Evil Prints is located in downtown St. Louis. The print shop has that great vibe of part tattoo parlor, part rock bar, and also a place where art is made. The music is nice and loud, the smell is a pleasant reminder of my high school days. As a high-schooler, I was fortunate enough to spend four years worth of Saturdays at Heron School of Art as part of their Saturday school program. During breaks I'd wonder around the empty studio spaces where the real Heron students did their work, taking in the turpentine fumes and the amazing, crazy and wicked paintings. Evil Prints feels and smells just like that. Good times. This day was largely spent waiting for the 13 "campers" to arrive. Many are BFA grads getting ready to go back for their master degrees, but more than a few of us are here just to learn from Huck on our own private quests. I spend a lot of the day talking to other campers. They come from all over; Boston, New York, Minnesota. Last year someone came from Japan. Tom Huck is not in the shop, but his employees are, and they guide us through the paperwork and housekeeping. I meet our ‘den mother,’ Shannon. She will stay with us the entirety of the 10 days, making sure everything runs smoothly.
When Huck arrives (he goes by his last name), he takes quick charge of the room, sitting at the large green table that will become our gathering space for his lessons. Huck was an art and printmaking professor for a decade. He's got the teaching knack. A bit intense, wickedly funny, and straight to the point. Expectations are laid out. We are warned there will be exhaustion, tears, blood, crankiness, and lots and lots of sweat (this is one of the hottest heat waves in his memory, he says, and keeping the shop cool with this many bodies is not going to happen). Oh, and there's no shower, so use deodorant liberally. He lays out the week's itinerary. As this is Evil Prints fourteenth year of bootcamp, like any camp, there are traditions and some extra surprises (if we all get our work done in time for printing day). That means carving from sun up to sun down for 6 days. Huck does huge woodcuts and he has huge presses to handle them. We will be doing large pieces also, 36"x24". Fortunately that's the size I'm used to working with, so no trepidation here. After Huck's introduction we go to the bar next door (Bootleggin' BBQ) for drinks and a "get to know one another." Huck doesn't stay long, he's got an hour drive home. As we have only tomorrow to sketch out our plans, many of us stay up until lights out (2am) getting a jump start on our pieces. My cot is wedged between a wall and one of the presses (it's actually fairly private). The rest of the campers are scattered around the studio space on air mattresses. A couple sleep on the concrete. I feel a little like a diva with my jumbo cot, a sleeping bag, 2 pillows, and a blanket. I offer the sleeping bag to one of the girls sleeping on the cold concrete. No longer a diva, but now a good Samaritan, I lay there worrying over how I can go without a shower for 10 days.