Visual Art

Meet the purveyors of Miami’s printmakers row

Written By Karen-Janine Cohen
August 27, 2023 at 7:12 PM

Ingrid Schindall moved her IS Projects from Fort Lauderdale to Miami’s Little River-Little Haiti neighborhood not far from Tom Virgin’s Extra Virgin Press. (Photo courtesy of Brooke Frank)

Finding workspace can be a challenge for South Florida artists, especially when one’s practice requires an etching press, book-making equipment or letterpress. But Miami is in luck. Settled into the Little River-Little Haiti area are two exciting options: Tom Virgin, local artist, art teacher, professor and master printmaker, runs Extra Virgin Press on NW 2nd Avenue, where he works with fellow artists, writers, poets and the community. IS Projects, formerly in Fort Lauderdale, is nestled on NW 73rd Street, in a capacious space where artist-owner Ingrid Shindall offers a suite of printmaking, workshop and book arts opportunities to local artists, artisans and to the book-making and print-curious.

Both shops have letterpresses and join a few other letterpress shops in the area. Yet outside of university settings, it’s difficult to find the kind of operations that Virgin and Shindall oversee.

One of the most engaging aspects of printmaking is the materiality of the medium: the thickness and feel of the paper; the smell of the inks, the hand and arm movements when cutting woodblocks or turning the press wheel.

Virgin’s studio is all about actual and metaphorical light. Rays from a skylight illuminate the well-ordered space where woodcut prints adorn the walls. His two letterpress machines are placed diagonally in order to optimize the space. Flat files and drying racks are against the walls and a mellow wood cabinet sits close to his desk.

Miami printmaker Tom Virgin at Red Dragonfly Press at the Anderson Center at Tower View in Red Wing, Minn. (Photo courtesy of Scott King/Red Dragonfly Press)

“I always wanted to make art,” says Virgin, who grew up in Michigan, where his art odyssey began with the study of painting and printmaking. He then moved to South Florida where he earned a BFA from Florida Atlantic University and an MFA with a printmaking focus at the University of Miami. Afterward, Virgin taught at area schools, universities and colleges, while crafting a career as a fine artist. He is represented in private and public collections, and has won numerous awards and grants. He opened his current shop in 2017, in a building close to and owned by the Emerson Dorsch gallery principals, longtime supporters of Virgin and his vision.

“There is a huge community that makes this place exist, and that has made this little letterpress into a small community press,” Virgin said. Groups, like O Miami Poetry Festival, and Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator come to Virgin, and he often also donates his time, energy and his artwork. He is deeply invested in collaborations with other artists, writers and poets on art books – sumptuous volumes with thick creamy papers, combining words and images. “I am a bookworm, and a lot of what I’ve been doing has been books,” he said, noting that he also teaches book arts, including how to print, sew and bind them. “Books have been part of my practice for a long time.”

Still, his print work is unmistakable, with wry humor and masterful use of deep and shallow space. Hanging on the wall is “13 Views of Mount Hood: Through Downtown,”  homage to storied Japanese master printmakers Hokusai and Hiroshige, which conjure thoughts of nature and the civilization built upon it.

“13 Views of Mount Hood: Through Downtown,” 2010, woodcut print on Okawara, by Tom Virgin, one in a series of 13 prints that were made in an artists residency at Oregon College of Art and Craft as an homage to Hokusai and Hiroshige, heroes of print. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Only four miles away, IS Projects has a dedicated book-making area that Gutenberg might envy. Schindall moved to Miami from her Fort Lauderdale space when her rental building was slated for demolition. Reaching out to friends and colleagues, she came upon Matthew Vander Werff and Ashley Melisse Abess, principals of MVW Partners, which had assembled a group of properties in the Little River area. The Miami-based real estate firm’s focus is on urban culture which honors the neighborhood and attracts interesting and diverse tenants in the arts, retail and restaurant spaces.

“IS Projects was a natural fit for the neighborhood as Ingrid offers so much to the community from an education, gallery and fine art perspective,” MVW commented by email. “Historically we have rented studio spaces to local artists and current tenants include Dalé Zine, Bill Brady, Kelly Breeze and Brian Butler.”

In 2021, AJ Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in MVW Partners’ Little River portfolio. Local talent is a priority for both parties, according to MVW, who also said that Schindall was connected to MVW Partners via current tenants and friends of the neighborhood.

“It was very Cinderella the way it all came together,” says Schindall. Over a month, she and her team moved several letterpresses, including a behemoth Heidelberg, screen printing equipment, and a papercutter large enough to hold a seance on. The doors opened in June of 2022.

Tom Virgin, “Seaoats (Uniola paniculata),” Diptych Relief print on Chinese paper with gold leaf, (Photo courtesy of the artist)

It’s been a journey for Schindall. A Delray Beach native, she studied art with a focus on printmaking at The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and had several residencies, including an apprenticeship in South Africa at David Krut Arts Resource before deciding to return to South Florida.

A contemporary artist whose main medium is prints and books, she explores both. One small area of the space is reserved for her work. On the wall is one of her recent works that deals with an issue close to her heart: the ocean.

Titled “Best Laid Plans,” folds of found water management surveys, with the ocean imagery screen-printed on top, cascade downward, toward a poem written by Schindall. It’s somewhere between a print and an artists’ book.

“My current work is exploring the material language of the book as a signifier or authority – that is where the book structure comes from: The imagery and the message, there are a lot of different ways it can be interpreted,” she says.

“Best Laid Plans” references Ingrid Schindall’s concerns and thoughts about the ocean. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

The surface of the ocean has multiple meanings for Schindall. It is meditative and gives rise to ideas of self-reflection. And, as global warming accelerates, the ocean is increasingly an urgent environmental focus.

Schindall is not afraid to push the traditional boundaries of her craft, while repurposing discarded materials, like the old blueprints.

“I’ve been playing around with the idea of printmaking as a practice of tool making that makes particular marks,” she says. “I love making tools, I love making things that can do other things.” That fascination comes naturally. As a child, much of her after-school time was spent with her grandmother, Signy Schindall, who ran a business buying and selling antique dolls. Many afternoons were spent restringing miniature arms and legs, she recalls.

The range of offerings at IS is broad. Along with lessons there are classes, and the space can be rented for private events. There are residencies and internships, while Schindall and her team work with other artists on special editions of prints and books.

Ingrid Schindall and Amanda Linares next to type cabinets at IS Projects (Photo courtesy of Johnny Zhang)

Both Virgin and Schindall provide a range of traditional commercial services, such as creating posters, business cards, invitations and signage. Schindall’s commercial business is named Nocturnal Press.

The printmakers have positioned themselves in an ever-expanding artists community that will eventually be home to Oolite Arts, which evolved from Art Center South Florida. Oolite will move from its Lincoln Road space in Miami Beach to a new 26,850 feet campus on NW 72nd Street, where it will offer artist studios, residency and community programs, and art classes.

WHAT: Extra Virgin Press

WHEN:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment

WHERE: 5920 NW Second Avenue, Miami

INFORMATION: 786-385-3838 or extravirginpress.com

 WHAT:  IS Projects

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday: by appointment Saturday and Sunday

 WHERE: 290 NW 73rd Street, Miami

INFORMATION: 305-646-1065 or isprojectsfl.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

 

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