March 12, 2021

Spring Forward with Cheffetz

         I’m about to start the A-Z Blog Challenge, which will put the usual block printmaking posts on hold for a month and a half.  So I wanted to leave you with one last little block print celebration of spring before I get wholly immersed in my A-Z theme.  (Tune in next week for the “Theme Reveal.”)  I say I’m giving you “a little celebration,” and I do mean little: each image is only one inch by three quarters of an inch, the size of a postage stamp.  Asa Cheffetz (USA, 1897-1965) made these tiny pieces as part of a miniature “A New England Calendar,” and these are the images for March and April.  These are wood engravings.  As I’ve explained before, wood engraving is done with engraving tools rather than gouges, and is done on the hard end-grain of the wood which shows no grain.  But because end-grain can be no larger than the diameter of a tree trunk or branch, wood engravings tend to be quite small.  These are small even by wood engraving standards.
        The level of detail is just astonishing when you remember the size.  Each piece really has only a few tiny lines in it, but they’re placed with such precision and perfection that the whole scene springs into life.  March’s scene is entitled “Sugar Bush” and depicts sap buckets hung on sugar maples while the world is still covered in snow.  Cheffetz was based in Springfield MA.  Here outside Boston we have no more snow left right now, although we may get a little next week.  Certainly it’s pretty common for early March to look like Cheffetz’s depiction.  Most years I take delight in seeing the sap buckets appear, but in this time of covid I haven’t been out in that direction in months, even though there are usually a lot of buckets hung not three miles away.
        The second piece is “April Shower,” and by this time in Cheffetz’s calendar the snow is gone, but the leaves are not yet out.  The way the varied widths of the carved lines across the sky suggests heavy clouds is masterful.  I also like the simplicity of the composition, something that really uses the tiny size of the piece as an advantage, rather than a drawback.  I’m particularly appreciating that while my own world remains especially small as I await the continued rollout of vaccinations.

[Pictures: Sugar Bush;

April Shower, both from A New England Calendar (in minature), wood engravings by Asa Cheffetz, c 1934 (Images from The Clark and Artsy).]

No comments: