Print Day in Maui

As part of the trio behind Print Day in May, I have had plenty of opportunities to meet with my teammates Robynn Smith and Tia Brady via Zoom. But last week was the first time the three of us had a chance to all be in the same place at the same time! Robynn was scheduled to host a Solarplate printmaking workshop at the Hui No’eau Art Center on Maui, where Tia manages the print studio. The Hui has been partnering with numerous local organizations in the wake of the devastating wildfires that struck historic Lahaina last month. When Robynn learned they were looking for volunteers to facilitate art activities for the community, she extended the invitation to me. The plan came together, and before I knew it, I was on my way to the valley isle. Robynn’s role as workshop instructor came with the perk of staying in a small cottage at the Hui, and we soon found ourselves roommates who, rather conveniently, share serendipitously similar travel styles and food preferences.

Pulling up to the Hui No’eau Art Center (the visiting artist’s cottage is the building to the right)

We both arrived Tuesday afternoon, me from Oregon and her from California. Tia was in the studio when we arrived, my first opportunity to meet her in person! By Tuesday evening Robynn and I had already hit the beach, watched several sea turtles come up to the shore to rest for the night, and settled into our home for the week. We woke up ready to get to work in the studio with Tia, figuring out the exposure times for the Solarplates to help ensure the workshop participants would get good results. I naively figured this would be a quick exercise, but by about 3 that afternoon we had it pretty dialed in – just in time to clean up to head to our early dinner reservation at Mama’s Fish House.

Tia and Robynn prepping the Solarplate in the dark room

Thursday took us out of the studio and over to the west side of the island. Tia recently began teaching a couple times a week at a pop-up charter school in Napili that was created to provide an educational home for some of the kids who lost their school in the fires, so we accompanied her to help with a gelli plate printing activity. Working with the kids was so much fun and energizing. But the trip there and back, providing some glimpses of Lahaina from the bypass road, was a sobering reminder of what had happened mere weeks earlier. No traffic was currently being allowed into the area, but what we could see from a distance was more than enough to witness the fires’ narrow but devastating path. Where a vibrant town had stood for centuries was now blackened earth, while luxury golf courses and resorts still stand not five minutes further north.

Making monotypes with the keiki

Friday brought another opportunity to work with local kids thanks to the Hui’s community partnerships, this time at a temporary housing complex, where another member of the art center’s staff and I did a fun watercolor mosaic project with several kids and a couple adults. After a while some of the kids lost interest and soon we found ourselves playing cards, stacking building blocks, and hula-hooping with them while the mom of a couple of our charges was able to finish up her mosaic in (relative) peace. Our afternoon ther wrapped up just in time to dash back to the Hui, pick up Robynn (who had spent the afternoon finishing prepping for her workshop), and head down to Kihei Fourth Friday, a community street party. Just across from the music stage and amongst their fellow vendors, Tia and her partner Bo had their mobile Hex Press Maui print studio set up, ready to sell custom printed tees to an eager crowd. We returned to our cottage outside Makawao late that evening, our hearts and bellies full (the latter with yummy Dope BBQ), and got some rest in preparation for the busy weekend of printmaking ahead of us.

Tia inking her Maui Strong block, which she designed as a fundraiser

…And have a busy weekend of printmaking, we did! Robynn shared tips for exposing Solarplates for both relief and intaglio techniques, demonstrated different ways of transferring imagery to the plates, and walked our class of seven through various approaches to inking and printing our plates. As is always the case with any form of printmaking, there were plenty of opportunities to do some troubleshooting and try to identify why and how some of our plates behaved unexpectedly, from curious artifacts showing up in the exposed images to “freckles” of hardened emulsion cracking off a finished plate’s surface after being unintentionally left outside overnight to endure some warm Maui rain. We wrapped up the workshop with a constructive feedback session over yummy pound cake, generously provided by one of my fellow participants.

Some of the prints produced during our workshop

Once everything was cleaned up and the other workshop attendees headed home, Tia, Bo, Robynn and I headed to Baldwin Beach for a picnic, a perfect capper to a busy but fulfilling week. We had a chance to talk shop about our plans for Print Day in May 2024 and to just generally get to know each other more. And then it was time to exchange multiple goodbye hugs, as Robynn and I both had to fly out the following day.

An evening on the beach

After a week away, I was ready to return home to my family, but I’m already looking forward to the next time our small but mighty Print Day team can reunite!