining why she’s excited to be involved at Oxbow. “It brings us more opportunities to be around other printmakers and see what they are doing. Oxbow Press will bring diverse people.” She will be sharing the upstairs studio space with other students in exchange for monitoring open studio hours.

At the Opening Weekend Gala, there will be a gallery reception on Friday, June 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. when visitors will also have an opportunity to make some wearable art—Isidoro Leon will be printing his own linoleum block carvings onto T-shirts (bring your own). And, everyone can participate in a community collaborative work, CREATING, CARVING, COMMUNITY, by adding to a large block carving that will be printed into a limited edition.

“Anybody who wants to get involved in any artistic endeavor in Reno, I give them my blessing,” says Preece. “You usually have to band together in large numbers to make anything happen here. But I have a good feeling about this. Anyway, I think it’s going to be fun.”