Monthly Archives: November 2013

Zumarraga-Antzuola-Zestoa and Ahora! Kmk13 Tolosa

On one of my free weekends, I visited friends in Antzuola and Zestoa. There are lots of trains every day between Tolosa and Zumarraga, and from there it’s not far by bus to these beautiful towns. The valleys are narrow and the roads are extremely windy! My friends were incredibly generous and hospitable and it was hard to leave.

Tolosa, Zumarraga, Antzuola & Zestoa.

Tolosa, Zumárraga, Antzuola & Zestoa.

Antzuola.

Antzuola.

Antzuola and Aiherra are sister cities.

Antzuola and Aiherra are sister cities.

The beautifully restored Olaran House in Antzuola houses various municipal offices.

The beautifully restored Olaran House in Antzuola houses various municipal offices.

My friend in Zestoa suggested I might want to visit the neolithic caves a half hour walk from town, and I took her advice. While not as large a site as Altamira, the Ekain Berri cave paintings are very evocative. Like Altamira, it’s a replica site; the actual caves are a little farther up the road. This museum has an exhibition space which was showing contemporary art inspired by cave paintings. I’m really glad I went.

The road to the Ekain Berri caves.

The road to the Ekain Berri caves near Zestoa.

A lovely fall day for a walk to the Ekain Berri caves.

A lovely fall day for a walk to the Ekain Berri caves.

Iñaki Extebeste and Amaia Pavon had told me about a festival taking place in Tolosa on this particular weekend, so when I caught the train back from Zumarraga, I phoned to arrange a time and place to meet. Unfortunately, they were both sick, but I remembered Garikoitz had invited me to help out with a youth mural project at the same festival, so I planned to look for him at the underpass they were going to paint.

I hadn’t realized the scale of the festival, though. When I got off the train in Tolosa, the streets were filled with tens of thousands of people and the auxiliary train station, Tolosa Centro, was shut down for the day. I hadn’t arrived in time to catch the scything competition, wall climbing, paddling or many, many other contests, but large throngs of young people marched through the streets singing together while bands played and vendors hawked food, drinks, crafts, and prisoners’ rights.

When I found Garikoitz and his friends, they had finished their mural and were staffing a Gko Gallery table. Sales had been slow, so I offered to help pack it up after dropping my things off at the hostel. By the time I got back, though, they were already done and were heading to the musical finale. “Come on, Bill! If we get separated, look for the big cardboard hand,” they shouted, waving a cutout arm.

As we picked our way through the crowds – mainly teens and young adults – I learned that “Ahora! Kilometroak 2013 Tolosa” raises money for Basque language instruction in schools. Just as I was trying to absorb this fact and the incredible excitement in the air, Gatibu’s music began to blast us in the warm light of sundown.

Part of the crowd at the KMK13 finale. Photo courtesy of KILOMETROAK 2013 - TOLOSA.

Part of the crowd at the KMK13 finale. Photo courtesy of KILOMETROAK 2013 – TOLOSA.

I found myself in the middle of a giant mosh pit, with thousands of young people singing along with the band, chanting, waving Basque flags and Repatriate the Prisoners flags. Wow. I couldn’t imagine a similar event taking place in Canada – maybe Québec – but this was incredible.

I think this is Gatibu's Gaizka Salazar. I'm somewhere in the crowd between his guitar & the tents. Photo courtesy of KILOMETROAK 2013 - TOLOSA.

I think this is Gatibu’s Gaizka Salazar. We are somewhere in the crowd between the top of his guitar neck & the tents. Photo courtesy of KILOMETROAK 2013 – TOLOSA.

Gatibu's lead singer Alex Sardui gyrates on stage. Photo courtesty of KILOMETROAK 2013 - TOLOSA.

Gatibu’s lead singer Alex Sardui gyrates on stage. Photo courtesty of KILOMETROAK 2013 – TOLOSA.

Gatibu is based in Gernika-Lumo and their name means “captive”. I was able to sing along on the chorus of their song “Gabak Zerueri Begire” as the lead singer danced about on stage, at times with a three-year-old girl on his shoulders. It was a lot of fun.

You can find Gatibu on Facebook, and if you like them, you might also like Su Ta Gar.
There are many festival photos here.

When the concert ended, we started heading towards the old town centre that’s filled with bars and cafés, and I fell into a conversation with a French Basque woman who had been to James Bay, Québec last year with her husband. I asked where in James Bay they had stayed, if it was anywhere near … Moose Factory? Then, just as I started to ask if she had read any of Joseph Boyden’s books, at the very same moment we both spoke aloud the titles “Through Black Spruce” and “Three Day Road.”  The hair stood up on our arms at the surprise of the coincidence and we laughed our way into Tolosa’s night scene…

An Excursion to El Hacedor

On our way to an International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) conference in Montesclaros, Spain in 2011, Claire Kujundzic and I visited Dorien Jongsma at El Hacedor – Imágenes y Palabras in the tiny village of La Aldea del Portillo de Busto. We each did some hands-on printmaking, and I did another screen printing demo there last fall. In our conversations with Dorien, we could all visualize the logic and beauty of a papermaking workshop there. When I told Juan Barbé about this unique art centre, he was immediately interested in meeting Dorien. And Dorien was interested in meeting Juan.

I realized this could also be an opportunity to demonstrate a sunlight photostencil exposure and at the same time make an Eskulan logo stencil that Juan could use for printing on his papers or packaging, etc. So one morning during my last week in Tolosa-Billabona-Zizurkil, Juan and his wife Carmen Sevilla picked me up and we drove to La Aldea, with a blank silkscreen in the trunk and the jar of photoemulsion I had bought from Garikoitz at Boxa Arte Elkarte (see previous post).

On our return from La Aldea to Tolosa, we took the BU-520 shortcut over the mountains to avoid looping back through Oña.

Our route from Tolosa to La Aldea. On our return, we took the BU-520 shortcut over the mountains to avoid looping back through Oña.

Pancorbo, between La Aldea and Miranda de Ebro.

Pancorbo, between La Aldea and Miranda de Ebro.

It’s a spectacular drive through mountainous terrain, into La Mancha, and then back into wide mountain valleys. On our way, Juan and Carmen picked up some prize winning organic sheep cheese in La Barcina de los Montes from Isobel & José who are friends of Dorien’s – a gift for the table.

Isobel, Juan and Carmen at the cheese shop in La Barcina de los Montes.

Isobel, Juan and Carmen at the cheese shop in La Barcina de los Montes.

With Emilio and Carmen in the gallery. Juan Barbé photo.

With Emilio and Carmen in the gallery. Juan Barbé photo.

After a tour of El Hacedor, the gallery, and encantapajaros, plus a delightful lunch hosted by Dorien, Edo, and Emilio Zaldívar, I set up Juan’s screen outside. I had coated it with photoemulsion on arrival and set it to dry in a dark cupboard.

Coating Juan's screen with photoemulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

Coating Juan’s screen with photoemulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

Ready to tidy up the emulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

Ready to tidy up the emulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

We were using two photocopies of the Eskulan logo on acetate, doubled up and taped together to increase the density of the black. The always-enterprising Dorien found me a piece of foam rubber and a sheet of glass, and I set them up outside in the daylight.

Using a window as a light table to align two photocopies on acetate. Juan Barbé photo.

Using a window as a light table to align two photocopies on acetate. Juan Barbé photo.

Sunlight exposure setup. Two weights tighten the contact betwen the glass, positives and screen.

Sunlight exposure setup. Two weights tighten the contact betwen the glass, positives and screen.

It was overcast, and I wasn’t sure of the sensitivity of this batch of emulsion, but I set a timer for 12 minutes. It’s always better to slightly over-expose and risk losing detail, because underexposed emulsion can be very hard to remove from a screen.

Rinsing the exposed screen under a tap before using a plant sprayer with more pressure. Juan Barbé photo.

Rinsing the exposed screen under a tap before using a plant sprayer with more pressure. Juan Barbé photo.

I thought the photocopy toner was a little too thin and grey, not black or opaque enough, and should have taken the time to reinforce the logo’s lines with a film marker pen. When I rinsed the screen, sure enough, the sun’s UV rays had penetrated the toner and hardened too much of the emulsion. It wouldn’t print well. However, we did succeed in demonstrating how it’s possible to expose silkscreen photostencils without fancy equipment! And we learned that a mid-afternoon exposure on an overcast day in early October needs about 10-12 minutes 😉

Dorien, Juan, Carmen & Emilio with overexposed screen.

Dorien, Juan, Carmen & Emilio with overexposed screen.

Dorien showed us how to drive back to Tolosa without going through Oña and bid us farewell. It was a long day, but rich with conversations, laughter and camaraderie. I’m grateful to Juan and Carmen for the excursion, and to Dorien, Emilio and Edo for their warm welcome. No doubt it won’t be long before Juan returns to El Hacedor to lead a workshop in papermaking or artists’ books.

Dorien & Juan in conversation.

Dorien & Juan in conversation.

Boxa Arte Elkarte studios and GKo Gallery

One day after my shift at Eskulan I stopped in the old medieval centre of Tolosa on my way back to Zuloaga Txiki to pick up my repaired shoes and buy some cheese. I had been practicing a Basque phrase for about half an hour (gazta pixka bat mesedez = literally, cheese + a little bit + one + please) and mentally prepared myself to blurt it out. I was rewarded with a tasty wedge of semi-cured sheep cheese from the Idizabal region south.

Looking into the GKo Gallery window.

Looking into the GKo Gallery window.

Part of GKo Gallery.

Part of GKo Gallery.

As I walked out of the deli, I saw that the GKo Gallery, which Brian at the Tolosa Tourism office had told me about, was open. GKo is a unique enterprise that sells work for some Chilean artists who in turn sell art by Basque artists. It’s name is a clever Basque play on words.

Garikoitz Cuitlahuac Murua Fierro greeted me with a big smile and we fell into a long and interesting conversation about earning a living as artists, as well as copyright, culture and food (a typical mix of topics for many artists!)

Garikoitz Cuitlahuac Murua Fierro of GKo Gallery & Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

Garikoitz Cuitlahuac Murua Fierro of GKo Gallery & Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

His mother is Mexican, hence his Aztec middle name, so I found his Spanish much easier to understand than some of the Castellano I had been struggling with (I had first learned Spanish in Nicaragua). I was excited to learn that he works in silkscreen as well as murals. It’s always a pleasure to chat with one’s peers about a common craft, and we compared notes about various low-tech exposure methods.

I had brought a silkscreen for Juan Barbé and had been wanting to find a way we could test out a sunlight photostencil exposure of his logo so we could do some printing on hand made papers. But for this I need photoemulsion.

A lovely hand silkscreened poster produced by GKo Gallery at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

A lovely hand silkscreened poster produced by GKo Gallery at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

I asked where I could buy some and he gave me a name and phone number for someone in Usúrbil, which is west of Donostia. Two other people had mentioned this contact before, including a T-shirt printer I had met in Deba at the beginning of my trip. I had stayed in Usúrbil for two days last year and liked it. Maybe I should take a little train detour back up there…

Just as I was pondering the logistics of this, Garikoitz said if I only needed a little emulsion, he could get me some from the co-op studio he was part of. We arranged to rendezvous the next morning at the “cigarillo” pastry café by the music school and Tolosa Centro train station downtown – a short bike ride from the Zuloaga Txiki hostel where I was staying.

He showed up on his bici and I followed him through downtown into an old industrial district where the Boinas Elósegui beret factory used to be. Eventually we arrived at the Boxa Arte Elkarte studios in an old warehouse. The town provides this space to a group of local artists in exchange for their participation in community projects and contributions to the culture of Tolosa.

T-shirt screen printing press at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios in Tolosa.

T-shirt screen printing press at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios in Tolosa.

There’s a large shared studio space, a workshop, and a silkscreen printing studio, complete with a darkroom, exposure unit, washout room and a four colour T-shirt press. There are washrooms, showers, and downstairs, a kitchen and lounge that makes it possible for visiting artists to stay while working on a project. Very cool.

The kitchen-lounge at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

The kitchen-lounge at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

Garikoitz poured some Murakami emulsion – my favourite brand! – into a jar and taped it  up for me to prevent spills. I contributed some Euros to the studio cash box and cycled back up the road to Eskulan to show Juan my exciting find…

P.S. At the end of November, 2013, GKo Gallery won a Gipuzkoa business & tourism prize in recognition of their innovative work since 2008 – zorionak! ¡Felicidades! Congratulations!

Director de Desarrollo Territorial de la Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Iturbe, Director de Comercio del Gobierno Vasco, Jon Zarate, Aritz E. Murua, Kizkitza Lasa, Garikoitz C. Murua, Presidente de Cámara de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Esnaola.

Director de Desarrollo Territorial de la Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Iturbe, Director de Comercio del Gobierno Vasco, Jon Zarate, Aritz E. Murua, Kizkitza Lasa, Garikoitz C. Murua, Presidente de Cámara de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Esnaola.

Paella and Artists’ Books

At the end of my last day at Eskulan, Juan and I walked back to the flat in Billabona where he and his wife, Carmen Sevilla live. While Juan busied himself in the kitchen, Carmen, a printmaker and book designer, showed me around their place and the many pieces of art they have collected over the years. Some were her monoprints; all were pieces beautiful in their own right.

I had accompanied Juan earlier on his shopping expeditions, going from store to store to get all the necessary items. And I knew that an artisan like him who enjoys fishing, cycling, and patiently scraping bark would probably be an excellent chef. But the paella he served was absolutely outstanding – wow! What a wonderful gift to partake of, followed by a delicious fruit salad that Carmen prepared.

Cocinero-papelero orgulloso ;-)

El cocinero-papelero orgulloso ¡salud! topa 😉

After this fine lunch, they brought out their collection of artists’ books. I knew that Juan sometimes leads artists’ book workshops, as well as papermaking workshops, so I was interested to see some examples. Several were one-of-a-kind books Carmen had made using letterpress on exquisite hand made papers or her own pulp painting. They were stitched in innovative and traditional ways.

Juan had been telling me how ingenious Carmen is with book design and bindery, and he was right. One of her pulp painting books evokes the coastline and crashing surf of Asturias where she is from; another conjures up forests. Anyone who has ever attempted pulp painting knows how much labour, skill and serendipity go into this process. She generously gave me a copy of a catalogue of her pastels published by the Caja de Asurias in 1997. Sparse, gorgeous work.

Innovative stitching and folding show in this example of Carmen's artist's books.

Innovative stitching and folding show in this example of Carmen’s artist’s books.

Carmen's forest book made entirely with pulp paintings.

Carmen’s forest book made entirely of pulp paintings.

Another page in Carmen's forest book.

Another page in Carmen’s forest book.

Closeup of a page in Carmen's pulp painting forest book; note her "chop" at the corner.

Closeup of a page in Carmen’s pulp painting forest book; note her “chop” at the corner.

Semblanza de Gijón was one of Juan’s first commissions as a professional papermaker. It’s a boxed edition of 75 books printed with letterpress and etchings by Pelayo Ortega on his hand made paper. Traditional Spanish binding allows the reader to fully open the book without it cracking or breaking.

You can see the letter press impression in this title page.

Carmen leafs through their copy of Semblanza de Gijón.
Carmen leafs through their copy of Semblanza de Gijón. The sepia toned etchings bleed off the outside edges.

Juan showed me what he described as his “only book”: a leather-bound journal of stitched, hand made paper. Each page documents a fibre he has made into paper, with its characteristics, time boiling in lye, time in the Hollander beater, etc. Each has a small sample of the paper attached. Truly a one-of-a-kind document in the world – a live, ongoing and dimensional parallel to Lillian Bell’s classic “Plant Fibers for Papermaking”. A life’s work in progress.

All these are precious objects that would win the top prizes at international book fairs. Carmen and Juan, though incredibly modest, are masters of their arts and crafts, among a handful of such people in the world, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend time with them.

Visiting the Tolosa Paper School

I met Juan Barbé serendipitously in 2012 through the Tolosa Paper School (EPT). I had planned to visit their facility and gift them one of my prints of Broom silkscreened on Broom paper, but by the time I got to Tolosa, Vicky at the EPT explained that the school would be closed for a holiday that day. However, in lieu of a tour, she asked if I wanted to meet a former student, Juan.

The Tolosa Paper School.

The Tolosa Paper School.

Juan explains how students operate the school's production line.

Juan explains how students operate the school’s production line.

Bill ready to shut down production ;-) (Juan Barbé photo)

Bill ready to shut down production 😉 (Juan Barbé photo)

One of the first rooms we entered has a scaled down version of a typical paper mill production line with rollers, felts and cutters. This permits students to practise their skills and mechanical abilities with real equipment. At the end of the line is a large bin with crumpled paper tests destined for recycling.

Hollander beaters.

Hollander beaters.

Circular paper testing equipment.

Circular paper testing equipment.

Another room has an amazing collection of scales, beaters and pulping machines. Some units are used to make circular test sheets; one device delivers pulp under pressure. The school’s café has wall displays that illuminate the papermaking process. We were immersed in paper theory and practice!

Wall display about paper production.

Wall display about paper production.

Idoia Egurdibe showed us around the laboratory, which is full of microscopes, scales, chemicals for analysis, samples of various wood species and a digital microscopy unit. This is what Juan and others use to examine the fibres they work with. At some point he’ll use it to make micro-photographs of the Rumex crispus paper we made, along with the Fresno and Adelfa.

One side of the school's laboratory.

One side of the school’s laboratory.

Idoia Egurdibe operates the school's micro-photography unit.

Idoia Egurdibe operates the school’s micro-photography unit.

Pablo and Idoia were very generous with their time and kindly gave me and Juan copies of a new DVD history of the school. Eskerrik asko! To learn more about the school, visit their website.

Bill Horne, Idoia Egurdibe, Juan Barbé & Pablo Eguskiza.

Bill Horne, Idoia Egurdibe, Juan Barbé & Pablo Eguskiza.