The “Stone Hefter”, a small wood engraving and lesser spiritual lever
Does It Matter
The question “does this matter” is part of the consistent and insistent background chatter every day of my life. The question never goes away and has a thread of doubt woven through it, but it is balanced with the choices that I’ve made as an individual, and also as part of a family and part of a community that says “yes, it does matter”. It is a faith wager to keep doing it every day. It is not unlike lifting this stone.
When I make art I am praying. I am listening and I am seeking. Please do not misunderstand, it is not a righteous act but a desperate one. When I labor to make a print like this I am asking – begging God that it will be a lever for His Kingdom and His goodness- that it might become part of His own expression. The images and the labor are connected to a mystery as a spiritual practice. Everything is more than it seems, in the same way that a single word in a poem can become a passageway into a new story or a different world that, as it turns out, is vitally interconnected to this one.
Then I have to navigate what to do with it once I’ve made it. The path (in spite of my countless attempts to take it other places) always leads to a wide river called “marketing”. I am on one bank and the rest of the world is on the other. I’m all but convinced that I will drown if I go in. It is a strange baptism.
The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is a relief print edition carved and printed by hand from a block of linoleum. It is available for pre-order in the Baumwerk Shop. It will be an edition of 100 prints. Numbers 1-75 will be black ink on white paper, while numbers 76-100 will be sepia ink on cream paper. There will be a separate listing for each color option. The black and white prints will be ready for shipping sooner on March 23rd, while the sepia and cream prints will be available a few weeks later.
The Spiritual Mechanics… began as a way of building a repository or archive for many of the symbols that help me to understand my place and function in the world and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, after a fashion, an info-graphic which serves a developing theology around the ancient kinship of labor to worship.
At the heart is a worldview which sees an holistic unity between what is spiritual and what is natural. These are crude words and a crude image which is looking towards something that is deep and nuanced in its beauty and inherent goodness within the mind of God. My hope is that in here is an echo of God saying of the earth and creation, “It is good”. Also the echo of the Words of the Creator resident in every atom and particle. May it be an echo of John the Baptist saying “change your hearts and minds, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” May it be an echo of Jesus saying “it is finished” on the cross. Heaven is coming to earth and our labor here is not in vain.
The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is also a prayer and an offering. It is the noise my heart makes towards God, offering the smallest and most mundane moments of my days as He simultaneously offers them to me. It both seeks to say and asks if it’s really true that labor spent shoveling dirt in a garden , roofing a house, or cutting a stone before God can be as significant a spiritual lever as the most noble words of the priest in the cathedral, or the pastor behind a pulpit, or the hands of a healer in a tent.
I have more openly exposed my heart in this image than in my previous work, where it is shielded by narrative. In following posts I will seek to lay out the symbolism and stories behind the details depicted here, but it should be understood that I have sought to use images like these because for me the words are fundamentally insufficient to describe what it is that I see and seek.
I also hope that you will consider purchasing this print. Many of you know my ambivalence towards the marketing. However, I believe I am called to engage the “marketplace” with my work in a way that settles with my conscience and ethics. Here is a link to pre-order The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest.
Marketing my work has always been precarious territory for me. At a fundamental level, I am much more interested in making my work than trying to sell it. Philosophically and morally, I struggle with the slippery slope of salesmanship and authenticity. Authenticity as a word has already been pretty much trashed by our cultural trend towards filtered-authenticity in order to generate likes and sell products. I am certainly guilty of it, myself. Likes are addictive. But it all leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. It is hard to not feel like marketing breeds a certain level of dishonesty that we have decided to be ok with as a society.
Usually my work is both deeply personal and (I hope) deeply spiritual. I struggle often with the feeling that I am prostituting both myself and the things of God when I set out to peddle these visual representations in the marketplace. I don’t really have a satisfying resolution for this uncomfortable feeling, except for the opposing weight of the reactions of “my” audience, expressing a desire to share in these things.
I do want to sell my work and provide an income for my family and finance future projects. It is a part of life and a part of growing, of being fruitful. It is part of work, which is a divine invitation.
I have a calling to make art and what I hope are beautiful objects, and useful pieces of furniture. I have a calling to make that work accessible to the culture I am a part of. I want to try to do that in as straightforward a way as I know how. This new web store is an effort to do that.
You can get to the store by going to https://baumwerkshop.com, or you can select the menu of this sight and click on “Purchase Work“. I really do hope that you will visit and let me know what you think. I also really hope that you might purchase something, if you see something you like. There should be some exciting new things showing up there in the coming weeks.
Thank you, for supporting me and following along on this journey. God is good.
I recently completed work on the handmade certificate of authenticity for Mule Resophonic Guitars, shipping him the first Batch this past week. I hope you enjoy the finished piece and a few photos of the printing process.
Mule Resophonic Witness, 2018 linocut, printed with sepia ink on French’s paper
The block after numerous printings becomes a beautiful object.
The first batch of prints sent off to Matt Eich, now to be included with every guitar he and his team build, including the name of the customer and the number of the guitar written in the banners at the bottom of the print.
inking the block
Tthe trusty and bespattered 4″ speedball brayer.
A detail of the inked block.
Registering the paper on the block and press bed using a simple jig.
The delicate task of lifting the print from the block post printing.
Usually the prints I make are deeply personal illustrations of my heart, vision and journey. From the early days printmaking has been, to me, a form of prayer, offering up to the Father layers of concern and expression of things I do not often fully comprehend. Within that context is a platform to explore the visualization of spiritual concepts, revelations and principles- basically a blundering effort to make the unseen seen on some level. I wonder that I am taken up with making a “graven image” and how that settles with the second commandment (Exodus 20 verse 4 if you are interested). Hopefully, what I am making are objects that are doors or windows that might lead one into worship, certainly they are far from worshipful in themselves. I take comfort that the Merciful One will ultimately be the judge of my heart on this one.
These images here, are a divergence in a way, in that, they are the mixture of my expression and visual language with the story and purpose of two other entities. The first of those is Matt Eich of Mule Resophonic Guitars. He has been building these beautifully crafted and, by all accounts, almost magically sounding guitars for five years now. The resulting print will be the certificate of authenticity that will be presented with every instrument that he sells. Matt is passionate about story and building rich relationships with his customers, and he invests personal expression into every instrument. His sense of story has been woven together with mine here, I hope.
On a technical level, I am always in an attempt to push myself past where I was before in my work. It may only be in a way that is visible to my own eye. With printmaking I compose a design and I wonder if I will be able to pull it off- if the level of detail will translate as a small mammal, or a vine, or a bird- or just a confused tangle of ink. Many times it has resulted in the confused tangle. This print for Matt has tons of this risk built into the design, and I think his spirit has elevated me, because I somehow feel a door has been unlocked. Of course, I really won’t know until the ink hits the paper- but there is hope that these tiny branches will be able to speak.
The second entity is the musical trio Sister Sinjin. My good friend Elizabeth Duffy is part of this group of women who sing devotedly to the glory and love of God. This image from this block will become the cover art for their upcoming record. The contemplative spirit of their music really seems to offer a counterpoint to the industrious detail of the print I’m making for Matt. I’ve noticed and appreciated the contrast as I have been working back and forth between these two blocks. The quite offering of the woman and the persistent labor of the plowman. Both have offered a lot of opportunity to grow and develop and express, and I am grateful. There are many photographs of the carving process below, which is still underway in both cases, though I am nearly done with the Sister Sinjin block.
at the BaumWerk Etsy StoreDear friends, I thank you for all of your kind words and interest regarding this new print of the Living Tree. I am grateful that it seems to have struck a chord with many of you. A number of you have made inquiries into when and if prints would be available to purchase. As of Friday, a limited number (there will be more as I continue to print the edition) have been listed on my ETSY store. I am selling these first fifteen for $125, after that the price will increase to $150. Click here to go to the listing. Please read more below for some details about the print, and thank you again for your support!
The image itself is 12″ wide and 22 1/2″ tall and is printed on French’s 100# Butcher Off White Dur-o-tone paper, which is 18″ wide and 25″ tall. French’s paper is American made in Niles Michigan.The edition will be 1oo prints, which is the biggest edition I have ever made. Every single print is hand made by me on my Wepplo etching press in my Rose Hill, Kansas workshop. The print is made using three linoleum blocks, as a composite image. It took me over a year to design and carve the image into the blocks (although I was doing lots of other things during that year, besides carving linoleum).Many hours of painstaking carving went into creating all of the details in The Living Tree.The Tree and it’s roots are loaded with life, like this little owl. There are many spiritual and natural beliefs and dreams symbolically represented in this print. There are many things which I see and believe about who my God is, and also things which I strive to cultivate in my life and stewardship on the land. I don’t have many words as a companion for this image just yet, but perhaps in the future I may try to lay out those ideas for those who are interested.