Signed, Sealed, Unfolding

Printmaking is a fluid fine-art form at Obee Editions

Perry Obee is happy to realize your complex vision.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

The printmaking process can be absolutely mystifying to the casual enthusiast, and even masters of the form continue to respect its complexities. The ancient art’s challenges “continue to enchant me,” says Perry Obee, who, suitably, received the designation of Tamarind Master Printer in the Land of Enchantment: New Mexico. (Tamarind Institute is located in Albuquerque.)  

However, it’s in local Black Mountain where the artist continues to elevate the medium, equipping established practitioners with the machinery and space for their visionary ideas, and introducing the form to creatives working in almost every medium. Preferring the term “professional collaborative printer” to “master printer” for several reasons, among them practical, Obee has engineered his business, Obee Editions, to co-produce fine-art editions in a variety of techniques. 

A Common Scattering of Light, Casebound book with lithography and letterpress, Kimberly Obee in collaboration with Perry Obee
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Listing etching, lithograph, and woodcut as examples, Obee states to Asheville Made, “I demystify these processes and have the experience needed to guide an artist.”

In fact, many of those who use Obee Editions have no background in the form at all. “I love working with artists with no printmaking experience because they are not confined to what they ‘think’ the medium can do,” Obee says. He lists musicians, textile artists, sculptors, painters, and several architects as current clients. An upcoming collaboration with a retired architect from Raleigh will involve working from a base of traditional stone and plate lithography, combined with digital illustrations, toward a potential large-scale installation.

Perry Obee pulls a print from a lithography stone by artist Jean McLaughlin.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Plenty of aesthetic freedom is allotted to the avant-garde. One “sound artist,” says Obee, visualized sonic data by placing inked lithography plates on top of speakers to create patterns and textures. Finnish artist Inka Bell exhibited a 2D print as a sculptural object. “One of my favorite parts of this print you can’t see unless you look closely in person,” says Obee. “The yellow bands ‘spray’ into the border, breaking the bounds of the picture plane and further playing with our expectations of the image while self-referencing the optical effects of the bright color.” 

While working with Inka, he adds, “We developed a special manner to make these marks behave in the way the artist wanted … it’s typical to have to improvise tools to create new marks.”

Color variations (trial-proofs) of lithographs by artist Jean McLaughlin made in collaboration with Perry Obee.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Earlier in the spring, Obee worked with New York-based artist Mark Dion on a commission via Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. After that, he teamed up with Dion and New York University Head of Printmaking Noel W. Anderson for a collaboration “that should result in a small portfolio of prints coming out later this year.” (Others lined up to work with Obee include local painters, a multimedia artist from Greenville, and a painter from Nashville.)

Flora Fatalis, Case bound book with lithograph, artist Kimberly Obee in collaboration with Perry Obee.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Moving into fiber, Obee has lately joined forces with a Charlotte-based textile designer. “We’re using printmaking to fashion unique textile patterns that will be woven into Jacquard fabric,” he explains. 

Watching for Iguanas, Jean McLaughlin,lithography and monotype made in collaboration with Perry Obee.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

His wife Kimberly runs the companion business Wishing Flower Press & Bindery, which publishes stationery and broadsides and administers custom letterpress projects.  

Perry Obee, Self-Portrait, Medium: 5-color lithograph
Photo by Rachel Pressley

In a passage on his website, Obee states, “The process of making a graphic image in print always changes how an artist views image making going forward … often times the relationship builds and evolves over a long time as artist and printer develop a kindred spirit of collaboration.”

Obee Editions, 104 Eastside Drive, Unit 190, Black Mountain,, Perry and Kimberly will host an open house on Sunday, July 23, 11am-3pm, with demos in lithography and letterpress; attendees will take home a print. For more information, e-mail or follow Obee Editions on Instagram @obeeeditions. “

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