Printmaking at Gampo Abbey

 There are many ways to practice and journey towards enlightenment. There are just as many ways to fool yourself into thinking what you are doing is practice too. One thing I am clear on, however, is that printmaking is a valid practice for me. I’ve been ranging from very simple things like the above card (don’t be surprised if you all get one for the holidays…… I’m not committing to it but it’s an easy block to print.) and stamps for some of the other residents. We have ‘art club’ every now and then where people come up to the workshop and we do whatever creative thing we want. A few people have brought images or ideas or drawings and I’ve carved them a rubber stamp. It’s been a lot of fun.

Then there are the more involved, long drawn out, multi-color, super packed with images prints that I normally do. To conserve materials, I’ve been doing reduction block printing on easy cut rubber blocks or, ‘suicide prints’. You start by printing a base color then cutting away what you want to remain that color. Print over it with the second color, cut away etc. etc. etc. with as many times as you think you can cut this block. This owl print is 5 colors. I’ve had the idea to make a print of a ‘black walnut owl’. If you’ve ever seen a black walnut split exactly in half (which is hard to do but the squirrels seem to be good at it) it looks like an owl face. The farm my Mother grew up on had 2 or 3 HUGE black walnut trees and my sister and I would gather them up, spread them in the driveway for my Grandfather to drive over, and then pick up the husked ones in a basket for him to crack open for baking my Grandmother did. Add to this the fact that I tend to filter reality through Star Wars or Harry Potter to see if there are any appropriate references I can use, and here it is, black walnut magical delivery owl in monastic colors.

Despite the overwhelming amount of women as compared to men at Gampo Abbey, and the fact that Pema Chodron is the spiritual teacher, there isn’t a lot of acknowledgement of the feminine aspect of Buddhism here. Sure, we’ve got a couple beautiful Kuan Yin statues and a Yeshe Tsogyal banner rolled up in the basement and personal commitment to gender equity among the residents but women can’t be fully ordained in Tibetan Buddhism so the lineage represented in the shrine room is naturally pictures of men around a huge statue of the historical Buddha. This was a topic of conversation when I first arrived here and I made a Tara print for one of the young monastics. Tibetans are taught to recite the ’21 Taras’ in school and the Tara Mandala practice is widely used to remove obstacles and promote health and well being so it’s not an inherent lack of focus, it’s just not something done here. The more we talked about it and the more I read about it, I decided to take the simple print and expand it. You all know how I love to tchotchke up a print.

So I made this one. Twenty one individual 3 color prints of Tara. Screen printed backgrounds, two different printing blocks, 16 different colors, 18 inches by 37 inches; it looks like awesome gift wrap. Here’s a close-up.






6 thoughts on “Printmaking at Gampo Abbey

  1. Your work continues to be superb…I particularly like the “Owl” and hope to receive your card im the holiday season…I’ll put it with my “Michelle Collection”. Glad to see that you are able to get so much printing done…keep it up!

  2. Wow, Michelle, I’ve always enjoyed your prints, and they just get better and better. The LIGHT in these certainly attests to where you are and what you’ve been doing. YUM!

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