Nature is my major source of inspiration and spiritual renewal. Taking notice of our beautiful, ever-changing world makes me feel good and more in tune with the universe.
Through the woodblock medium, I make images of land, sea, and sky using a visual language of shapes, colors, and textures.
I credit my ability to see and interpret the world in this way to having a background in design.
I was educated in Industrial Design and worked as a furniture designer for many years. I loved the work but at some point – maybe it was because of my upbringing – I felt the need to change my focus in order to have a closer relationship with the environment.
I went back to college, where it was my good fortune to receive a five-month-long fellowship to learn Japanese woodblock printmaking in Tokyo. My teacher was Yoshisuke Funasaka.
Working with my hands and with the close-to-the-earth materials utilized in the Japanese woodblock process is very enjoyable. And separating pictures into color components is a fun design challenge. In sum, this process embodies the perfect blend of design, craft, and expression for me.
Woodblock prints are impressions on paper made from carved and inked blocks. Multiple color prints require separate woodblocks for each of the different colors. My images are usually constructed of 8 to 10 blocks and up to 30 layered impressions.
The carving, inking and printing is all performed by hand. I liken the hand-touch printing process to playing music on a piano. Likes keys on a piano, your touch really matters. My aspiration is to make each performance – each step in the process – brought to life with feeling, finesse, and discovery.
I continue to be inspired by the shapes of clouds, the colors of water, the textures of trees – and by the immensity, and sheer wonder of the cosmos. After over twenty years of studio practice, I find that the woodblock printmaking process still inspires me to see and experience life in new ways.
Mary Brodbeck grew up in southcentral Michigan on a dairy farm, the fifth of seven children to Willard and Margaret Brodbeck. After graduating with a BFA in Industrial Design from Michigan State University (1982), she worked as a furniture designer for a dozen years – she is listed as inventor of several U S. patents – before being ‘pulled back to the land’ for her source of creative intention.
Mary studied Japanese woodblock printmaking in Tokyo with Yoshisuke Funasaka on a Japanese government BUNKA-Cho Fellowship in 1998 and obtained her MFA from Western Michigan University in 1999. Since then, her landscape prints have gained critical acclaim far and wide with inclusion into the collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Meijer Garden & Sculpture Park, Muskegon Museum of Art, Hunterdon Museum of Art, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and others.
“Being a woodblock printmaker and working with these near-to-the-earth materials is, in some way, my attempt at staying close to my roots. My intentions remain strong about being connected to the natural world, and I’ve devoted my life’s work to portraying my feelings about it.”
To date, however, this self-proclaimed ‘farm girl’ has declared her 35-minute documentary film to be her greatest creative achievement thus far. Three years in the making, in 2014, Mary released her award-winning documentary film Becoming Made, in which she turns the camera on her own creative practice and inquiry.
Mary continues to seek narratives about the natural world through her ongoing creation of woodblock prints. She lives and works in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband John Schmitt and two beloved cats.
* Original Woodblock Prints * Guest Lecturer and Instructor * Documentary Film * Greeting Cards *
© 2018 Mary Brodbeck Productions LLC