BELFAST — Though Addie Best is a newer face to the Belfast community, she is already beginning to leave her mark through her printmaking and sustainable fashion practices.
Presently, the Pennsylvania native is slowly transitioning to living in Belfast, while studying printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she just concluded her freshman year.
Growing up in a creative family, Best spent an abundance of time around artists and, thus, was exposed to a multitude of art forms, including printmaking.
“Print as a medium attracted me because I loved how it morphed the drawing process into something that could be a lot more time-intensive, slow and rewarding,” she said. “It turns a sketch into something that is immediately bold and has a very distinctive look that is unique to the process of relief prints. And you lose a lot of control through the process — it feels a bit like a print that starts in your brain and through your sketches is transformed into a magical new thing that feels removed from that original plan and vision. I really love that feeling.”
She remembers first being exposed to printmaking around the age of six when a family friend visited their Pennsylvania farm and running an edition of prints.
“I got to help out with that and I was pretty quickly entranced by the process and the product,” she said. “Since then, I’ve been exploring printmaking as much as I can.”
Since that initial experience, she learned about linocuts and woodblocks under the guidance of West Virginia-based artist Eddie Spaghetti and is currently learning the ropes of the business-side of being a full-time printmaker with Belfast’s Emma Swartz of Squeezebox Press.
For Best, she began selling prints upon realizing the history and tradition of printmaking, she said, is rooted in the idea of duplicates to share anything, such as a political message, song, news or an illustration.
“I’m grateful to be able to help carry on this practice that is constantly evolving and shifting and, despite being one of the oldest artistic mediums and livelihoods, is pretty much completely timeless,” she stated. “There’s more than a little bit of magic in that!”
Best enjoys handwork and finds it soothing since, she said, it requires concentration and dedication to be executed well, in addition to being a group activity with a rich history of song, story and community.
“I prefer handwork because no matter what type of handwork you are pursuing, there is always something to be shown for your time,” she said. “And there’s also something pretty marvelous about learning skills that you will always be able to maintain — once you learn something with your hands it won’t become obsolete the way something on a computer could.”
Carving and printing, which require time and concentration, are meditative forms of art to Best.
“It’s sometimes hard to fall into the perfect groove and be able to control the chisel exactly, but when that happens it feels pretty nice,” she stated. “Printing is far more stressful! So much can go wrong, and the setup and detail necessary for each print can make you insane! But it is still super rewarding and pretty fun.”
Through her art, she emphasizes tradition and carrying on the legacy of the artists before her.
“Tradition is important to me because so much of what I do, including printing and mending, has been passed down through centuries of artists and craftspeople and women whose crafts and practices are facing some degree of extinction in our modern world,” she said, while noting extinction only conveys the importance of saving and preserving the practice.
Rather than view traditions from the viewpoint of unchangeable and never evolving or outdated, Best views tradition as being able to be influenced by contemporary ideas, beliefs and practices.
“Tradition doesn’t have to be stuck in the past or maintain its ‘pure’ form, it just has to be carried on in any way by our generation, and the next, and the next,” she stated. “It doesn’t have to be ‘upheld,’ it has to be acknowledged and grow into its own new form.”
A tradition she has maintained, while allowing the concept to be influenced by modern society, is the practice of sustainable fashion.
There are many reasons, she said, for maintaining sustainable fashion practices with environmental pollution and less-than-desirable employee practices in the fashion industry topping the list of reasons.
Twenty-five percent of clothing’s carbon footprint comes from how one cares for the clothing, Best said.
“Washing, drying, dry-cleaning, and ironing clothes vastly impacts both our environment and our budgets,” she said. “Most clothes don’t need to be washed as much as you think or have been taught.”
For example, jeans, according to Best, can be washed as little as once a season. Between wears, she said, they can be aired out or frozen to keep them fresh.
“I am a huge clothesline lover, and stringing up a line in your back yard, or even in your house, can help lessen the environmental impact of your personal wardrobe,” Best said.
The sustainable clothing practice Best is most known for, according to her, is mending.
“Mending, darning, and patching are all simple and beautiful ways to save your favorite clothes as well as helping save our environment little by little,” she said. “A mending pile can be a daunting thing to start to accumulate, but it soon becomes easy enough to find those few moments every day to start to mend a garment. It becomes a habit, and it’s a pretty wonderful thing to watch clothes change and wear and show that through mends and patches.”
Though Best is new to selling her art in her online store, she is eager to share her art with the world and welcomes any and all feedback.
“I’m just getting started with the whole actual business thing, so I’m still learning a lot,” she said. “I launched my website just this March, and now I’m working on redoing it and updating it with better photos and more products, etc. I’m very bad with internet-y things, so there’s a steep learning curve there. I really like hearing from people if they have any suggestions or just want to reach out! Especially at this point in my career as a printmaker hearing from folks and getting feedback is both super constructive and encouraging!
Reach George Harvey at: email@example.com.