Friday interview: Meg Turner! May 04, 2012 14:26

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd like to introduce you to Meg Turner, the creative force behind Messmate Prints. Meg lives in New Orleans, although spent lots of time in Providence before moving there. A lot of shoppers have been interested in how she makes the prints that we have hanging on our print wall, so here's everything you'll want to know! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
Hello! My name is Meg Turner, I am make photographs that are hand-printed on an etching press (more on this process below) using negatives I shoot with a large, old-fashioned press camera. Many of the photographs I have for sale at Craftland feature particular old power stations and a steel furnace in Pittsburgh. My drive to document how the  infrastructure of the steel industry and the coal-powered energy industry intersected with the economic policies of the 1970’s, is paired with my love of exploring our physical landscape. These buildings that have now sat empty for a quarter of a century have taken on new roles: that of a refuge for rule-breakers (criminal, artistic, social); they are awe-inspiring open spaces and machinery at what feels like a mythical scale. I make these prints to share my love for these spaces: their history, their physical presence and their beauty.

Describe your studio for us.
As a printmaker who relies on large expensive equipment, I have never had a traditional ‘artist’s studio’. My process involves the use of the communal darkroom we built at the community printshop here in new Orleans, the scanner at University of New Orleans, my computer, various printers, and then the etching press of the photographer I print for, Josephine Sacabo. Her studio is gorgeous, practically an antique shop, so I feel very lucky to have such a refreshing and calm place to make my work.

Tell us a little bit about the New Orleans Community Printshop that you're involved with?
Want to learn how to screen print? With glitter? Right now? The New Orleans Community Printshop is run by a group of printers and educators that I feel incredibly honored to know and work with. Inspired by the AS220 community printshop, we offer resources and training to local artists, designers, and interested beginners. We are entirely volunteer run, and because New Orleans is much more averse to scheduling than New England, instead of classes and shop reservations we just open our doors to the public 3 days a week and teach anyone who comes in. We are about to move locations again, and are raising funds for the move, so if you want to support us please visit the website! 

What are the tools of your trade?
Tools – I shoot with a large format camera – that means that the negatives are 4” x 5” – either a field or rail camera. I shoot old industrial buildings because I love them, inside and out, and also because they are patient. The camera takes between 2-15 minutes to set up. The negatives are developed by hand in trays of chemicals, dried and scanned. Films are then printed on an Epson printer and plates are exposed to UV light. The plates are processed in water and then printed on a French tool etching press.

Can you tell us a bit about the process of making the gorgeous prints we have here?
The technical name for these prints are ‘photopolymer gravure’ or ‘polymer photogravure’ it is a process that has its roots in traditional copper photogravure, but instead of gelatin tissue, copper, rosin, alcohol, methanol, and ferric chloride, the process uses pre-sensitized steel-backed polymer plates, and processes in water. Both processes require a large film positive (made in the darkroom or digitally) and exposure to ultra-violet light. The plate is exposed and processed and then is ready to ink up and print on an etching press. the extra-ordinary amount of process involved leads to quite a lengthy investment of time in each photograph.

What does handmade mean to you?
The questions of hand-made in photography and printmaking is tricky –  by nature we employ tools: computers, printers, lenses, chemistry. But I personally balk at giclee or digital printing, needing my hands involved in the final production of each print. It is the physical process that ties me to this medium – my love of mixing ink, of wiping plates, of dampening paper, of actually printing; and then endlessly trouble-shooting every variable.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
Craftland! I first sold screenprints at craftland in 2006 and have been a happy participant and supporter ever since. I remember walking into the first opening and wanting to actually eat everything i saw, it looked so delicious.

Little known, fun fact about you?
I was born 10 weeks premature, and spent my first weeks in an an incubator with tubes keeping me breathing. By the time I was released home my father (an engineer) calculated that at my tiny weight of  3 pounds enough medical services had been used that I was actually worth more than my weight in gold!