Artist Bill Ritchie shares knowledge

Seattle native Bill Ritchie has spent the past week traveling to schools throughout the Baldwin City community to share knowledge about his printing press and art by giving lectures and demonstrations.

Ritchie used his Mini Halfwood Press that he designed out of ironwood and other hand-rubbed woods to create 5-inch by 7-inch prints for his audiences Wednesday at the Baldwin High School and Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.

"It's a pretty neat demonstration," 17-year-old Lacey Gregg, a Baldwin High School student, said. "It's something I never thought I would experience."

Ritchie also presented "The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction" Thursday in Owens Audio-Visual Room as part of the Artist and Lecture Series.

Ritchie decided to make the Halfwood Press because he enjoyed woodworking, and he wanted to create a press that was functionally beautiful. Ritchie has made 36 of his Halfwood Presses. Not only are Ritchie's presses original in that they are made of wood, but he's also created the only press in the world to have a music box made into it.

Students and community members not able to view one of Ritchie's demonstrations can view the Holt-Russell Gallery display with prints created by the Halfwood Press that opened Sunday. Prints include Ritchie's work as well as work from other artists. The exhibit also includes one of Ritchie's Mini Halfwood Presses. 

Walt Bailey, special assistant to the president for development of the arts, said the art exhibit in the Holt-Russell Gallery is considered to be an instructional gallery.

"You can walk through this gallery and get an entire education on how to use the press," he said.

Ritchie has created three different presses so far and is currently working on his fourth. The fourth model will hold four-inch plates and will be the world's smallest etching press.

"Prints are very intimate," Barbara Bailey, Walt Bailey's wife, said. "You have to look at them very closely to get the idea of the picture."

Bailey said she walked around the exhibit several times and each time a person can notice something different about a print.

Ritchie said it was fun to put the exhibit together. Every week he would pick out six of his prints for the past four weeks until he had sent in 24 of his prints. He said even though he could not duplicate what he had sent in each week, it was interesting to see what he would find to send in. "It felt like someone else put the exhibit together after I was dead," he said.

Ritchie had not traveled to a school in over a year before coming to Baldwin, but he loves traveling to universities because they are like a Renaissance age, he said. 

"Universities are like a paradise. You can talk about crazy things that aren't practical. You can dream on a campus," he said.

Although Ritchie does not do lectures and demonstrations very often, he still displays his Halfwood Press in sidewalk art shows and art festivals.

Students interested in more of Ritchie's art from his Halfwood Press, as well as pictures of the press, should visit www.emeralda.com.

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