We are very excited to share our second instalment of the Meet the Makers series. This month we’re chatting with Ed Juan, screen printer/illustrator/artist.
You are likely familiar with Ed’s previous endeavour called Forest and Waves, a line of textile and paper goods inspired by the outdoors, topography, and the west coast. Today, Ed works out of Malaspina Printmakers situated on Granville Island. We visited his studio to watch his screen printing process and chat about his art practice, apprenticing around the world, and more.
Tell us about Malaspina Printmakers...
Malaspina has been around for over 40 years, it’s one of Canada’s oldest non-profit artist-run studios. The centre has been located on Granville Island since 1981, before Granville Island was established—the area was just shipyards and industrial buildings. The main goal is education, public engagement, and a place for artists to practice their art.
In order to have culture you need artists.
What's a typical day like for you?
A typical day usually starts with drawing in the morning. While I’m drawing, I’ll mix my ink. Then I usually prep for printmaking in the afternoon, if not I will be experimenting with different colours and keeping track of them in my notebook.
Some days I will make paper, and that’s an entirely different process where I block off several days.
[Natural dyes which Ed has created from Salal Berry foraged in BC]
I don’t want to keep what I’m doing a secret. I want artists to know they can make art from stuff they find in their backyard...
Why did you choose this as your career?
It’s just part of me, for as long as I can remember and it’s something I need to get out into the world.
My parents are not artists, but they love art and always shared it with me and my siblings. I grew up on a farm in Taiwan. It’s a beautiful place to grow up, close to mountains, monkeys, beaches, and rice fields. But it was also quite isolated, so one of my pastimes was to draw. My brother also grew up to be a printmaker, and we would always be bouncing ideas off each other.
My parents were very encouraging, always sharing art books with us and nurturing our creativity. My mom taught us how to stamp plants, and my dad took us camping which was unusual in the 1980’s in Taiwan. They still live on the farm in Taiwan, with a home in Toronto.
[Ed’s sketchbook where he keeps track of his colour experiments, research, and upcoming print designs]
I traveled to Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan and apprenticed with families who were known for printmaking and creating natural dyes. In a way, it’s like I have to travel around the world before I come home.
Where did you learn how to do this?
I went to school for 2D animation. I took a few printmaking courses on the side and the rest is self taught. I did printmaking in my spare time while I had my career in the film/animation industry. I worked as a concept artist and was always on my computer, it felt very detached from my passion.
Eventually, I traveled around the world to Japan, Oaxaca, and Taiwan and apprenticed with families who were known for printmaking and creating natural dyes. In a way, it’s like I have to travel around the world before I come home.
I apprenticed in Oaxaca in a village that has a thousand year old tradition of creating natural dyes from plants and insects. I learned to forage and extract colour from their region to create inks for printmaking. Japan has a long history of making natural inks and block printing with minerals and tea.
As is the case with most contemporary artists, I take traditional techniques and evolve and develop them into my personal practice. I’m not working in a big team, it’s just me and my relationship with the people I learn from.
You approach this process very methodically, scientifically even. Is there a question you’re trying to answer?
My goal right now is to research and forage plants and insects to find different inks for my art practice (screen printing).
I don’t want to keep what I’m doing a secret. I want artists to know they can make art from stuff they find in their backyard, in the outdoors, or from things they were going to throw out.
You mentioned that some of your favourite berries to make natural inks are Salal berry and Elderberry. Why is that?
It has to do with the indigo blue colour they create, and also their cultural significance. Salal berries have long been used by the Coast Salish people as a main food source. The elderberry is also known to have medicinal and ritual purposes.
[Foraged plants (Marush and Pericón) used to create natural inks for printmaking.]
If anything, making mistakes help me learn how to accept situations and adapt.
How do you spend your downtime?
Personally, I love going to a cafe and drawing people—it’s a practice for me, I draw every day.
What project are you working on right now?
I’m working on prints that I will feature at my next show in Van Dusen Gardens, date TBA July 2020.
[Some of Ed’s prints on various paper he’s created including hemp, abaca, and cotton]
How do you deal with screw-ups or mistakes?
If anything, making mistakes help me learn how to accept situations and adapt. Working with natural inks, I can’t really force a colour or outcome that I want (unlike using artificial inks), I’m going to get what nature gives me. I just have to keep going, keep track of what I learn, and sometimes talk about it with other artists I trust. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a great community of people.
[Ed in the Malaspina Printmakers studio]
What's the best creative or artistic advice you've ever gotten?
1- From my workaholic-Taiwanese mother to me when I first started Forest and Waves: “Money is important, but it’s not the most important thing.”
2- “When you’re going into the field of art, it’s all about trial and error, it’s not about perfection, because there is no perfection. This practice is all trial and error, just like life.” —Brigitte Potter-Mael, freelance artist and cultural worker
Who do you recommend we speak with next?
- Brigitte Potter-Mael, artist and printmaker
- Andrea Wong, leather maker and accessories designer
- Judy Chartrand, contemporary Cree artist
[Ed’s print titled: Clayoquot Sound]
Thank you so much, Ed! We love your work! To view Ed's art and find out what he’s up to visit his website and look out for his upcoming exhibition this July at Van Dusen.