To encourage appreciation for woodblock printmaking: one impression at a time.
2012: the journey started
Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet founded BIG INK. The duo wanted to foster a community of people who create large woodblock prints. The first informal BIG INK occurred in Northampton, MA. Local artists carved blocks, ink was rolled out, and volunteers hand-printed the carvings. Those passing by could watch or lend a hand.
2014: The first workshop
The first BIG INK workshop occurred at Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence, MA. Participants received a printmaking manual written by Castonguay and Burnet called the Gritty Guide and six introductory carving videos. The duo used Zea’s large press to print everyone’s work and began to seek out other US studios with similar equipment.
2016: the big tuna Was built
Art centers with large presses in Rhode Island, Oregon, and Oklahoma hosted BIG INK workshops; otherwise, these were the only available locations. Castonguay and Burnet realized further growth depended on creating a portable printing press. The duo raised approximately $15,000 in funding through state grants and private donors to build The Big Tuna. BIG INK could now facilitate workshops anywhere.
2018: a wider audience was reached
Castonguay and Burnet designed an online course for all experience levels. It featured resources and new techniques, which the duo acquired through traveling and working with others. Workshop highlights included a print demonstration and an artists’ talk at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
2019: Big ink won 25K
Castonguay and Burnet were selected to participate in a pitch competition hosted by The Regional Economic Development Center (REDC). BIG INK beat out 35 other applicants to receive $25,000. The funds aided in the creation of a new website, branding, and brochures.
2020: COVID hit
Masks were in short supply at the start of the global pandemic. So Burnet sewed and donated over 300 woodblock-printed masks to artists in need. BIG INK workshops were paused for eight months and resumed at a reduced capacity. 2020 marked The Big Tuna’s first cross-country trip from New Hampshire to California!
2022: BIG INK Turned 10
Ten years on, Castonguay and Burnet continue to facilitate workshops nationwide. Each year more artists experience the satisfaction of carving and printing. BIG INK has helped create thousands of prints carved by many outstanding individuals. Are you ready to join the fun? Check out these upcoming workshops!
What is a woodblock?
A woodblock is essentially a hand-carved stamp. Woodblock prints, aka woodcuts, are made through a process of elimination. First, an artist draws a design onto a piece of wood. Areas to show “white” are cut away with a chisel leaving the characters or image to show in “black” at the original surface level. The stamp is coated with ink and pressed onto paper by hand. Large woodblocks require a specialized machine, either an etching or platen press, to exert enough force to produce a quality impression.
Castonguay acts as BIG INK’s instructor, event coordinator, and web administrator. Originally from Maine, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Manchester, NH. While in school, he focused on combining his interests in storytelling, illustration, and printmaking. Some of his favorite printmakers include Antonio Frasconi, Leonard Baskin, and Gustave Doré.
Castonguay’s interest in avian subjects began when he was gifted two juvenile society finches. Castonguay became an ethologist because he was fascinated with the secret lives of animals and birds. He recognized their distinct personalities and observed them communicating with one another and sleeping together at night. Aviculture remains a part of the artist’s home life, and birds are the central subjects in his art.
Castonguay’s work is in international collections, including the Aomori Museum of Art in Japan and the Archille Bertarelli Collection in Italy. Castonguay has over a decade of experience working with fellow artists, guiding them through the creative process, and printing their work.
Burnet acts as BIG INK’s Masterclass video producer and social media coordinator. She uses a Sony Alpha 7S III and edits with Adobe Premiere and Avid Pro Tools software.
Burnet earned a BFA in Painting in Manchester, NH. She’s played the electric guitar since childhood and enjoys composing instrumentals and jamming with friends. Burnet performs solo and with her band, Kioea, at venues and festivals throughout New England. Her music has been selected as a Bandcamp “New & Notable” and featured on 92.5 FM The River’s Homegrown Music Showcase.