This West Marin studio helps people learn how to make art by hand.
IN A WORLD of digital apps that create “art” in seconds, Sirima Sataman is a throwback. She carves, she draws, she prints. She drives a 37-year-old Volkswagen bus. All of which makes the Thailand-born Bolinas resident perfect for West Marin, where she has a studio and a workshop. Ink? Paper? Plate? They are what you need to print — like flour and water. What happens here? It’s my studio, where I work, and a workshop where people take lessons. Who, for example? They might be someone who wants to do something creative with friends, such as make woodcuts, do prints for holiday gifts or make letterpress stationery. I also have professional artists who work on thematic series. How long are the workshops? A half day or a full day. In a half day, you can easily do letterpress or begin to learn some of the deeper techniques. There’s a lot of stuff you can do. It’s like taking a music lesson — it’s really tailored toward the person and what that person wants to do. How do kids react? They look at the big prints and say, “Wow, did you print those with a computer?” No, I tell them, “I’m a printer and I printed it.” The concept is as foreign to them as a telephone with a cord. Why don’t you use digital? There’s something intentional about using older technology. Nothing here is fast. It’s about slowing down. People ask, “Why don’t you get a laser cutter to do this?” Because then the mark of the hand is lost. There’s all this character in the brushstroke or the carving. It’s laborious. Yes, but it lets the idiosyncrasy come through. Your Volkswagen bus is in some of your prints. That’s just happenstance. She was with me when I was drawing. She’s a 1978. Her name is Bess. I’ve taken her everywhere — over the Rockies and to New Mexico. What do you like about teaching? It’s kind of corny, but I like the moment in our collaboration when people realize what’s possible. People will come in and get stuck. When I work with them, they suddenly see that everything is possible. It’s like as a parent when you teach a kid how to ride a bike and he realizes, oh, my god, I can totally ride that bike everywhere! That’s great. When they start seeing what’s possible, then they don’t really need me.