The Alternative Gallery in Allentown is a hub for the Valley’s many talented artists and performers. The gallery is always growing, adding different departments for artists operating in different mediums.
Their latest department was added back in July; a full-blown print shop spearheaded by Victoria (Vic) Beck.
Beck, the gallery’s co-director, was a print making major at Kutztown University. Since presses are heavy and printing comes with a host of hiccups and headaches to overcome, Beck had the idea to create a working press at the gallery’s Cigar Factory headquarters.
Thus, Inkhound Press was born.
The heavy nature of of print making equipment relegated Beck and her work to the basement of the building. The smallest of the presses weighs nearly 400 pounds – a feather compared to the largest of the three presses – a lithopress that weighs in at 1,800 pounds.
It’s safe to say all of this heavy equipment doesn’t come cheap. Some of the equipment has been donated, others financed by the gallery or by Beck.
A tattoo artist by day, Beck is looking forward to having some time to herself to practice her craft. She specializes in Lithography, a process that requires heavy slabs of solid limestone called “lithostones.” These lithostones can be used to make an unlimited number of prints, so they are a worth-while investment, however, they don’t come cheap.
Beck demonstrates the process by doodling on a slab. I asked, “So, what do you do when you mess up?” It turns out, the stone can be resurfaced to remove the image and then the lithographer can begin again.
Lithostones are also known for their longevity. Beck shares the story of her mentor in New York who was able to print the 100-year-old image of a composer etched onto one of these stones, making high-quality prints over a century after its creation.
Like most of the other supplies, lithostones are very heavy. Print making might be a better workout than the one you’re doing at the gym.
Beck jokes, “everything in print making is heavy, that’s why we are confined to the basement.”
If the weight of lithography is not for you, Beck says other forms of print making use lighter materials. Woodblocks and linoleum are just two other mediums that are great for printing and inking.
“Print making ranges from very basic physical application all the way to chemical processing,” says Beck.
The goal of Inkhound Press is to help people discover what technique works for them. Inkhound is will start hosting workshops for people who are interested in exploring print making in the new year. Beck is currently developing a curriculum for the workshops that takes beginners from an introductory class all the way to advanced workshops that follow their own interests and talents.
A modest workshop fee will cover the cost of materials since, like most nonprofits, funding is a huge hurdle.
For the future, Beck would like to see Inkhound become a communal effort. Beck likes the idea of many people bringing ideas to the table surrounding their shared passion.
“We all like to squish things,” she laughs.
Many might dismiss print making as an outdated art form, but Beck saw its potential the first time she made a print.
“As soon as I saw it go through the presser, it was like the closest thing I ever saw to magic,” she says.
Now, she’s working to share that magic with Allentown. Beck has a traveling press that she would like to journey around town with, exposing eager eyes to the process.
To support Inkhound Press and their endeavors visit InkhoundPress on Etsy.com or stop by The Alternative Gallery at 707 N. 4th St., Allentown