1Workshop Lede
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Design Family Reunion: Extraordinary Workshops, Quiet Excitement

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A Family Affair in Santa Fe

Against the Grain contributing editor Matt Porter and Terry Marks [tmarksdesign.com], the moving forces behind the Design Family Reunion (DFR) [designfamilyreunion.com], lined up a handful of remarkably diverse workshops for the second biennial DFR (held Sept. 4–7 in Santa Fe). They aced this by inviting some über-talented folks to share their personal passions with fellow attendees. The take-aways were tactile and memorable and thoughtful.

2Kyle Scion

Co-presenter Kyle Durrie drove “about five hours north from Silver City, New Mexico,
my Scion hatchback ridin’ low with a Showcard sign press, two cases of wood type,
several cans of ink and galley trays of cuts and linoleum carvings.”

The workshop facilitator-orchestrators went to great lengths – literally and figuratively – to spark everyone’s creativity. Actually, the word workshop seems inadequate. Each activity was totally hands-on, but also a bit contemplative. Let’s call them creative immersion experiences. Here’s who brought what from where and how they did it. Next week, we’ll share action shots and you’ll see why everyone had such an enriching time.

Beauty of Letterpress

Kyle Durrie (Silver Springs, New Mex.) of Power & Light Press [http://powerandlightpress.com] – who co-led two half-day wood-type extravaganzas with Jason Wedekind (Denver, Colo.) of Genghis Kern [http://www.genghiskern.com/#/Page/About] – summed up their intention: ”Jason and I really wanted to be as hands-off as possible, so that everyone else could be as hands-on as possible. We didn’t want to limit anyone’s creative process by showing too many examples of ‘what to do and how to do it.’ We wanted the workshop to be loose, fun, and a little messy.” So much for the creative process.

3santafe pathfinder

Jason Wedekind mañeuvered his Pathfinder five hours south from Denver.

Here is how Jason details the logistical process: “I ended up driving two Nolan proof presses, five cases of wood type, 30-plus pieces of extra large wood type, a handful of ‘cuts’ or images, and enough Neenah Environment paper to wallpaper the garage where we set up our workshop. Between what I brought and what Kyle brought, we had three presses, a bunch of ‘type high’ materials to work with, ink and plenty of paper. What else did we need? Well, two groups of inspired workshop attendees finished our recipe.”

Polaroid Workshop


Sean Carnegie brought ten black-and-white Land cameras for the
Polaroid workshop he presented with collaborator Woody Welch.

Photographer Woody Welch [http://woodywelchphotography.com] (New Braunfels, Tex.) and designer Sean Carnegie [http://lewiscarnegie.com] (Austin, Tex.) offered two half-day Polaroid workshops. They drove thirteen-ish hours to Santa Fe, including swinging by the Albuquerque airport to pick up assistant Brittany Box. To get in the spirit, they snapped some Polaroids as they went.

Sean snapped Smokey Bear [That’s his proper name
– the middle name
of  “The” was added only to make a song sing better] at Capitan, New Mex.,
Mr. Bear’s birthplace. 
This life-sized version is at a roadside information kiosk.


Woody Welch slipped into his Polaroid groove before he even got out of Texas.
He shot this from under the high dive of the storied swimming hole
at Balmorhea State Park [http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/balmorhea]
in West Texas. He comments, “I love that POV, and I also was
using the diving board as a hood to shield my lens from the sun.”

Stop Motion Animation Workshop


Chris Sickels comments, “The case was shipped ahead of time
via FedEx. I am pretty sure I would never get past the TSA with these contents.”

Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio [http://www.rednosestudio.com] (Greenfield, Indiana) is an illustrator and animator. For his workshop, he shipped ahead a wooden suitcase whose contents proved truly magical. To see the treasure trove from which Chris selected the puppets and props to tuck in the suitcase, scroll on down.



And speaking of well-travelled suitcases, look at the luggage labels
on Chris’s illustration for a 2013 article about business fables
in The Harvard Business Review.

Mexican Ofrenda Making: Honor Your Truth

In Mexico, many people display ofrendas in their homes on Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), inviting family and friends to share in remembering a loved one who has passed on. An ofrenda is a personal tribute, often taking the form of an altar or a shadow box, traditionally made with rustic materials, and never with an eye to artistic perfection.


A small crate [ranging between 4 x 6-in. and 6 x 8-in.]
served as the “house” enclosing each ofrenda.

Chris Martin [http://em2brand.com] and Oscar Sandoval (Atlanta, Georgia) have celebrated Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with Oscar’s family in Puebla, Mexico over many years. More recently, they’ve also begun hosting a Dia de Los Muertos celebration at their home in Atlanta. For DFR, Chris and Oscar masterminded, stocked and maintained an ofrenda-making area that was open almost around the clock. Their materials were both bountiful and beautifully arrayed, a cross between a Martha Stewart set and Santa’s workshop.


Chris comments, “Oscar and I pulled things together here, combining
materials we had in our own studio with supplies we purchased. We both
have catering experience in our former lives, so we have  the skill to think
through every single thing in advance, to create an experience off site.”



Paper feathers of Neenah Environment, conceived by Abbey Fowler 
[http://625paper.com] as table decorations, proved popular as an ofrenda element.
[Read more about the paper swag Abbey, and her five-year-old daughter Zoe, created for DFR.]

Shadow and Light: Plein Air Gouache Painting

Edward Kinsella [http://www.edwardkinsellaillustration.com] (St. Louis, Missouri) is an illustrator and artist whose work has appeared in many publications. He is particularly sought after for his portraits of well-known people, both present and past, and for his depictions of literary or imaginary characters. He taught two half-day workshops, outdoors in the beautiful Historic Plaza adjacent to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.


Edward’s workshop supplies included twenty brushes
(ten round and ten flat) and ten gouache travel sets.

Is it ridiculous to say that just hearing Edward name the colors in the travel set made me want to paint? “I had a palette consisting of white, Naples yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine blue, aqua blue, Viridian, olive green, sepia, burnt umber, raw umber, and yellow ochre.”

Although Edward’s supplies were less voluminous than a printing press, or than thousands of tiny ofrenda-making charms… he had to trust the airline and pack his supplies in his checked baggage. He comments, “Glad they actually arrived safely! I’ve had paint taken away from me due to the quantity, and TSA has removed art supplies from my luggage in the past. I took a chance because there was way too much to take on the plane.”


A page from Edward’s Paris sketchbook:
the Luxembourg Palace in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Edward also brought a cherished possession with him: his Paris sketchbook. He purchased the sketchbook before his trip, with the goal of filling every page while he was in Paris. He patiently let us look at every page, standing in the garden behind the cathedral. We were on our way to lunch, and Edward was on his way to wash twenty brushes from his morning workshop! His Paris paintings were familiar and fresh and very French. It was a double delight, being under a brilliant blue Santa Fe sky, looking at beautiful bits of sky above the Luxembourg Gardens and the Musée d’Orsay.


Edward’s view of the top of the Musée d’Orsay, under an Impressionist sky.

All photos courtesy of the workshop presenters, to whom we are grateful and admiring anew. Top photo: Puppets at Chris Sickels’s Red Nose Studio.

  1. 10

    Thanks for taking me along on your New Mexico adventure. Oh, that all reunions were this much fun. What great creative experiences!