WOODCUT-MAKER Phyllis Cohen rubs paint into odd little pieces of wood. Says: "I jigsaw them. I like to work with a jigsaw."
Arranges puzzle pieces on press, runs a print. Neat. Japanese, ancient masters, carved whole print over and over, once for each color. This way, simply ink every piece separately, reassemble, print it. "I don't think I invented this," artist says. But thought it up herself. Linoleum block people use too.
Cohen part of Printmakers Inc., nine women artists, one etcher, two block printers, rest silk screeners, monotypists. All pros, full-time. "Not hobbyists at all." Take turns presiding at studio Alexandria Torpedo Factory. Lots visitors, lookers, buyers. Lots commissions, State Department, American Association Landscape Artists. Used to be 11 but one defected to painting, one elected House Delegates.
Other members: Frances W. Brown, Isabel Field, June Hoke, Marion Howard, Betty Kubalak, Krystyna Marek, Nancy Reinke, Barbara Romney. All get along fine. Enjoy giving demonstrations, hold exhibits in studio, elsewhere. Plow back part profits, now have fancy presses, drying racks, bins, whole roomful stuff.
"I was asked to start a print group in '75. Barbara and I started it. We all had our own studios but it was great to move in here in this space."
Says artist gets frantic home studio, talking to self. Here, lots interchange, learn new things. Still does thinking, planning at home. Has letterpress, bindery there. Oh yes, hand-sets own type, prints, binds own books. New book "Apple Cider," woodcuts of different apples, descriptions each page. Made 60 copies, $100 each. Elegant. Does book-size version, also large version for hanging. Very big apples.
"It takes me an hour and a half to ink a big one. So big I have to wet the paper the night before in my bathtub at home. I can do seven a day of those."
Started poly sci major Cornell, lawyer's daughter, never gave thought to art, worked Labor Department. Got pregnant, friend invited to art class, caught the bug. All this 20 years ago. Logged plenty classes Smithsonian, bookbinding, etching. Now can't wait get to studio, carve pictures in wood. Baltic birch. Absorbs paint. Can't get Finnish birch anymore. Too bad.
"My husband is a great supporter. We all have families. Nobody has little children. My youngest was 11 when I started, now he's 18."
Last year fell in love with books. Current scheme: little book several pages, only one picture. Different size mats. First see just bunch eggs. Turn page, see eggs in basket. Turn page, see eggs in basket on floor. (Possibilities immense here: could turn pages reveal room, house, state, America, world, solar system, galaxy, universe, mind of God. But no. Little book.)
Apples recurrent Cohen theme. Why? What special about apples?
Shrugs, smiles. "I needed a subject, that's all. Apples are a nice simple form, nice colors. Personally, I can take 'em or leave 'em."