Personal meaning

ARTIST’S SPACES: the engraver of Duluth gives a personal meaning to her engravings

It’s the sound of ink seeping into her hand roller that lets her know when it’s ready, she said, mimicking the tone.

Ihrke is a printmaker without a press. Instead, she hand-carves blocks of linoleum to create prints that represent industrial and natural spaces – the metallic, sharp angles of the airlift or a misty, woody snapshot of Hartley Park.

“What I love about printmaking is that I can invest a lot of time in a work, but I actually get 20 of these works, and each of them is the original,” he said. she said from her home in Hunter’s Park.

Ihrke’s workshop is in a “basement cave”, where she often works until she is tired. The wee hours of the night are her most productive, with two young children at home.

The desk is covered with a green cutting mat, two glass barens, a roll of colored stamps, a sheet of paper covered with inks of different colors.

His practice grew out of academic frugality, so his prints dry on an old shoe rack, and others hang from clothespins on threads. His finished pieces rest in a flat file cabinet. Books on Californian landscapes, art history and photography line its shelf.

Monica Ihrke's workshop contains books that inspire her.  (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Monica Ihrke’s workshop contains books that inspire her. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

Hanging on the walls are her race medals, a wooden owl-shaped clock and a framed print of a female hiker on top of a mountain. It reads: “Amanda only ran out of gas when she was really alone.” “

Ihrke surrounds herself with family artifacts and pieces by artists that she respects. There is a poem written by his grandfather and a sculpture of a blue bird – a symbol of his late grandmother and a gift from her husband on their first Christmas, family photos, a Pound Puppy from his childhood , a drawing of four snowmen – compliments of one of the kids.

“These are my placenta flowers. One of the sweetest gestures of love, ”said Ihrke, recalling a friend who offered to bury her son’s childbirth when Ihrke’s family had to move on short notice and didn’t didn’t want to travel with her.

In order to maximize time for her art, she set up a space in her studio for her sons: a piano with headphones and an empty treadmill box.

Monique Ihrke

Monique Ihrke

Ihrke kneels on the floor of his studio, sifting through the flat file cabinet containing detailed Dorothy Day prints, flowers and sedums, various angles of power poles with a beach background in green, brown and dark blue.

“A painter can invest hours and hours into a single painting, and to justify his time and talent, he’s going to charge something for the 50 hours he spent. So that I can spend 50 hours on 50 prints. The 50 prints could be equivalent to a painting. I like it in the job, ”she said.

A table in Monica Ihrke's workshop contains some of the tools of her trade.  (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A table in Monica Ihrke’s workshop contains some of the tools of her trade. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

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Ihrke grew up in Southern California, where she remembers a landscape of washed out drainage ditches, abandoned windows, and power lines. Duluth seems like this perfect place, she says, this beautiful space that juxtaposes our industrial city. Ihrke and her husband spent their honeymoon here 11 years ago and planted Northland roots in 2019.

While she has been doing printmaking on and off since college, she really got into it after the move, and it’s now her full-time job.

Monica Ihrke talks about some of the prints she stored in her studio on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Monica Ihrke talks about some of the prints she stored in her studio on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

Ihrke bases her prints on photos she has taken most often during her races. She starts by cutting layer after layer from a block of linoleum, using knives or V-cutters – 20-year-old tools she said she should update.

“That’s probably why I don’t make wood. When I left with wood, they break, ”she said.

These end up becoming big rubber stamps, and it may take three or four to create an impression.

Ihrke uses linseed oil-based inks that are easy to clean in transparent and earthy colors. Her supply has lasted a long time, and a little goes a long way, she said.

She transfers her image to the medium she uses, fabric or paper, by applying pressure with a baren glass. They take a few weeks to dry, and she had several at different stages hanging in her studio.

Ihrke has often used her prints for other causes that she supports, such as printing t-shirts for ‘take out the vote’ campaigns. She also created postcards of Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier, Septima Clark and more, images for her Sustainable Saints project.

Monica Ihrke looks at some of her prints hanging in her studio on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Monica Ihrke looks at some of her prints hanging in her studio on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

And, she’s working on a Building Bridges and Community project.

“After a year that has strained our society, deeply exposing its vulnerabilities and fractured relationships, I am interested in how we can increase resilience in our community,” she said on her website .

So she created 250 hand-printed postcards with images of different physical bridges that people can send to people they want to mend a relationship bridge with.

“I know that a postcard won’t solve relationship problems, but it’s a gesture and motivation in my mind that I need to keep relating with people I see as having different thoughts. It’s a visual reminder for me to stay involved, to stay connected to my community even if I don’t agree with everything, ”she said.

“Art is for the people, and printmaking is for the people.”

Find his things:

ARTIST SPACES is a series featuring artists and where they live or work. If you are an artist or know an artist with a large space, send your information to Melinda Lavine at [email protected]

Monica Ihrke mixes inks in her studio on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Monica Ihrke mixes inks in her studio on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

Monica Ihrke is putting ink on her roller on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Monica Ihrke is putting ink on her roller on May 19, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

Monica Ihrke rolls ink on a carved block.  The raised surface of the block carries the positive image which is printed.  Cropped spaces are not printed.  (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Monica Ihrke rolls ink on a carved block. The raised surface of the block carries the positive image which is printed. Cropped spaces are not printed. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

A postcard bears a print by Monica Ihrke.  (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A postcard bears a print by Monica Ihrke. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])


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