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Tamarind Institute of Lithography, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Looking Back to Move Forward...

In February 2020, right before the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the opportunity to participate in the Tamarind Institute of Lithography’s Professional Artist Printer Training program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was an inspiring experience that raised the bar for what artist residencies and collaborative art making should be. 

The Professional Artist Printer Training program connects two of Tamarind’s Printers in Training with a professional artist. The program provides students with experience working directly with artists from different backgrounds and different styles. No prior printmaking experience is required.

Printmaking and Accessibility

Tamarind Institute of Lithography invites graduate students from the University of New Mexico, local artists, and international artists into their studios to collaborate with their cohort of printers. As an artist and administrator who has researched printmaking studios for consulting projects on corporate art collections, Tamarind’s accessibility and educational model is unique. I wish we had studio spaces in Los Angeles with a similar educational and publishing model. In my short time there I was welcomed by the staff and board members, I met graduate students and professors from the University of New Mexico, a local art dealer and gallery director, and I was immersed in their art community when Tamarind Staff took me to the local art walk.

Collaborative Printmaking

I worked directly with Maggie Middleton and Julie Bellavance, two artists who are currently in the process of setting up their own lithography studios. I also saw and learned from graduate students at the University of New Mexico by sharing the space with them and watching the development of their projects and the various litho processes that can be applied to create textures, painterly marks, and photographic processes.  Tamarind’s educational programs and work culture are deeply rooted in collaboration and building community among its students, artists, and administrative staff. The staff and board at Tamarind are highly supportive of their students and artists. The Tamarind experience, also known as TamFam leads to lifelong relationships among printers, artists, and administrators. They are a worldwide network of passionate printmakers and printmaking enthusiasts.

Communication and Interpretation

An essential skill of collaborative printmaking is listening and interpreting what an artist tries to accomplish. One artist working in the same space as me would describe her color palette using food. “The brown hue should be like the color of this chip.” and handed the printer a tortilla chip. These printers are masterful in their ability to capture what an artist is trying to develop, teach artists what is possible, and pivot when the artist decides to pursue another direction.  

Peer-to-Peer Learning

The Printer Training program is a rigorous curriculum that merges technical printmaking aspects with art history and business training. In the two-week timeframe I was there, I learned the nuances and breadth of lithography and how to improve my printmaking processes and setup. For example, the printers there are taught to document everything as they work, including measuring beads of ink while mixing colors to create a sustainable and consistent color and workflow.  Each day was a twelve to fourteen-hour workday for the printers and myself. The first week focused on drawing each matrix to produce two 5-layered multicolored prints measuring 30 x 22 inches. The second week, the printers worked on color proofing the prints for me so that we could determine the final color palette and map the registration of each edition. The production of each artwork is a physically demanding, labor-intensive process that requires careful attention, patience, stamina, and technical skill to publish art that is reflective of the artist’s vision and aligns with Tamarind’s standards of quality. 

Flourish for Maggie and Julie

The Flourish lithographs were constructed with 5 lithographic plates using hand-drawn techniques. The first four plates were drawn on metal, and the last layer, the key drawing was drawn on litho stones. There were up to 8 colors used in the printing process to produce a wide range of colors within each artwork. The transparency of litho inks allows for colors to be layered to create multiple shades, tones, and hues through the layering process.  

Tamarind Institute of Lithography

Tamarind Institute is a lithography workshop created in 1970 as a division of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM, United States. It began as Tamarind Lithography Workshop, a California non-profit corporation founded by June Wayne on Tamarind Avenue in Los Angeles in 1960. Both the current Institute and the original Lithography Workshop are referred to informally as “Tamarind.” Tamarind Institute’s website lists the following goals, developed by founding director June Wayne with associate director Clinton Adams and technical director Garo Antreasian in 1960:
  • To create a pool of master artisan-printers in the United States by training apprentices;
  • To develop a group of artists of diverse styles into masters of this medium;
  • To habituate each artist and artisan to intimate collaboration so that each becomes responsive and stimulating to the other in the work situation encouraging both to experiment widely and extend the expressive potential of the medium;
  • To stimulate new markets for the lithograph;
  • To plan a format to guide the artisan in earning his living outside of subsidy or total dependence on the artist’s pocket;
  • To restore the prestige of lithography by actually creating a collection of extraordinary prints.

Watch the Video of Tamarind Printers at Work