The Fringe of the Fringe

Asheville Print Studio + Gallery continues to buck the system
By: Mary Wanser
Denise Markbreit’s print studio has expanded operations.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Asheville Print Studio + Gallery is all analogue, but in “bucking the system,” as owner Denise Markbreit defines it, the fine-art venue hasn’t sunk into niche obscurity. In fact, it’s already outgrown its original space twice.

Currently in its third and largest space since opening in 2019, the venue is located on the ground floor of Asheville’s Riverview Station.“We now have 1,700 square feet of inky goodness,” says Markbreit — enough room for five presses and 12 students. And she continues to build and expand, not only her space but also her offerings and techniques.

“The business has morphed and changed, as was needed,” she says. One key difference is that now she offers monthly membership options, introducing the idea of printmaking as a collaborative art. Members get access to studio equipment, printing-press time, and a permanent drawer.

Markbreit acknowledges the domination of digital technology. But she also thinks people need a break. In “tried-and-true printmaking,” attendees are crafting work with their own hands. Her machines are intaglio presses meant for linoleum block, wood block, and monoprinting, among other classic techniques. (One them is an antique Charles Brand etching press; the others are contemporary Takach models made in New Mexico.)

The dragonfly is from Markbreit’s monoprint series “Collected” which documents local flora.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

She and her members are also involved in experimental printing. “There’s a trend in using recycled materials — great fodder for art,” she says. Tetra Pak, for example, is a method that incorporates soup and milk containers as printing plates; Solarplate etching uses photo emulsion on metal that can be etched in water instead of acid. “So we’re on the fringes when it comes to printmaking,” Markbreit says.

She makes the business eco-friendly by using soy-based, solvent-free inks, mainly from the brand Akua. “We clean up with baby wipes and with soap and water,” she says. Her aim is to be as green as possible, using low-VOC cleaners when necessary and filtering wastewater.

The silo is another multimedia piece from Urban Horizons. Both structures hearken to scenes from the artist’s youth.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Markbreit came to Asheville seven years ago to retire from a 32-year career as a New York public-school art teacher. Today, her classes and demonstrations at the gallery are aimed primarily at adult learners — young adults through senior citizens. She invites guest artists from around the country to teach at the studio. “I think it’s an honor to be able to pass any knowledge you have forward,” she says.  

The house, a comment on gentrification, is from last winter’s show Urban Horizons and embodies a multitude of techniques (linoblock, trace monotype, collagraph) with bamboo, masa paper, copper wire, and other mediums.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Asheville Print Studio serves as more than a classroom. “The gallery is also a community space,” Markbreit notes. A number of local organizations hold meetings there, including the Asheville Printmakers group. Art-critique groups gather at the studio, as well as corporate workers on team-building retreats and school groups. The venue is even appropriate for small weddings.

Photo by Rachel Pressley
The butterflies are a work in progress from the Collected series.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

“I’ve become part of the fabric of the River Arts District, which is wonderful. It’s a great feeling,” Markbreit says. “When people come in, they’re greeted like they’ve come into my home, because they really have. They may even get to see work being made in the studio.”

The two hearts in Chained to You comprise etching, vintage linens and buttons, and handmade paper.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

For the themed exhibits, though, Markbreit has widened her net to include printmakers from around the country. “I represent about 40 printmakers,” she says, and they come from a variety of states.

The magnolia is part of a series of 36 flowers (after Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji).

Visitors can find gallery pieces ranging from $3 to $800. “All the work is affordable. We have price points for everyone,” Markbreit says. “On top of that, they’re coming into a space that is safe for their health. It’s all part of our ethos and our mission here. I’m so grateful and pleased that the community has embraced us.”

Asheville Print Studio + Gallery, Riverview Station, Studio #108, 191 Lyman St., Asheville. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10am-5pm. Open Monday and Tuesday “by chance or by appointment.” Text 516-263-4818 to make an appointment or see for a list of upcoming classes and workshops including events in woodblock, Solarplate, linoblock, cyanotype, collagraph, and bookmaking. The exhibit Birds, Bees, Bears and Blue Ridge Mountains in the main gallery and the spotlight show May Munchies — “a food-inspired print exhibit” — run May 1-June 29. Both will be marked with an artists’ reception happening Saturday, May 11, 4-8pm.

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