About

 

It all started when...

About Us

Dovecote Collective is a collaboration between printmakers Ondine Crispin and Helen Quinn.  Ondine works primarily with woodblock and linocuts. She is in awe of the perfection of the natural world, especially birds. Helen makes ink drawings that are then made into silkscreens. She prefers creatures of the sea, monsters and alchemical imagery. The two artists met at an art studio in Queens, NY where they are next-door neighbors.

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A Note About Our Banners

.We were inspired after the 2016 election to make political banners.  We started with a WWII propaganda style image of an owl, with “We Are Watching” in block letters.  These were woodcuts printed on linen, some double sided.  They went to the Women’s March in DC, NYC, Boston and Los Angeles.  They have also traveled to Berlin and Venice. 

The Tax March in 2017 gave us another opportunity to make banners.  This time we used a series of large woodcuts of an oven bird and a robin yelling at mr. trump to release his taxes, and admonishing him that “THIS NOT NORMAL”. 

Working in the format of large woodcut and printing on fabric lends an immediacy to these banners.  There is a juxtaposition between the fine carving of the woodcut, the quick and imperfect printing, and the quality of the sewing and materials.  It was important to us that we make these beautiful, as well as having them convey our anger and desperation.  Many are large enough to need two people to carry them.  Unfortunately, we expect to be making many more before this is over.

Ondine Crispin                                                                                                                    Helen Quinn

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Interview with Helen and Ondine by Elizabeth Quinn

How did you begin your collaboration?

Helen: By happenstance. We have studios next to each other. In early 2016 we started talking and realized we have a lot in common. We share complementary aesthetics, as well as a pretty rigorous work ethic. We just make each other better.

Ondine: Helen is the only person I know who has an aesthetic depression like mine. She makes my work better because she makes me work much harder than I would on my own. I was living in the land of punk rock, where it was ok not to be perfect. Helen changed that.

Helen: Apparently, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but Ondine says that helps her channel her ideas into more precise designs. We’re a bit of an odd couple, but it’s a wonderful collaboration. She’s helped me take my craft in new directions. I’ve become more minimalistic, more precise. And Ondine is always so positive!

How does your background inform your work?

Ondine: I’m from California and after college I was living in Santa Rosa working for a print dealer when I realized printmaking was my medium. I’ve done several large series, including "50 American Birds" and "52 Weeks on the High Line".

How would you describe Dovecote’s style?

Helen: Our products reflect a fine-art sensibility. Our items are something special—you can’t find them just anywhere. They’re small-batch, handmade works of art.

What inspires you?

Helen: I’ve always been inspired by animal menageries—strange, sometime mythical animals that provide glimpses into magical worlds. I want people to see the beauty of creatures that some recoil at (snakes, spiders) and to raise awareness of their beauty, the genius of their mechanical complexity. The Bower Bird for example, creates architectural nests and sorts objects by color to attract a mate. It’s one of nature’s most organized collectors.

Ondine: The natural world—even in the middle of a big city—inspires me. In 2011 I spent the year making a print a week at the High Line in NYC — I tried to capture the mathematical genius of the plants in that micro-ecosystem hiding in plain sight. The plants are so perfect: if there is a divine spirit, here is where you can find it. 

 Your tea towels are almost too pretty to use!

Helen: No, it makes me so sad when people say that to me! I want the items we make—the towels, the stationery, the bags—to bring people joy. I want them to be used until they fall apart. That’s what they are meant for.

How long does it take you to come up with a design?

Helen: Everything evolves over time—some designs I develop over a series of weeks, others takes years. I have an archive of images—some of which I came across 20 years ago—that I often refer back to.

Take us through your design & production process, Ondine.

Ondine: I make a drawing, then trace it onto tracing paper and transfer that to a block – either linoleum or wood.  I carve the block, leaving the transferred image.  Along the way, I make proofs by making rubbings of the block with graphite and tracing paper.  Then I ink the block and print it.