The ARLIS/ANZ ACT chapter were very lucky to visit the studio of Caren Florance: book maker/designer, artist and letterpress printer. Caren collaborates with writers and artists to produce traditional printing adventures (fine press volumes, chapbooks and broadsheets) and the less conventional (zines, mail art, artist’s books and digital works). Florance’s personal practice is undertaken through Ampersand Duck, “a private press with a twist based in Canberra” (Ampersand Duck (April 2008). Snail Mail One, p. .).
Finding the stories and process behind Caren’s beautiful letterpress creations was a revelation and rekindled the joy of touching deckle-edged, feathery papers of her books. Poetry married page through traditional printing, from heavily embossed imposed words to letters gently kissing the surface of the paper leaving ink remnants and memories. We saw works at the zygote stage with setting the letters and proofing, through to completed bound books with poetry by Rosemary Dobson and a typeset artist book with linocuts by G.W. Bot and poems by Anne Kirker.
Caren also supports emerging artists through the Ampersand Duck Broadside Residency, by providing graduating students an opportunity to work in the studio and produce an edition of prints using handset letterpress. The studio is filled with work in progress by the residents, as well as completed books and prints by established artists. Nicci Haynes, an artist friend, has condensed the whole of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake – you can see it in the poster behind the cat below. Sadly we didn’t get to meet the other cats on this occasion.
We are delighted that many posters, artist’s books, zines (and even more!) made by Ampersand Duck are held at the National Library – they are also in other public and private collections nationally and internationally. One of the zines even has a view of Studio Duck, compare it with the photo from our visit (at the top):
Thank you Caren for welcoming us to your studio and providing an insight into your working process. We look forward to having more artist studio visits during our 2014 program.