Pickle Woodcuts

Eli Horowitz and Ian Huebert in conversation

The Pickle Index

The Pickle Index is being feted far and wide as a multi-platform vision of the future of storytelling. And it is that. But it also, at heart, an old-fashioned fable in the tradition of, say, George Orwell and James Thurber (a natural pair, like a carrot and a cucumber)—a fable about a world in which pickled vegetables are the basis of the diet, the economy, the culture, and the only hope is a seemingly hapless circus troupe trying to put their arcane skills to good and desperate use . . . you can see where the Orwell and Thurber comparisons come from. Right? But anyway, what’s more old-fashioned than the actual wood-cuts that illustrate the paperback edition? Here, digital visionary Horowitz peppers Ian Huebert, print-maker and illustrator, with questions about just the distinctly analog way woodcut gets made (Look at those tools! Sharp, dangerous tools that cut into wood! Look at that printing press!)—never once letting on that the FSG Originals paperback edition contains a secret illustration of an octopus in a rowboat that is absolutely exclusive to our edition. You will, however, have the opportunity to win a signed and numbered letter-press poster by Mr. Huebert himself. So read on, friends, read on!


The Pickle Index
Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
Powell's
IndieBound
Google
ibooks

Eli Horowitz: Why did you do these illustrations as woodcuts? Isn’t that kind of     . . . difficult?

Ian Huebert: It sure is. You have to keep your tools sharp! I’m enamored with the materials I work with, the computer being very, very low on my list. I’d rather sit at a table and chip away at a block of wood than stare at a screen. While there is a certain amount of control I’d like to have within a process, when working with a piece of wood there’s an understanding that I’m working on its terms and it has a voice in the outcome. A little more planning goes into it, since there’s no erasing or undo button. But also it’s a good way to stay open to the unexpected.

EH: Do you sketch directly onto the woodblock?

IH: First I draw the design on tracing paper—outlines of the figure, the text, and where all the colors will fall. I use tracing paper so I can easily reverse the image, since the blocks need to be reversed for printing.

Pickle Index 1

EH: And then you actually carve that straight into the wood?

IH: Yup—for this project I used cabinet-grade birch plywood. The design uses two woodblocks, plus a tiny one to color the tomato. This is a relief printmaking process, meaning I cut away any material I don’t want printed. The remaining raised areas receive the ink and come into contact with the paper. You can see this from the black areas that have been inked on the block.

Pickle Index 2

EH: What do you use to carve it?

IH: Mostly gouges, both U- and V-shaped, plus a knife to carve lines and fine detail. They’re made in Japan and must be kept very sharp. I sharpen them with a stone and leather strop before each day.

Pickle Index 3

EH: How do you print the other colors? Does each color get a separate block of wood?

IH: Yes. The black one we saw before is called the “key block,” and this photo here shows the second block locked into the press bed. With this block, I used a reduction process: After one area of color has been carved and printed, I go back to the block and carve away more. This is then printed over the previous run. You can repeat this process multiple times to achieve multiple layers of color. It takes some careful planning as there is no going back once I start carving on the block I just printed. I used a Vandercook Universal proofing press, housed in the Type Kitchen at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.

Pickle Index 4

EH: How old is this machine? Did it print “Wanted” posters in the Old West?

IH: Maybe “Wanted” posters from the 1950s. These presses were mainly used to “proof” type, when the printed word was still printed from metal type. One could print a few proofs to check for typos and overall quality before printing the type in mass on a faster machine. Nowadays folks use these presses to print all kinds of letterpress things, from high-end books to beer coasters.

EH: How do you actually make the color?

IH: The basic colors come in cans, but I mix the specific tone with a putty knife on a pane of glass. The prints then go through the press multiple times to build up different shades. The color can stand on its own, or I can print one color on top of another to make a new color.

Pickle Index 5

EH: And then how did you make the little tomato red?

IH: That was the only bit of red in the entire press run, so instead of carving away all the material on the second block to accommodate this, I made a separate, much smaller block. This photo here shows the prints on the drying rack—after each run, the inks need to dry before the next color is applied.

Pickle Index 6

EH: And finally the black?

IH: Yup! This is where I sigh a big sigh of relief that everything is registered properly, and then . . . Voilé! Poster! That’s the key block from the beginning—really ties everything together.

Pickle Index 7

Enter to win a signed and numbered letterpress poster created by Ian Huebert.

*E-mail


*Birth Month
*Birth Year


Official Rules

OFFICIAL RULES

The Pickle Index Screenprints Sweepstakes

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING.

  1. To Enter: Submit your entry by fully completing the sign-up form found at http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com (the “Site”). Sweepstakes begins online at 12:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on Friday, November 13, 2015 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on Friday, November 20, 2015. Your entry will sign you up to receive emailed news related to FSG Work in Progress as well as enter you into the sweepstakes.

Limit one entry per person or household. The entry must be fully completed; mechanically reproduced; incomplete and/or illegible entries will not be accepted. In case of dispute with respect to online entries, entries will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet Access Provider, on-line service provider, or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. Entries become property of Sponsor and will not be returned. Automated entries are prohibited, and any use of such automated devices will cause disqualification. Sponsor and its advertising and promotions agencies are not responsible for lost, late, illegible, misdirected or stolen entries or transmissions, or problems of any kind whether mechanical, human or electronic.

  1. Random Drawing: A random drawing will be held from all eligible, correctly completed entries received on a timely basis, on or about Monday, November 23, 2015, by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, whose decisions concerning all matters related to this sweepstakes are final.
  2. Notice to Winners: Winner will be notified by e-mail. Winner may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility and publicity/liability release within fifteen (15) days of notification attempt or prize may be awarded to alternate winner. Return of any prize notification as undeliverable will result in disqualification and alternate winner will be selected. If a winner is a minor in his/her jurisdiction of residence, prize will be awarded to minor’s parent or legal guardian, who must follow all prize claim procedures specified herein and sign and return all required documents.
  3. Prize: Five (5) Grand Prize winner(s) will receive One signed and numbered letter-press poster by Ian Huebert made for The Pickle Index. Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) of the Prize: $150.00.

    Approximate retail value of all prizes: $750.00

  1. Odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received. If any prize is won by a minor, it will be awarded in the name of minor’s parent or legal guardian. Each entrant selected as a potential winner must comply with all terms and conditions set forth in these Official Rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all such requirements. Sponsor makes no warranties with regard to the prize. Prize is not transferable. No substitutions of prize allowed by winner, but Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. Prize is not redeemable by winner for cash value. All taxes, fees and surcharges on prize are the sole responsibility of winner.
  2. Eligibility: Only open to residents of 50 United States and D.C., age 18 and older at the time of entry. Void in Puerto Rico and where otherwise prohibited by law. Employees, and members of their families, of Sponsor, its parent, subsidiaries, and affiliates are not eligible to enter. This promotion is intended for viewing in the United States only and shall only be construed and evaluated according to United States law. You are not authorized to participate in the sweepstakes if you are not located within the United States.
  3. General: Sponsor and its representatives are not responsible for technical, hardware, software or telephone malfunctions of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications caused by the sender, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in this sweepstakes which may limit the ability to play or participate, or by any human error which may occur in the processing of the entries in this sweepstakes. If for any reason, (including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other cause beyond the control of Sponsor, which corrupts or affects the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this sweepstakes), the Sweepstakes is not capable of being conducted as described in these rules, Sponsor shall have the right, at its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the sweepstakes. Limit one prize per person or household. By accepting prize, the winner grants to Sponsor the right to use his/her name, likeness, hometown, biographical information, in advertising and promotion, including on the Site, without further compensation or permission, except where prohibited by law. By participating in the sweepstakes, entrant and winner release Sponsor, its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates, subsidiaries, suppliers, and agents, from any and all liability for any loss, harm, damages, cost or expense, including without limitation property damages, personal injury and/or death, arising out of participation in this sweepstakes or the acceptance, use or misuse of the prize. Sponsor may prohibit an entrant from participating in the sweepstakes or winning a prize if, in its sole discretion, it determines that said entrant is attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the Sweepstakes by cheating, hacking, deception, or other unfair playing practices (including the use of automated quick entry programs) or intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other entrants or Sponsor representatives. All legal responsibilities of a minor under these Official Rules will be assumed by the minor’s parent/legal guardian.

CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEB SITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE SWEEPSTAKES MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

  1. Use of Data: Sponsor will be collecting personal data about entrants who enter online, in accordance with its privacy policy. Please review the Sponsor’s privacy policy at http://us.macmillan.com/splash/policy.html. By participating in the sweepstakes, entrants hereby agree to Sponsor’s collection and usage of their personal information and acknowledge that they have read and accepted Sponsor’s privacy policy.
  2. Winner List: For winner information, available after Friday, November 20, 2015, send by Monday, November 23, 2015 a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Winner Information, The Pickle Index Screenprints, c/o Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
  3. Sponsor:
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010.



The Pickle Index

Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Google
ibooks

 

 

Eli Horowitz was the managing editor and then publisher of McSweeney’s. He is the coauthor of The Clock Without a Face, a treasure-hunt mystery; Everything You Know Is Pong, an illustrated cultural history of Ping-Pong; The Silent History (FSG Originals), with Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett; and The New World (FSG Originals), in collaboration with Chris Adrian. He lives in San Francisco.

Ian Huebert is a printmaker and an illustrator. He enjoys making things by hand, and more often than not these things end up in books. He is working on an MFA at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

The Other Side of the Wall by Sloane Crosley

On Lucia Berlin: The World in Perpetual Motion

An Excerpt of Luc Sante’s The Other Paris

What’s Your Poet Animal Quiz

Work In Progress Newsletter

E-mail
Birth Month
Birth Year

Yes, please send me the Work in Progress newsletter and other information from Macmillan and its related companies.