The Case for Off-Line Creative: Tugboats and Woodcuts

This post is the second in a series written by Christina Crook. Christina Crook has been a regular contributor in the pages of UPPERCASE magazine and we're happy to welcome her to the blog this week with a special guest post series on the case for being creative offline. 

Tugboat Printshop:

Handmade Woodcuts

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, husband and wife duo Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth translate fantastical imagery onto wood and into print. Valerie's artwork, in particular, has a narrative slant. Each intricate etching jammed with environs carefully built through the layering of dense linework and pattern. Together they make the Tugboat Printshop creating original works of art on fine, archival papers.

“We make color woodcuts entirely by hand.  All of our original images are drawn by the 2 of us directly onto blocks of wood (often multiple blocks make up a single image), carved with hand-held knifes, and then rolled up with oil based inks. We print the inked blocks onto archival papers on our in-house press. Quality is of huge importance to us. Our prints are traditionally made artworks that can last for generations.”

For the Tugboat Printshop the Internet is an invaluable tool. But they’d really rather meet you in person.

Describe your relationship with the Web. We have an official website (which Valerie built and maintains), that operates as a homebase for Tugboat Printshop online. At, you can purchase any of our available prints, find upcoming show dates, scroll through photos and read more about our process. We use social media (facebook, flickr, twitter and our blog) to additionally chronicle our process, relay news about upcoming projects and communicate our latest news to our followers.

What advice would you share with others regarding the interplay between the physical work of making and the online demands of the Internet? The internet is surely a nice thing, but it doesn't do everything and there is a lot of necessary upkeep to maintain a presence. Right now, we keep busy around the clock doing everything ourselves ~ it's a pretty demanding lifestyle. Thankfully, neither of us minds wearing multiple hats and we both really enjoy the art of inventing ourselves as Tugboat Printshop. From building a display booth to house our prints at fairs to unveiling new woodcuts via newsletter, there is always a growing list of work to be done and, as a result, more to talk about online. We ultimately feel our prints will always look better in person (because they are objects, not digital files) so we try to get out of the studio with our wares regularly. We really enjoy meeting our customers face to face and feel it is important to have a physical presence.

Do you try and restrict your time online? Why or why not? Yes! We try to have something in mind we hope to accomplish every time we're in front of the computer. This doesn't always work (we do occasionally lose some hours), but having a goal keeps us on track most of the time.

What do you love about the Internet? It's inspiring to see all of the great stuff that people are doing and posting about online. But when we think about all people making & doing and NOT posting about it every second, that's pretty mind boggling too.

How do you sell and/or promote your work on and off-line? Which do you prefer? We don't really have a defined strategy for promoting our work online. We try to communicate the labor and intricacy of our work with words and pictures but that can be a real challenge. Our prints always look better in person, so we prefer to sell our work in person.

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