The Lab Culture series explores the research, traditions and quirks in labs across the IUPUI campus.
The centuries-old art of printmaking still impresses in the digital age.
The Printmaking Lab within the Herron School of Art and Design was bustling Monday as students worked on semester-end lithography, screen-printing and etching projects within the space. But no work can be done without passing the program’s shrine full of mementos, totems and memories from current and past IUPUI printmakers.
“We joke around that if you’re getting ready to print your edition, you make a small offering to the print gods,” said Dominic Senibaldi, lab technician, instructor and co-founder of Cat Head Press. “If your printing went well, you give thanks with a trinket or a proof of your print. It represents the communal attitude in the shop. It’s a nice tradition.”
Playing off the shrine and supported by printmaking professors Meredith Setser and David Morrison, Senibaldi’s years in the lithography space have brought some interesting traditions and mascots to add to the creative atmosphere of the printmaking lab.
‘The One About Printmaking’
If and when “Friends” eventually leaves Netflix, you can get your Ross Geller fix by visiting the lithography space in the Printmaking Lab. Yes, the uptight paleontologist played by David Schwimmer is there to remind students to “Clean up your mess” and tell them where to find the dry-erase marker to schedule time on the lab’s five presses.
“For a long time, I was making signs with Nic Cage on them,” Senibaldi said. “The print mascot changes every once in a while. I started making signs with Ross Geller, and it just sort of stuck.”
Beats help prints
Each space in the Printmaking Lab is equipped with custom-made computer speaker cabinets. Students can plug in their mobile device or laptop with their Spotify playlist cued up to bring the rock, hip-hop or pop they need to help create images with ink. The lithography speaker cabinet is decorated with dozens of small felt pompoms — some with googly eyes, of course.
“The students get full access to the shop,” Senibaldi explained. “They’re working in here outside of classes, so they can hook up their music and rock out while working on their stuff — so it becomes really fun. My predecessor, former Printmaking Lab tech Lauren Kussro, built these boxes attached to the wall because other areas of the school kept stealing our speakers from here — because we’re the cool kids over here listening to music.”
Name that press
The five main presses for producing prints on paper or nontraditional surfaces like plastic and fabric display names like Big Rig, Excalibur and José. Senibaldi revealed there could be a student vote to rename the hand-operated machines in the near future.
“Everything has character in this shop,” he said. “Fine-art printmaking is always going to have a place in art. There is a tactile quality and hands-on process you can’t get with other processes. It’s very unique.”
And so is Herron’s Printmaking Lab.