Printmaking club makes a lasting impression at WKU

Sophomore Liz Walker reacts to her print created from a wooden stencil at the WKU printmaking club table at the Potter College fall festival outside the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts center.

Drake Kizer

The WKU Printmaking Club has become an increasingly popular student organization over the last few years. However, without the help of some passionate young artists and a dedicated educator, the club would have never become what it is today.

Marilee Salvator, the club’s faculty advisor, said she has been teaching both nationally and internationally for the past 15 years. The fall of 2018 marks her fourth year as WKU’s printmaking instructor. Prior to her arrival, the printmaking club was an informal group. Salvator said one of her first orders of business was filling out paperwork to make the club official 

Salvator said when the printmaking club first started out, its ranks only included about five students. Now, the organization’s membership has grown to 15.

“When I got here, there weren’t really that many people who were interested in being in the club,” Salvator said. “They didn’t really have very many people that were concentrating in printmaking, either. Slowly, it’s gotten a lot larger and a lot more popular.”

While printmaking’s popularity is on the rise, it is still not as well-known as other artforms. Salvator said most people do not understand printmaking, which is why she encourages the club to educate people by hosting or participating in community outreach events.

Salvator said the club enjoys inviting artists to visit WKU. On Oct. 7 and 8, California artist Meghan Pohlod came to campus for a body printing workshop, an artist talk and a discussion about graduate school. Salvator said the printmaking club also hosted a potluck Oct. 7.

The printmaking club participated in its fourth consecutive Potter College Fall Festival on Oct. 17. Similar to prior years, the club’s booth focused on relief printing. Patrons either learned how to carve their own designs or used pre-made designs for their prints. Salvator said she always looks forward to the event because a few people come back and participate every fall.

In addition to her teaching duties, Salvator has maintained her career as a working artist. Salvator said she participates in three to four solo shows each year and also takes part in group shows. Last February, Arkansas State University invited Salvator to do a demonstration at a printmaking symposium. She accepted, as long as a few print club members could tag along.

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Wku Print Club @ open portfolio @arkansasstate

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“The students got to do public lectures about their work,” Salvator said. “A couple of them helped me with my demonstration, and they also presented their work in an open portfolio event. Other artists gave the students feedback about their work and also critiqued their lectures, so it was a wonderful professional development opportunity for them.”

Once or twice each semester, the printmaking club sells hand-printed T-shirts. Salvator said the students design and print all the shirts themselves. In addition to setting up tables at on-campus sites like Java City, the club has also sold its shirts at the Downing Museum and the Ellis Walker Gallery. Though the T-shirts sales are fun, Salvator said fundraising is crucial.

“We have had record sales recently,” Salvator said. “We had a sale a couple of weeks ago, and we sold 50 T-shirts in two days. We were only out there about three hours each day, so that was really impressive. It was by far the highest we’ve had, so it was really exciting to see, because all the events we participate in are funded by our sales of the shirts.”

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We are selling hand printed shirts! Birds and brews! 1-$15 2-$25! Get one before they are gone! #wkuprintmaking

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Bronwyn Liddle, a junior majoring in studio art with a concentration in printmaking, is the club’s secretary. Though this is her first semester as a club officer, Liddle said she joined the club last fall while taking her first print class. Liddle immediately fell in love with printmaking, and since her work was what she called “pretty decent,” Liddle said Salvator invited her to join the club.

“Marilee is pretty heavily involved,” Liddle said. “I think a lot of us are really scatterbrained and easily distracted by our own work, so she has been instrumental in organizing trips and coming up with ideas for what the club can do.”

The club’s future is not in jeopardy, but Liddle said it will be very important for her and other members of the club to step up and replace some of its most critical members in the coming semesters. Though the club’s president and vice president are both graduating soon, Liddle said the club has plans to continue building on its recent success.

“A lot of the people who are really active in the club are going to be leaving,” Liddle said. “We’re a little bit at loose ends right now, but we’ve talked about potential trips and finding other cool stuff that we can print and sell.”

For Liddle, being a member of the club has been a chance to bond with her classmates. Liddle said prior to joining the club, she did not really know anybody in her department. That has all changed now, and Liddle said she owes the club for helping her come out of her shell and meet a lot of new acquaintances.

“It’s been a really fun and simultaneously a little bit stressful thing for me,” Liddle said. “Personally, I’m a bit of a loner, so it’s been really nice to talk with people and do things together. Who you know is very important, and it’s a great opportunity to develop stronger ideas, because you can get feedback from people who actually really know what you’re talking about.”

Rachel Rummage, a junior majoring in graphic design, joined the club this semester. Rummage said her degree program requires her to take art classes unrelated to graphic design, so she chose to take printmaking. Her involvement in the class led her to the club, and she soon volunteered to create promotional materials. Now, she is a publicity officer for the club.

“To say that I help as a graphic designer for the print club at Western is a really good line on my resume,” Rummage said. “But, I think that they’re also helping me. As an art student, it’s very easy to be doing your own thing and not having friends, but I think being in a community with other artists is a good thing.”

Salvator said there are multiple aspects of the club that make it so special to her. She takes pride in helping students develop their leadership skills. The students lead themselves, and by allowing them to teach others about printmaking, Salvator said their confidence gets a boost. Still, perhaps the most important facet of the group is the camaraderie it promotes.

“Printmaking is very much about community,” Salvator said. “Because of the big equipment we use, you have to work in the studio. There’s automatically a built-in community aspect, but the print club allows a little bit more intimate community. They work together on projects, so I feel like that really helps them make connections with each other that could last them a lifetime.”

Features reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected] Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.