June 2, 2015

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Printmaking by Alex Gilbert



What are you working on—on the side?

Recently, I’ve been moonlighting as a printmaker. Over the past several years, I’ve explored various methods: serigraphy, linocut, woodcut, letterpress, lithography, and have researched a number of others. My first real love was letterpress printing, but over the past year and a half, I have come to find an equally strong attraction to screen printing. In 2014, I was lucky to be accepted for a 10-month printing apprenticeship at Spudnik Press Cooperative, where I took on a wide variety of screen printing (and a few letterpress) projects for a range of clients, including design studios, musicians, nonprofit organizations, and independent artists. This gave me the opportunity to hone my skills and be able to take on more complex projects. I’ve also identified a lot of overlap with my background as a graphic designer that has aided me in the printshop, so I’ve always thought of both practices as a logical extension of one another.

As part of the apprenticeship, I also worked on an independent project in which I created a series of screen prints inspired by my interest in Chicago’s colorful design history. This work has finally culminated into a gallery exhibition, entitled “Re:INTERPRETED”, which opens with an artist reception on June 9 at Harrington College of Design.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

As with any passion project, I find time outside of my 9-to-5 to work on printmaking. I’m slowly working at being a better prioritizer of my “free” time. Scheduling myself specific days to print allows me to ensure I’m getting work done and making the most of my studio time. Just as with printmaking, time management involves a considerable amount of multi-tasking and problem solving. As my schedule stands, it’s definitely not ideal, but it’s a good challenge to figure out, and I’m learning a lot about myself in the process.

Why have a side project?

Forcing myself to do something tactile like printmaking is very important, since I spend such a large amount of time sitting behind a computer screen. It may sound cliché, but there truly is no substitute to getting your hands dirty and making something that exists in three dimensions. It keeps me a little more balanced, and I’d like to think a little more sane (although my sleep schedule may beg to differ). Not only that, Chicago is a fantastic place to be doing this, with such a talented, supportive community of printmakers all over the city.

I’m hoping in the not-to-distant future to be able to turn this into more than just a side project—I’m currently in the process of shaping this printmaking hobby into something more substantial, and always looking to take on new printing commissions or collaborations. There’s a lot of ideas being thrown around now, but let’s just say the future holds even bigger and better things.

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Diptych courtesy of Alex Gilbert, who is also the Membership Director of the Chicago Design Museum, and furthermore, “documents typographic encounters.”

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar, plus a founding partner of the Chicago Design Museum.


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