Jen Craun


Miles and Miles of Lines.

on Mar 03 in Blog, Print, Process

In a recent clean-up effort at Zygote Press, we were all tasked with the job of emptying out our flat files temporarily. In the long process of sifting through my two large horizontal drawers containing a near-decade’s worth of printed accumulation, I found a plate that I etched a handful of years ago. It’s a zillion wobbly lines.


It was a morning where I found myself less motivated to sort through the stacks and piles of prints and papers, and a morning that left me with a week still on the ticking clock ahead of the deadline for emptying out my two drawers. On another gray kick, I decided to print up the plate in relief. As I pushed and pulled the brayer back and forth through the ink, and across the plate, I contemplated about how little time I have actually spent with this plate. It looked so neglected, and prematurely stashed away in the abyss of later. I’ve actually invested more time drawing and etching in the lines than I ever have in the printing of the plate. And before this morning, I never printed it in relief — only intaglio.

It was a couple years ago, and the lines then were gray on white paper. Now the space was nearly absorbed by gray, and the thin lines revealing the paper were warmly white. The image changed right there before my eyes from a charged and noisy pile-up of graphite lines, to a smokey and soft atmospheric landscape of hazy gray subtly interfered with whispering lines of white. I think that’s printmaking’s grip on me, the many iterations and possibilities of printed outcome, even within a single plate. I can be a maker of many images. I can change moods, and meanings with ink and time.

And this print is my right now. It’s a softening of demands, and a craving for stillness. It’s a mandatory carving out of peace. Making a space to catch my breath, and look with hope towards the distant but certain horizon.

Flocking. First Tests.

on Jan 06 in Blog, Print, Process

Lots of fuzzy red fibers flew through the air in little puffs to land in carefully painted adhesive. Test one is looking pretty fantastic. And fuzzy.


Next up, I plan to test how well the adhesive will work with screenprinting. Because fuzzy should most certainly be editionable. Obviously.


on Dec 28 in Blog, Print

How are we already approaching the New Year? I had such a great plan charted out for keeping this place frequently updated, and then the surprising busy-ness of this semester swallowed up all of my extra time and energy. I managed to maintain some fairly consistent studio time each week, however, but had very little spare time to process it here.  I have committed more time for the studio in the coming semester, by lightening my teaching schedule, which I am looking forward to immensely.

Just before Christmas, I started up a new suite of prints about struggle and surviving, and the duality of definitive words. Many of the finished pieces currently hang in Heights Art Gallery, as well as Zygote Press through the New Year. Several that are still in progress are slated for exhibition in a show titled Salvage, that will open at the Tri-C Gallery West on Tuesday January 22, 2013 with an Artist Reception on Wednesday January 30th from 5-7 pm.

Craun Dash

Describing the exhibition, the curator–Lisa Schonberg–writes:

“This group exhibition displays a wide range of images and dynamic ideas produced through various printmaking processes. The works incorporate salvaged materials or the idea of salvaging, either in the process of printing, in the content or in the assembly of the art object. When using a variety of unconventional materials, an inventive range of concepts can develop which prove to be a basis for each artist’s unique aesthetic goals.”

The pieces I am working on this week include some collage of security print envelopes, and potentially some flocking [fingers crossed!], I’ll post some here as I finish them up. Promise.

Time and Place

on Jul 26 in Blog, Exhibition

I received a bundle of postcards in this afternoon’s mail, for an exhibition that I am included. Half of which is currently on display in Dresden, the other half of the exhibition will be displayed in Columbus, with a reception in September. The exhibition is titled Time and Place. This resonates with me on so many levels.

Much of my work is about place, and the notions of home and comfort. And I generally think of my work in printed series as seasons; time is always present in my work, as I grapple to articulate the right now. The two pieces that I included–one in each of the exhibition locations–are pressure prints using letterpress, printed over monoprints from my Suburban Paradigm series, that I have further layered with aerial line drawings of housing developments. The orange arrow on the lower right of the card is a detail of the prints that I included, they are titled present patterns; impermanence I and II.

Local readers, swing on in to see them on view in Columbus, all of the details of the exhibition and reception are below:

Recovering. A Book and a Ball of String.

on Jul 02 in Blog, Bookmaking, Process

I whipped up a sweet little jotter cover as a quick Happy birthday! present for a friend this weekend.

Though I often find myself making reminders and to-do lists on my iPhone, I find more often that I enjoy most the quickly scrawled and handwritten kind on a page of paper. I like the pressure of the pen scratching across the paper, the sound  of fast writing, the frenetic look of part-cursive part-printed hybrid script. I like the parsed words, and the little envelope picture that I always draw after a lowercase “e” when I am jotting down a list of e-mail reminders. The little envelope, nowhere on my phone’s keypad, only on millions of my paper trails.

I keep books at my ready for all sorts of note-needs, and list making. I have several stacked on both of my desks, one in my handbag, and two in my car. Always at-the-ready with a pen. Books make me unbelievably happy. I even save my all-filled-up one’s, they are such a great seasonal record. My all time favorite and now filled little jotter, is the grocery list book I made while Dave and I lived in Florence. It’s sweetly evident by our food list, and other scrawlings––including metric measuring conversions, and necessary ingredient translations––that this book lived its life elsewhere than Cleveland, and well before children. Our lists today are drastically different.

The piles of books I make, and all their potential pages bring me terrific pleasure. Like this ball of string I love also, it’s all the beautifully waiting potential–– measured out and used up slowly. A book and a ball of string.

This Big and Small World.

on Jun 27 in Blog, Print

The phone rang on Saturday afternoon. I was busy at the table pitting cherries for a large batch of jam. With red and sticky fingers, I let the call go to voicemail. After washing away all the ruby, I listened with interest to the message left by an intern of Zygote Press. It seems there was a customer in the gallery, looking specifically for my work, a piece he intended to purchase. I returned the call, and heard the booming familiar voice of this customer in the background pacing the gallery; I knew who it was with certainty before the intern had handed over the phone.

And it was moments later [from my studio at home] that I sold him the very print from the series he was seeking, and had visited Zygote specifically to purchase. Down to only four–three now–and the framed diptych that hangs in our Master Bedroom.

The circumstances–still a bit unbelievable–are so apropos to the print itself. It was from the Postcards Unsent Series, that I created during my 5-week Artist Residency to Dresden, Germany.  The trip was transformative to my work, and the very person that I am. It was an experience that further made my small world larger, and the big world seem all the smaller and so accessible, connected. I spent these 5-weeks mostly on my own, apart from my husband, and pregnant with our first child. This is more than seven years ago now. And when I see any of the few remaining prints from this series, I am transported immediately back with fondness, like it was just yesterday.

They are layered up little gems, using letterpress and intaglio with chine colle’. Each of them celebrates an aspect of freedom, and travel, of documentation and the record of experience.

Yesterday, I received the sweetest e-mail. The print was bought for a colleague within a department of the Ohio Arts Council that is leaving for another job:

…Last week I had asked her of all of the artwork we had at the agency what was her favorite piece and she had mentioned your print from Dresden.  I was so happy that you had a print similar to the piece we have hanging in our office.  Everyone here really enjoyed working with her and we will miss her a lot.  Your print will be a perfect way to remember her time working with us at the OAC….

Of course I love that she selected my work of all the choices, but the words that struck my heart the most deeply were: Your print will be a perfect way to remember, as they certainly have been for me, and how it resonates so perfectly to the very reasons in which they were created. And it got me thinking again, about this big and small world, and how connected we all really are by our experiences.

I Believe in Pink.

on Jun 12 in Blog, Process

The realization came with my most recent purchase.

It’s a brightly pink plastic, overly decorative and floral little charmer. Shiny, nicely-shaped, and absolutely alluring. The beauty beyond it’s use beckoned me. The NEON pink floral, the nubby side seam assembly––obviously shipped flat-packed––and simply assembled. The bright honesty undid me. A poolside basket for my hours ahead this Summer of watching the Craunlets enjoy swimming lessons? Or maybe it’s simply just another lovely object to join the growing crowd on my studio desk.

I remember and find the yardage of cord I bought a few weeks ago.

And as I clear out piles and stacks of in-progress prints, I treasure upon two terrific see-through folders. Piped in this same delicious and decadently bright pink.

Then I notice nearby, also among the objects strewn about my large work surface, the tiny doll-sized cast that I couldn’t bear to toss. Couldn’t close that door entirely. That long, long, and still-going medical journey that we are on with our daughter. This sweetest and most beautiful kiss from a stranger who became a dear nurse-friend in our accumulated years of casting.

The collection brightens the backdrop of my workspace. And I find with no other reason outside of their beauty, they are all needed, and part of a larger narrative. Now, to mine out what all those connections might be. To write that story.

And to think fondly of Audrey Hepburn as I get started:

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

On Color, and Timing.

on May 25 in Blog, Process

I find myself often mixing a certain color of ink, and then nearly immediately identifying it’s exact match in my local life or surroundings. I labored pretty intensely over the color selections for the edition of pressure prints that I created for ArtCares. I knew I wanted a richly saturated dark and warm navy blue for the symbols, and a nearly-green brightly glowing and hopeful yellow underneath. It’s a color pairing I don’t often make in my work, and I was crossing my fingers that the layers wouldn’t mash up into some kind murky green field.

Because I was working on the letterpress, with super stiff-to-mix rubber inks, I whipped out the Pantone swatch book to have a parts-to-whole ratio to work with for each of my my colors. I finally made my two selections, mixed them up, and tested them out together in the small study print pictured below.

Exactly the colors I envisioned, the glowing yellow still visibly heard under the haze of blue. I snapped a few pictures for my process records, and after editing them, I saved them onto my desktop. It was then that I noticed.

This February, we sponsored a friend’s mission trip to Jamaica to build a house for a family there. I looked again at the photographs that she had sent me via her phone, I had kept them also on my cluttered desktop. I remembered the day and moment exactly when I received them in a text message, all the way from Jamaica instantly. I remember the delightful surprise of seeing color. Such an unexpected beauty in the otherwise functional project. I remember thinking how heavenly the yellow interior walls poured out a fiercely glowing light from the windows and [at the time of the photograph] roofless blue house.

I saw on this second looking, with my photographs now side-by-side, a palette that had worked it’s way into my heart first, my thoughts second, and thirdly into these prints. It’s an absolute wonder sometimes, at our connections to color. The way the mind stores up beauty, and the innate desire we have to recreate.

Getting Ready to Keep Going.

on May 22 in Blog, Residency

I’m finishing up a little Printmaking Blitz with Room 1A of Old Brooklyn Community Elementary School this afternoon.

A few week’s ago as a class, we cranked out a big pile of brightly colored monoprints using a traveling printing press. Today we will chippity-chop and paste them all up into sweet little single-object collages for a little button-making fun. They are Eric Carle inspired, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what they come up with. Here are my working monoprint scrap pieces, my initial letter collage, and a few finished button examples:

Printmaking with the 1st grade is 1st rate!

Beautiful Sound.

on May 11 in Blog, Print, Recognition

At last, my commissioned print for the Cleveland Clinic is all finished and delivered. It was a pleasure of an opportunity, but I am glad that it’s one of the items now crossed off the to-do list of my previous post. The title of the etching is Beautiful Sound, and it’s a good sized image printed up on a 22 x 30 inch sheet of Rives.

Here’s the statement of description that I just sent off to the Cleveland Clinic:

“Swooping etched lines stretch across this piece–three of which are tethered gently to the red chine colle’ birds–as if pulled and held by other birds just beyond the view. The three red birds are pulling up, and taking flight; they are leading out. I have long included birds in many of my prints as symbols of both longed-for and attained redemption and new freedoms. I use a light and softly transparent yellow relief ink rolled directly over the plate tone and printing false-bite from the etching process, in an effort to indicate my hopeful honesty in recording our efforts to make the best of what we have in this moment. I believe time is measured patiently, and marked in seasons. The white and looping line that cuts into the lower yellow section delineates the pattern of a birds wing in flight, as it builds up momentum to soar. The accumulation and  visual increase of this curving line that bends around and crosses over itself again and again as it both widens and heightens expresses these few and precious hard-worked-for moments when we can enjoy the view of right now.”

The print was commissioned as part of an award that they are creating to honor leaders within the Cleveland Clinic. It is a triumphant piece that remembers the explosion and fire at the Cleveland Clinic in 1929, and is part of their 90th Anniversary celebration.  I understand that a range of my work was shown to the committee that was formed, naturally including their art department, and they identified a previous print of mine that they really responded to for this occasion/award. It was a piece that I created in the coming undone suite, titled permanence of place. I drew several sketches for the commission, which were further discussed by the committee. I was happy to learn that the team quickly and unanimously decided on the proposed: Beautiful Sound.

It was nice to etch and print such a large copper plate again, and to spend so many studio days at the press. The print is being framed, and will be permanently installed in the main building by the end of the month for a ceremony planned for May 29, 2012. It was an honor to be asked to make this piece, and I am quite excited to see it on display in the next couple of weeks.

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