The Art of Gift Giving: Greyboy Pet Prints
If there’s one good thing I can say about this grand ol’ digital age, it is that (aside from making some things easier, faster, fun) it has certainly given handmade art a sweet renaissance.
The holidays get crazier every year, and I hate that instead of sitting around the table with our families on Thanksgiving enjoying good food and company, we are instead lured by the Black Friday sales that now start on Thursday night (ridiculous) and the quest for the latest and greatest digital gadget at a great price. I can’t stand it.
In response to such a craze, companies like REI have decided to turn Black Friday sales on their heads, and instead make a huge statement by closing all their stores and giving their employees a day to spend outside with their families.
Along these same lines, carefully crafted handmade goods have gained back their value as meaningful, one of a kind gifts. The art of gift giving is just that, the fact that you saw something and thought of someone and gifted them with something they would value and treasure. Be it art, be it food, be it an experience. These are the gifts I constantly look for, and today I want to share with you one of my favorite finds of the year: photographic etchings by Mandi Pratt of Greyboy Pet Prints.
Rather than blah blah blah your eyes off bout how great and meaningful these prints are, I thought I’d instead let Mandi tell you about how they are made, how she learned to make them and why they make such great, meaningful gifts.
How did you learn to do etchings? How is your grandmother tied to this story?
M: My Grammy, a fine artist in her 80’s, had introduced me to printmaking, specifically etchings, a few years ago as she was perfecting the printmaking craft herself. She encouraged me to attend a printmaking workshop 4 years ago. It was here in this classroom I was brought back to those art college days of paint-stained sinks, inked fingers, and watching each miracle unfold from just an image to a WOW piece of art (similar to the surprises that unfold in the good ol’ darkroom!). To tangibly hold a textured, thick piece of felt-like fine art paper with an impression of ink mirroring man’s best friend back at me, dug deep into my heart and stayed. I fell in love with the printmaking process. Today, the ability to create a tangible wall-worthy memory with sunshine, metal, ink and paper has been brought to fruition with my Grammy’s printmaking press and her encouragement to lug that 271 pound tabletop press into my own house to start creating these magical works of art for others.
Is it considered a lost art? or do you think it is having a rebirth much like tintypes?
M: The printmaking process, specifically etchings, is alive and well! Many other artists are creating landscapes, nature, portraits…with the etching process. Funny you should mention tintypes as that intrigued me when I saw another artist create portraits with tintypes. The depth and magic of the tintypes drew me in. Those qualities are what I like about the etchings: looking like a vintage piece of history, oftentimes with depth and a look that seems a bit ethereal.
What made you want to offer this to people, especially to honor their pets?
M: I had pet photography clients tell me how much they wish they had done a pet portrait session with their past pet. Sometimes they would ask me if there was something I could do with an old snapshot they had. I’d been thinking about a way to provide a beautiful tribute to also include these special companions up on the wall along with their current pet’s artwork: a stunning piece to honor their memory! Then came the etchings: I was floored that even smartphone images could be transformed from just a snapshot to a fine art portrait with purpose. A lot of times, people purchase an etching as a gift for a loved one who is mourning the loss of their animal soulmate. I have received emails from clients that these etchings help them heal. In fact, we recently discovered we can make these etchings extra personal and a true tribute by adding a teeny portion of the finest ash from a beloved pet into the ink for those who would like to do so.
I believe EVERY loved pet is a therapy dog or therapy cat. They are our family and inspiration. Through art we find the healing and ability to remember them forever.
Why do you think hand-made, slow-food type of art is coming back, why is it important?
M: I’ve noticed the disappearing beauty of the tangible…
…our pictures / our memories are digital. They are on our phone, tablet, camera, social media… None of these are permanent ways to preserve these moments. Have you ever had your computer crash or lost your phone only to realize you lost all the last photos you had taken? It’s heartbreaking!
I want clients to have a finished piece of art they can hold in their hands and enjoy on their walls that will not be accidentally deleted or lost in the digital shuffle.
We live in such a fast paced world that I believe is coming back around to the idea of savoring the moment…. I know for myself, I’m more of an old soul that wishes I could slow this world down to at least half speed so I could really remember things and appreciate them to their fullest.
I prefer to hold a real book with actual paper pages, to send and receive snail mail, to make sun tea in the sun – the old fashioned way. I love homemade cookies made from scratch. I don’t want to lose the art of simple, the art of handmade and slowing life down a bit.
Can you tell me about the process? Take me through creating an etching?
M: An etching is the process of burning a picture onto a light sensitive metal plate and then pressing that inked plate with dampened fine art paper through the printing press. You end up with an impression of a mirrored image on the paper with an artistic twist.
1. First I retouch the image and print it to a transparency. I expose it to a sheet of metal, a “plate,” that has a light sensitive chemical on it. It’s rinsed off and the plate now holds the etched lines of the image within it. I mix the inks, pushing and pulling til it’s mixed just right.
2. This color is now pushed into the etched lines in the plate. Excess ink is carefully wiped off to prep the plate for the pairing with paper and run through the press.
3. The fine art Italian paper has been soaked in water to be ready to receive the ink. The plate and then paper are lined up on the press.
4. I roll the press twice and then gently lift the paper to see what we have.
When I gently lift the paper, the suspense hangs in the air as I anticipate what the first pass on the fine art print will look like. Is it too dark? Too light? Just right?
What types of photographs make the best etchings?
M: People get hung up on this sometimes, so I just suggest that they send me over a few of their favorite images. From there, I’ll tell them which will be best. It’s a team approach 🙂 Of course, images in focus are best as well as original images without filters.
How long does the process take? From ordering one to receiving it in the mail?
M: The process starts when I receive an image. For me to prep the image, print it to transparency, burn and ink the plate, then run the plate and paper through the press and fine tune takes me an afternoon. Then the art has to dry overnight, get signed, double matted and wrapped in signature wrap. It is shipped out a day or two later. The whole process takes 1-2 weeks from receiving the image to shipping it out to it’s new home.
To be able to go back to my roots of creating art with my hands in an honestly handmade process coupled with being able to help pets owners remember their favorite companion for decades to come in an artful way is a match made in heaven! It’s a healing process both for me as well as the recipient especially if they have recently lost their soulmate. There’s nothing like receiving an email from them that they have received the art and are blown away by how much of a resemblance it mirrors back to them their best friend. I absolutely love to provide this service for pet lovers!
Greyboy Pet Prints is most active on Instagram and Facebook. Join in there to see behind the scenes, completed etchings, and specials. Catch one of the holiday sales, go to website and grab the 30% off code for your first etching and try a handmade pet portrait etching for yourself! It is guaranteed to be a meaningful, incredibly thoughtful and heartwarming gift for someone you love, created by someone lovingly, by hand.
What has been the most thoughtful, meaningful gift you have received? Let us know in the comments! And thank you so much to Mandi for allowing us to share her gorgeous work with you here. One of her etchings is definitely on my holiday wish list!
All images ©Greyboy Pet Prints. All rights reserved.