My entry into the world of printmaking was the result of a confluence of influences and events: a lifelong interest in the Middle East, a passion for oriental rugs, an impulse purchase made in North Africa decades ago, a series of visits to my wife’s workplace, and a little voice inside my head that I ignored for many years.
My interest in the Middle East began when I was an undergraduate. I majored in Arabic language and received fellowships to study Arabic in Tunisia and Egypt. Later, as a graduate student I received additional fellowships to conduct research in Jordan and Syria, allowing me to complete my dissertation and eventually publish a scholarly book on modern Arabic literature.
I’ve always loved oriental rugs, although I could never afford to be a collector. Decades ago, when I was in Tunisia, I bought an antique flat weave textile that still hangs in the apartment that I share with my wife. I was always fascinated by the patterns in this rug and thought that they deserved to be translated into another medium. One day, I felt I couldn’t ignore that impulse any more, so I found a printmaking studio in Boston and made a few tentative efforts at translating the textile pattern onto paper via silkscreen printing. In my mind, however, I wanted to create something on a larger scale, and the silkscreen method I had been shown was limited by the size of the screen. The Boston commute was onerous, as well, so after a few sessions I gave up.
A number of years went by. Meanwhile, my wife was working for a company that makes a considerable investment in wall art to enhance its work environment, and I was always impressed by this. I knew from observing her over time how difficult it is to work at a computer all day and how much of a positive difference art can make in the workplace. One day I happened to join her for lunch in the company’s cafeteria. Along one wall was a large installation made of dozens of square enamel plates. The thought occurred to me that a modular approach might be the answer to working with silkscreen printing on a larger scale. I contacted the studio again, and found that it had just moved to a nearby suburb. Since then I have been associated with this studio, Shepherd & Maudsleigh, in West Newton, MA