Students flock to UCF's Flying Horse research center
Artists from all over the country venture to Flying Horse Editions, an art research center nestled in the back of Downtown Orlando's UCF Emerging Media building.
Through the center, interns and employees with UCF ties learn and perfect the art of printmaking, inking designs into different surfaces such as copper plates or stone, and then processing them onto paper to create prints.
The studio helps artists develop specialty printmaking techniques by using its timeless machines, from letter presses that print type and make wood engravings to hydraulic presses that compress material. Its high ceilings, lead-colored floors and stark white walls frame vibrant, mixed-media pieces by artists who have completed residencies at the center.
"It's different from class because it's a hands-on experience," Olivia Perez said, squinting as she diligently folded and cut corner protectors for art pieces to be gifted to members at FHE's big gala event. By the end of her work day, she had folded about 100 by hand.
Perez, a senior graphic design major, has been interning at FHE since August.
She wasn't particularly interested in printmaking when she started at the studio, but interning has opened her to another dimension of the art.
"Witnessing the process makes me want to just use every machine in here and make something," she said.
She attributes her relaxing, newfound interest in printmaking to observing print artists and assisting them with tasks, even if it's spending hours inking a piece made by etching designs into copper plates.
The oldest machine in the studio is an 1897 Chandler & Price letterpress originally used to print books, and the hydraulic press — about 14 feet fall — is used to forge tough material into unique designs. The latest set of pieces to use the massive machine is a series by artist Luis Gispert that features asphalt backgrounds with crushed fake, gold jewelry in gawdy, urban decay-like designs.
In a classroom, you're not going to learn how to use these machines because they don't have them, Perez said.
FHE director Theo Lotz said that the art of fine printing is evolving with technology. The center has fundraised a total of about $185,000 for its Visiting Master Program, where master printers come to teach special techniques to help artists flourish in their work.
The center also takes in artists and students who are not in the printmaking field and introduces them to the craft.
"It's more interesting to take in an artist who doesn't work in print media," Lotz said. "Helping them go to a place where they wouldn't have been able to go without us is the most exciting thing for us."
UCF fine arts alumnus Adrian Gonzalez was one of those students. A former intern and now lead printer, Gonzalez had taken printmaking classes when he was student at UCF, but felt a thirst for exploring it more in-depth.
"Every day is a new day, a push and pull," he said. "It's a collaboration, not only with the artists but with the students [and interns]."
Gonzalez describes printmaking as a "matrix" that is used to create multiple unique renditions of an art piece. While each would appear the same at first glance, distinct differences in the designs would be witnessed if each piece were scrutinized under a microscope.
"Printers are known for being perfectionists," he said as he astutely made sure the corners of a tissue paper cut-out lined up flawlessly with a piece.
"I thought I was a perfectionist — but working with him, he checks things like 30 times," Perez said.
Any UCF student can get involved with FHE through an internship.