A Harvest Moon – by Katherine Brimberry

October 25th, 2011
Brimberry 2011 Group

Last week in Austin, Texas when the Hunter’s Moon lit up my backyard, I was reminded of the previous full moon, twenty-eight days before, seen from the courtyard of La Romita, an artists’ retreat and school located near Terni, Italy in the heart of Umbria.  It was a glorious, Italian “Harvest Moon” and it kept me awake with its brightness lighting the olive grove around the quiet studio that night. It was a beautiful place to be and to make art.  For two weeks, La Romita was “Flatbed in Italy.”

I was at La Romita teaching “Immersive Printmaking” to a group of artists from Austin and Dallas, Texas:  Lucy Flores, Mark Durbin, Chu Nui Pak, Jeff Smith, Camilla Cowan, Jena Shepherd, and Karla Barfield.  My husband, Mike Brimberry, volunteered to assist us. My intention was to teach a printmaking workshop at La Romita that would concentrate on how to use water-based ink with polymer etching plates, called Solarplates, which could be etched with water instead of chemicals and I also wanted to guide the participants into trying unique and expressive printing methods.  The Solarplate printmaking technique is a process that is a more non-toxic approach to printmaking and can be made even more so with the use of inks that do not require solvents.   My group of artists, who joined in this adventure to do the workshop in Italy at La Romita, was ambitious to get to work.  I launched into the first demonstrations of how to make and print the plates the second day we were there.   For those of you not familiar with the Solarplate printmaking methods, we needed some equipment not usually found in most printmaking studios.  La Romita had the glass and wooden exposure frames as well as a UV exposure box built for us.  La Romita’s Italian-made press worked well for the plates, and we brought magnetic inking and wiping pads to hold the plates.  It didn’t take long before the studio was buzzing with activity and creativity.  The workshop participants were full of ideas and took full advantage of all our studio time.  Our plan had been to spend most mornings visiting nearby Umbrian hill country towns and sites and to work in the afternoons.  We amended that schedule and decided to work mornings and “play” afternoons and play we did by going to over ten different sites in Umbria during our fifteen days there.

I could go on and on about how well we were treated at La Romita, the wonderful home-style meals we had, the work that we did, and the places that we saw.  I suspect that many who have been to La Romita have had this kind of experience as well.  The school has been operating for almost fifty yearsand features two week exclusive workshops at the school which is located in a refurbished four-hundred plus year old Capuchin Monastery. Perhaps the greatest joy I found at La Romita were the friendships and camaraderie we found there.  All this is orchestrated by founders Enza Quargnali and Harold Benson (known as Ben), and director, Edmund Zimmerman.  They set the standard for hospitality that gives direction and room to discover Umbria and perhaps yourself as well.  Enza , as an artist and also a printmaker, was greatly interested in the workshop, and her enthusiasm was contagious.  Her husband, Ben, is highly knowledgeable about the history and architectural details of La Romita. Since we shared our mid-day and evening meals with Ben and Enza, many interesting conversations were had about their forty-year history at La Romita and the many interesting architectural posts at which Ben has served.  Edmund is the school’s on site director.  He is also known as La Romita’s “artist in residence” as he is a writer and poet.  His dry sense of humor and nightly entertaining slide shows to help orient us to the towns and historical sites we were to visit the following day. Among the places we chose to visit were Tarquenia, an ancient Etruscan port/city, Perugia, Orvieto, Assisi, Spoleto, and Todi.

In the studio magic started to happen.  The artists began to find their way to use the materials and techniques.  I had the technical tools and methods to offer, but each of the participants created works that were distinctly and inventively theirs. I’m looking forward to reuniting with the group in the spring when we plan to have an exhibition at Flatbed Press featuring of the work started at La Romita or inspired by the experience there.

I plan on coming back to La Romita in 2013, and am already imagining and planning the next workshop.  Flatbed is considering offering two workshops during that session at La Romita.  I look forward to being there once again and being with the good people there and other fellow artists.

Katherine Brimberry

Editor’s Note: Pictures from left to right: 2011 Brimberry Group; Karla Barfield and Katherine at the press; Karla pulls a proof; Mike Brimberry and Enza

1 Comment

  1. Julie Reid says:

    Please put me on the mailing list for these solar plate workshops in 2013.
    A dear friend just completed a workshop (Susan Elliott) at La Romita and said everything was wondeful.
    Thanks
    Julie Reid

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