Exclusive Interview: Ingrid SchindallDirectional Forces Interviews the Fort Lauderdale-Based Print and Book Artist
Convergence, Michelle AM Miller, 2020 – 9th edition of Existent Books – image courtesy of Johnny Zhang
Ingrid Schindall Biography
Ingrid Schindall, born in 1989 lives and works in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Schindall received a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Printmaking and Book Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2012. Schindall is a passionate book artist and printmaker and founded IS Projects, a printmaking and book arts studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her current work explores physical and intellectual reflection through fine art printmaking and handmade paper.
Schindall’s print and book works have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Selected group exhibitions include “Psycheland” Hall Gallery, Jackson, Mississippi(2020), “Specimens” Gaze Modern, Sarasota, Florida (2019), “If I can’t see you from here” Hollywood Art and Culture Center, Hollywood, Florida (2019). Her work is included in several prominent special collections including University of Miami Special Collections, Sotheby’s Chicago Special Collections, and Jaffe Center for Book Arts Special Collections. Schindall received two Knight Arts Challenge Grants (2019), the Broward Cultural Investment Program Grant (2016-20) and the Helen M Salzberg Residency at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts (2016).
How would you describe your evolution as a young person to artist and then entrepreneur with IS Projects? Who inspired you at a young age?
Printmaking was a scent trail I couldn’t help but follow from the time I carved my first linocut in high school. I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland because it had the most substantial printmaking studio of any of the schools I visited and offered me a decent scholarship. While I was there I spent long days and nights with those presses learning everything I could from anyone who would share their knowledge with me. I was offered the position of coordinator of Dolphin Press and Print, MICA’s fine art publishing project, and Globe Collection and Press, MICA’s then recent acquisition of the historic letterpress poster shop Globe Poster. In that position I worked closely alongside MICA’s printmaking staff and that year we brought in Trenton Doyle Hancock to create a fine art benefit print with Dolphin Press and Print and a special edition poster with Globe Collection and Press for the Baltimore Museum of Art Print Fair. Mary Mashburn, a mentor and absolute force of nature, not only laid a more than solid foundation of letterpress knowledge but also taught me just about everything I know regarding management and how to get all different kinds of people excited about printed matter.
David Krut introduced himself at the BMA Print Fair while working the Dolphin Press table and offered me a visiting apprentice role at his print studio, David Krut Projects in Johannesburg, South Africa after graduation. Jillian Ross, the Master Printer at DKP, is a patient mentor and the type that leads by example. I left Joburg with insights on how to collaborate with artists and a concrete vision of how to pursue printmaking seriously as a profession. When I returned to Baltimore I set up a small studio space and got back to work making hand bound books while exhibiting prints anywhere I could. After about a year back in Baltimore, I was itching to get inky again and spent my evenings searching the internet for available printing presses. I dreamed about setting up a print shop but it was clear that Baltimore did not need more public access printmaking space with its many wonderful studios and, to be completely honest, I was tired of winter. I researched South Florida’s printmaking scene and it looked like there might be enough room for me to sneak in and do something great for the community. The studio was set up in FATVillage, the main arts district in Fort Lauderdale, and I was incredibly fortunate to be welcomed onto the scene with open arms. While setting up the business back in those days and while making decisions of how to continue to grow, I keep these words in mind:
“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
I read The Writing Life in 2013 while apprenticing at David Krut Projects shortly after graduating from MICA where I was introduced to the work of Annie Dillard by Jennifer Wallace. This quote has been perhaps the most influential in my life. The idea in the quote was not novel to me when I read it but I was, and still am, struck by how precisely it encapsulates the knowledge that has been painted on me in layers by role models, loved ones, instructors and
experiences throughout my life. My foundational belief in sharing knowledge influences the missions of all of my businesses and permeates my visual and written work.
What artist was a special inspiration for you earlier in your career?
Researching Ida Appelbroog’s work as a teenager rocked my perception of what art is or had to be, changing my mental image of “artist” completely from a serious artisan with a focus on creating intricate reproductions of the world to a curious explorer, documenting feelings and tangents visually. Her vibrant approach to making art made it feel like being an artist could be an emotionally sustainable endeavor. Early on I had no idea of how I would fit into the art community at large but Ida allowed me to dream in different directions, fun directions.
As my work developed I became deeply interested in process and finding ways to include the act of making as part of the finished piece itself. Vija Celmins’ practice of creating artworks in which the art is mostly in the act of making, through projects including painting the night sky and adjusting the painting as stars die and casting river rocks in plaster then painting them to match the original rocks exactly, has had a serious impact on my recent work.
3. How would you describe the South Florida Art scene? (feel free to talk about Miami Art Basel, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach
South Florida’s art scene has been very kind to me. It is unique in the US as a major art ecosystem located in an incredibly transient and vacation focused metropolis. Many of the advantages found here are also challenges. The transient nature of the population brings a constant churning of ideas and vibrant energy but also makes establishing long term entities (galleries, organizations, programs etc.) extremely difficult. The relative youth of the scene means that there is room in the ecosystem for newcomers and new ideas but this also means there is a long way to go before larger institutions that can effectively encourage new ideas through grants and professional development programs can adequately support the scene. The monumental happening that is Miami Art Week brings galleries, collectors, artists, collectives, journalists, photographers, elites, students, and everyone in between to South Florida for one week in the month of December and also means arts programming and opportunities outside of these 7 days can be extremely sparse. The beauty of the landscape and proximity to the ocean can provide healing and inspiration but also shines a jarring spotlight on the consequences of climate change. The more you can learn to embrace these unique advantages and prepare for the challenges, the more agreeable you’ll find it here.
4. How has your work as an artist been affected by the pandemic? Have you been inspired to make more work, less work? How has it changed your thinking and creative process?
The time that I spend making work has become much more precious since the pandemic began. I am very grateful to be able to spend time, however little, exploring the aesthetics of calm that have been found lacking amongst the tragedy of our current everyday existence. The
pandemic has forced me, as it has many, to look hard at my priorities and go after the things that I need, not just to get through but also to be happy in life. This has brought a renewed vigor to my practice and the ability to prioritize it over things that would have previously impeded it.
This introspection has also brought clarity to several previously unrecognized influences in my work. For example, I spent a lot of time during the lockdown working on a large format relief block that is a portrait view of the surface of the ocean. While focused so intently on this piece, trying to take a break from the ticker tape of COVID-19 related infections and deaths, I thought long and hard about why I explore landscape imagery through vertical format. What I found is, the work I am making is a form of portraiture, personifying nature as a way to relate to it. I’m not sure if I am actually making more work or not but I am making it with more intention and clarity than ever before.
ngrid Schindall preparing paper pulp at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in Boca Raton, FL – image courtesy of Johnny Zhang
Please discuss the evolution of the creation of IS Projects. What was the decisive moment when you realized you had to make this organization and become an entrepreneur as well as an artist?
My first business was Nocturnal Press, which started in my living room the summer after graduating from MICA and was named by my mentor, Mary Mashburn. After finding me in the printshop at 4 am cranking out letterpress cards Mary remarked, “if you ever start a print shop, you’ll have to call it Nocturnal Press!” I happily obliged and continued on with those late nights making fine books until I decided to move back to South Florida and acquire a printing press.
Because of my belief in sharing, I never wanted to have a press to myself. I always pictured having a press as part of a creative co-working space or public access studio, so when it came time to put down the deposit on a press I began scoping locations to find a place where the community would benefit from a fine art printmaking studio. I wanted to have as much flexibility as possible in the organization so I started using the name IS Projects as the umbrella under which the public programming would exist alongside Nocturnal Press’s more commercially based operations. I found FATVillage by participating in an art market during the monthly Artwalk.
Since then, the business has grown from a letterpress and book arts studio contained in 890 sqft to a 5000 sqft fully-equipped printmaking and book arts studio complete with a gallery, retail space, letterpress room with over 400 drawers of vintage lead and wood type, screenprinting facilities, two large scale etching presses, individual artist studios, a library space and a rooftop terrace. We have helped hundreds of artists bring their projects to life, founded an artists’ books publishing program called Existent Books, started the yearly Small Press Fair Fort Lauderdale, developed robust gallery, workshop and residency programming, and folded tens of thousands of pieces of paper in half.
Please tell us about some of your current work and upcoming work as an artist.
Currently, in my visual practice, I am exploring landscape through portraiture and meditation through reflection. Finding ways to allow serendipity to speak for itself in objects that can be preserved through time has become the driving force of my current body of work. My most recent exhibition, Water Draws Itself, was a group of handmade paper paintings where I
collaborated with ocean water to create portraits of the ocean itself. Through reflection on this body of work I have been able to recognize my environment as an important collaborator and I am excited to continue to develop that relationship and see where it goes. I never pictured myself becoming so enraptured with handmade paper as an art form in itself but the possibilities provided by the combination of pigment, pulp and water have proven irresistible.
Additionally, I am trying to find new ways to link my visual practice and my writing practice. Artists’ books are an obvious and, thus-far, fruitful way to do so but I am interested in exploring other options that take up more space in the world.
Please tell us about some of the new publications of IS Projects.
The latest publications from our Existent Books series are Antillean Lacunae by Onajide Shabaka and Convergence by Michelle AM Miller. We were able to expand the program in 2020 thanks to a grant from the John S and James L Knight Foundation. It is incredibly rewarding to see this program shaping into the dream version of itself and to work closely with such incredible artists to help bring their visions to life in book form.
Antillean Lacunae: Points of Departure came together quite naturally. Onajide was the first artist selected from the open call and we were very excited by his conceptual rigor and the aesthetic possibilities of his work. We spent most of the residency experimenting with and then dialing in specific printmaking techniques. The most fun element for me was the watercolor monoprint on the first page of the book. We burned a screen with 10 of the same page on it and Onajide filled in each image area with watercolor creating 10 unique paintings. Once the watercolor was dry, we used clear screenprinting base to print the watercolor onto a large sheet of paper. With this process you can typically get 3-5 pulls before the watercolor is completely used up, so each screen with 10 unique paintings becomes 30-50 unique prints for the edition. The resulting prints capture the spontaneity of watercolor painting in the more structured form of printmaking and marries the two mediums beautifully. The process dovetailed into Onajide’s plans for the book nicely so I was happy to be able to share it during the residency. Book and print projects are most successful (and enjoyable) when there is opportunity for exchange and growth on all sides of the collaboration
Convergence took a path to development that included collaborations with more artists than any of our previous Existent Books projects. From Tessa Brinckman’s incredible score and Allaxis 3D’s modeling and printing, to Living Ink Technologies’ plant based inks and In Bloom Studio’s laser cutting, not to mention Michelle’s incredibly dedicated studio practice and the long hours put in by the tenacious IS Projects’ team, this book took a village to raise. Michelle and I began discussions of a potential book project well over a year before the beginning of the residency itself. The project started with sculptural roots and developed into a book that celebrates its objecthood as much as its narrative structure, especially when encircled in its mesmerizing slip case. As with any handmade book, we faced technical challenges throughout the process but we were able to overcome and put together something unique. That’s what makes the hard work that goes into creating artists’ books worth it; you bring together different ideas and aesthetic elements, then plan and test until everything clicks. The resulting whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Tidal, Ingrid Schindall, 2017 – Artists’ Book – image courtesy of Johnny Zhang
If you could own one work of art which one would it be?
This question sent me into a bit of a spiral but ultimately it was a matter of finding a piece of art that I could feel completely engrossed in. A piece that I could live within for a time, losing all sense of the outside world and leave with a sense of calm and a renewed enthusiasm for the blessing that is sentience. Therefore, it would have to be Vija Celmins’ Untitled (Ocean) from 1995. Celmins’ ability to delve so deeply into the intricacies of a surface, to approach the tangible world with such reverence, invoking true awe, is what I would like to be reminded of and inspired by in my daily life.
How has social media, digital technologies like the smartphone, and other technologies impacted the way you work or make your pieces?
It goes without saying that digital technologies are enabling artists to document and share unprecedented access to their air and practice. In many ways, the mystery of process has receded in favor of openness and engagement. I, for one, am here for it. Speaking again to the foundation upon which I have built my career, digital technologies allow for artwork and process to be archived for the future in a way that has never been possible before. What if we had access to Botecceli’s instagram or Hokusai’s Youtube channel?
I have found a lot of success in sharing the art that I make through digital media. I am very lucky to have found a partner, Johnny Zhang, who is very interested in documenting my process and who has the skills and equipment to do so beautifully. He has helped with documenting my own work, translating IS Projects’ programming to the virtual format due to COVID-19, and creating video documentation of the last 3 Small Press Fairs. Creating this type of digital documentation adds those ideas to an ever growing pool of knowledge. I’m keen to be personally involved in this as much as possible since I believe this knowledge will continue to grow and inspire the future of humanity.
How do you feel about the term “artist Book?” Some artists dismiss it altogether while others still embrace it.
It’s funny you should ask! I have recently co-founded an organization called Tropic Bound dedicated to presenting a biennial “Artists’ Book” fair, so I have spent a lot of time in recent months discussing the term and agonizing over the apostrophe. It’s a hot topic in the book arts realm and maintains a heated debate within the field. I personally prefer the term “Artists’ Book” and describe it as a personal, time-based, performative object conveying a narrative sequence. That description may sound a bit dense but when you break it down, it becomes an object that is meant to be encountered by humans and tells them a story. It’s a broad definition and I luxuriate in its expansiveness. An artists’ book can be anything from a comic book to a rock with words written on it and that range gives artists latitude to explore their ideas and connect with their viewers in novel ways. Printmaking was my first love but artists’ books are my true love which is why I have been publishing them to the best of my ability for the last 6 years through our Existent Books program. I believe they are a vital element of the arts
ecosystem and human culture and communication. My dream is to see them take the seat they deserve in art collections and rhetoric worldwide.