Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet founded BIG INK in 2012. It began with Castonguay envisioning a community of like-minded artists who share an interest in large-scale woodblock printmaking. Recognizing that most artists don’t have the technical expertise required to produce such work, Castonguay began teaching the process.
It became clear early on that artists beyond the local scene were interested in instruction. However, BIG INK had to overcome a hurdle to teach to a broad audience. A specialized press weighing over a ton is normally required. Plus, there are less than half a dozen large-format presses in the United States available for public use.
Up to this point, venues with a large-format press on-site hosted workshops. BIG INK needed portable equipment to visit more places. In 2016, BIG INK raised $13,000 through public support to build a press designed for routine travel called The Big Tuna. It’s made a lasting impression when assembled in museums, universities, art centers, galleries, and beyond. Given its modular construction, The Big Tuna is transportable virtually anywhere.
BIG INK now tours the country hosting workshops with their press. What started as a small-town project has grown into a national program. Each year more artists become aware of how satisfying it is to carve and print. Also, the public becomes better informed about the process by viewing the art BIG INK participants create.
Since its founding, BIG INK has visited dozens of cities across the country and created thousands of prints. To learn more about our programs and to apply to participate, visit our opportunities page.
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 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. Being fascinated with the hidden lives of animals and birds, and an avid consumer of natural history literature and films, Castonguay found himself the ethologist. He recognized their distinct personalities and observed them communicating with one another and huddling together at night. Aviculture remains a part of the artist’s home life, and birds the main protagonists in his work.
Castonguay is represented by Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts, Brattleboro, VT, Brumfield Gallery, Astoria, OR, and his work is included in international collections. Castonguay has over a decade’s worth of experience working with fellow artists, guiding them through the creative process, and printing their work.
Burnet acts as social media coordinator and video producer. Originally from South Carolina, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Manchester, NH. She discovered writing as a student and honed her skills by reviewing exhibitions for periodicals including Art New England Magazine, Art in Print, Printmaking Today, and Printeresting.org.
Burnet also has a passion for music. She’s played the electric guitar since childhood and to this day feels most at home composing instrumental tracks and jamming with friends. Some of her current musical influences include Khruangbin, Wand, and Dungen. Burnet performs at venues along the New Hampshire and Maine seacoast each summer.
Most recently, Burnet has taken an interest in sewing. She’s donated hundreds of masks to friends, family, and artists in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Burnet has been collaborating with Castonguay to produce woodblock printed fabric which she then transforms into garments. See her wearable art under the Merchandise category in our online store.