The Printed Walk: Georgia to Maine
The Printed Walk is a series of letterpress-printed visual interpretations of my experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017. Individual prints represent a special moment experienced during each 100-mile stretch of the 2,190-mile trail.
Letterpress printing is a relief printing process where antique metal or wood type is inked and pressed into paper, creating an impression of the type form. In this series I used mostly metal type & ornament paired with large carved blocks of linoleum, various plywoods and MDF. Anything elevated to printing height, or type high (.918"), can be printed with a press designed for letterpress printing. Knowing this, I collected fallen birch bark in the northeast to print for those correlating designs. I also collected pigments from the trail, such as charcoal from wildfires, mica and clay, to crush and mix with transparent white ink for a natural ink pigment in various prints. This experimental printing pursuit allowed the hike to feel like a playful scavenger hunt, studying my surroundings.
In this way, the hike proved to be a practice of mindfulness— a long walking meditation focused on being present and simply observing the world around me. This series of prints highlights the minute details, often left unnoticed by the speedy or distracted hiker. The Printed Walk is a celebration of the beauty of nature discovered through mindful observation.
The designs nod to the concept of magical realism to represent the seemingly miraculous yet completely natural happenings along the trail, expressing the child-like wonder I often experienced. Magical realism is the narrative technique characterized by the matter-of-fact incorporation of fantastical elements in a seemingly realistic setting. These enchanted elements appear in the prints through abstracted landscapes, the use of unexpected color derived from often-overlooked details along the trail, and mythical visuals derived from extravagant storytelling.
The small red half circle and capital "I" represent my tent and me in various compositions. Exaggerated proportions of forms in comparison to these small red elements emphasize the humility in experiencing the large scale and power of the wilderness surrounding us, relatively tiny humans hiking the trail. This humbling scale represented in the series is intended to develop respect and reverence for our natural world.
I use minimalism in the compositions to reflect the simplified life of thru-hiking, mentally and physically. Trail life was straightforward—eat, sleep and hike. I was constantly downsizing anything that I carried in my pack, cutting off extra straps and repacking gear, to reduce the wear and tear on my body. This minimalistic mindset has translated to the print designs, cutting out decorative elements to simply keep the focus on the main forms relating to the story concepts.
While hiking, I learned that the trail is what I make of it. The difference between happiness, sadness, boredom, frustration or fear was personal choice. Therefore, to survive the journey mentally, I had to choose to be happy and find the good in some crumby situations, including a near-death experience with a tree falling on my tent while sleeping. I find this mentality to not only be a philosophy for the trail, but also for everyday life. The stories told through the print series represent the events that I experienced on the trail through a positive lens, celebrating the beauty at all times, even in the most unfortunate and challenging situations.