A Collography Collaboration

By Sandra Zunino

Eastern Shore Artist and Teacher Martha Graham will instruct a fascinating class on collography at the Adkins Arboretum as part of its Spring/Summer Education Programs for Adults.

Collography is a printmaking process that has developed into a fine art form. The artist selects objects and shapes to design the surface of a “plate”, then rolls ink onto the plate and hand prints the image.

The Collography class starts at 10:00 a.m.  Friday, June 24 and runs until 3:00 p.m. Open to the public for a $90 fee as well as Arboretum members for $75, participants will leave with a piece ready to frame. All materials will be provided; however, bringing a bag lunch is recommended.

Martha, a Salisbury resident, actually started her career as an occupational therapist. She says she gravitated to art since she was a child and decided to change careers in her 40s. After pursuing a degree in Art History and becoming certified in interior design, she worked as an interior designer for 15 years, but continued pursuing art classes and workshops in many art mediums starting with watercolors and progressed to Sumi-e, an East Asian style of brush painting.

Martha says the contrasting images created with Sumi-e, which uses black ink brushed on white paper, inspired her to think in terms of positive and negative space. “In order to have an attractive composition, you must think about the background as much as the subject,” she says.

Visualizing art in those terms is the groundwork for printmaking, according to Martha. After exploring various forms of printmaking including intaglio, mono printing and block printing, she began teaching these art forms about ten years ago. Martha now teaches a series of courses at the Barrier Island Group in Florida where she and her husband spend their winters, as well as the Ward Museum in Salisbury.

Martha began teaching for the Adkins Arboretum three years ago. Her collography class is part of a series of printing technique classes. The Arboretum also carries books she has written and illustrated using her printing techniques.

In addition to her printing classes, Martha will also instruct a class on handmade garden journals. Each journal will have a cover, pockets for seeds, pages for photos and places for illustrations and notations. “Book art is having a real revival,” says Martha, “People love to make them as gifts.”

Many universities are teaching book art as a curriculum, according to Martha. “You can make the books through a technique of origami, or you can alter old books into a completely new art form,” she says. “They are one of a kind.”

Martha says she usually has five to eight students in her classes, which allows her to interact with her students and discuss how the techniques extend to other art forms. She often has repeat students.

As an Eastern Shore native, Martha says she is inspired by nature and uses various animals and birds as subject matter for her prints, which endears her to the Arboretum. “They have done a fabulous job of analyzing all the different flowers and trees and levels in the forest,” she says. “I think it’s just a great program.”

Through its educational programs and science-based approach to land stewardship, the Arboretum promotes appreciation and conservation of native plants to over 18,000 visitors annually. For more information about Adkins Arboretum and their educational programs, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847.