Michael Keyes rolls ink onto a wood cutting he made as a proof, May 15 at the Red Delicious Press. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Print different‭. ‬

That’s how Red Delicious Press‭, ‬north Aurora’s resident printmaking facility for more than a decade‭, ‬is encouraging both artists and observers to think this Saturday‭.‬

BIG INK‭, ‬a New Hampshire-based woodblock printmaking collective‭, ‬is setting up shop at Red Delicious’‭ ‬longtime home at 9901‭ ‬E‭. ‬16th Ave‭. ‬on June 8‭ ‬for a live printmaking demonstration and exhibition‭. ‬

The traveling collective‭, ‬which typically performs live woodblock printing at museums and universities across the East Coast and‭ ‬Midwest‭, ‬will be printing large pieces created by eight woodcut artists‭, ‬including one who calls Aurora home‭.‬

The pieces will be printed from 11‭ ‬a.m‭. ‬to 4‭ ‬p.m‭. ‬using a massive‭, ‬one-of-a-kind press Red Delicious owner Elaine Scheffler purchased from a printmaking class held at the University of South Dakota several years ago‭. ‬The facility across from Aurora’s City‭ ‬Park boasts three additional‭, ‬smaller presses‭, ‬too‭.‬

“It’s uncommon for artists to have access to a press this large‭,‬”‭ ‬Lyell Castonguay‭, ‬BIG INK co-director‭, ‬woodblock printer and teacher‭, ‬said in a statement‭. “‬It’s also unusual that the public is invited to witness the printing process‭.‬”

Michael J. Keyes, left, and Red Delicious Press founder Elaine Scheffler, right, examine a test print on May 15. Keyes points to sections of his print where the press did not have enough pressure. Photo by Ali C. M. Watkins/Sentinel Colorado

The woodcut prints must measure at least 24‭ ‬inches by 36‭ ‬inches‭, ‬per BIG INK standards‭. ‬One of the earliest known ways to create‭ ‬illustrations for scrolls and books‭, ‬woodcut is a relief-printing medium created by carving or gouging soft woods‭ ‬—‭ ‬often white pine or basswood‭ ‬—‭ ‬and then printed onto fine paper‭.‬

For nearly a decade‭, ‬BIG INK has been toting its mobile press‭ ‬—‭ ‬known colloquially as‭ ‬“The Big Tuna”‭ ‬—‭ ‬to spread the niche gospel of woodblock printing‭.‬

It’s one Aurora artist and Red Delicious co-op member Michael Keyes has studied and practiced for nearly five decades‭. ‬An Aurora resident since 2012‭, ‬Keyes is one of the eight artists selected to print a woodcut on Saturday‭. ‬He’s printing a scene from the family farm he lived and raised his family on for 18‭ ‬years in Athens‭, ‬Ohio‭.‬

Keyes said the permanent nature of the medium is still as daunting as it was when he first began woodcutting in the 1970s‭. ‬

‭”‬It’s such a definite commitment‭, ‬making that first cut”‭ ‬Keyes said‭. “‬Over the years‭, ‬I’ve gotten a little older and more mature and just realized that the preparation is so important‭.‬‭ ‬There’s no shortcuts to make a nice cut‭. ‬What you’ve imagined is going to take a lot of preparation and a lot of time‭.‬”

For that exact reason‭, ‬Scheffler said she’s never been particularly attracted to the medium‭.

“I could never woodcut‭,‬”‭ ‬she said with a chuckle‭. “‬It takes so much pre-planning‭.‬”

Scheffler has practiced a slew of other printing mediums at the former Aurora Public Library space on East 16th Avenue for 14‭ ‬years‭. ‬She won the building in a competitive bid process coordinated by the City of Aurora after Denver’s 910Arts bowed out at the last moment‭. ‬

While Scheffler said she’s excited to host BIG INK at her 10-person co-op‭ ‬—‭ ‬she was put in touch with the New Hampshire company via the Denver art collective Art Gym‭ ‬—‭ ‬she said she enjoys the relatively low-profile métier she’s fostered in north Aurora‭.‬

‭”‬We’ve been lucky because we’ve had this niche thing‭,‬”‭ ‬she said‭. ‬“And we don’t have a retail situation‭, ‬so it’s been perfect‭.”‬


What: BIG INK Pop-up Printmaking Exhibition at Red Delicious Press

When: 11‭ ‬a.m‭. ‬to 4‭ ‬p.m‭., ‬June 8‭ ‬at Red Delicious Press‭, ‬9901‭ ‬E‭. ‬16th Ave‭. ‬Free‭. ‬Search BIG INK at Red Delicious Press on Facebook for‭ information‭. ‬