Alumni couple share how art continues to build in their lives together
When Sarah and Timothy Znidarsich married in 2015, they thought a honeymoon in Italy would be romantic. But a printing press — they agreed — would be even more exciting.
Considering the two met in a UWL’s printmaking class during their undergraduate years in college, their investment isn’t much of a surprise.
Now married and living in Baraboo, the 2011 graduates have continued to integrate printmaking into their lives. If it’s not their names in lead type or the Salvador Dali print that adorn their living room walls, it’s the full scale printmaking shop they’ve created in a lower level of their home. On one end is the aforementioned printing press and on the other cloth towels stacked and ready for ink. Their dream is to hold community printmaking classes in this space.
The excitement is palpable as the two discuss how they serendipitously stumbled upon a Craigslist ad while on their honeymoon in Toronto, Canada — a compromise on the Italy plan. There they found everything to equip a printmaking shop from another that was going out of business. High quality paper, flat files and other furnishings that would have cost thousands, they brought home for close to nothing.
Late evenings and weekends they go downstairs to roll out new prints they’ve designed by hand. In 2016 they had enough prints for their first art show. Today they continue shows and supply three stores with printed aprons, towels and bags.
But they’ve limited how much they’ll take on. The printmaking shop is only a side hobby. The two are first and foremost full-time art teachers for the Baraboo School District. But, like at home, their energy for art is equally charged in the classroom.
“When I arrived, I just stood here with my jaw dropped — watching the energy and enthusiasm,” says their former Printmaking Professor Joe Elgin who visited Timothy’s classroom in October. “I love to see printmakers who are teaching … Printmaking is something people want to pass on. It’s something about the collective.”
Passing on the art experience
On a Friday afternoon in October, Timothy and Sarah, or Mr. and Ms. Z, as students call them, usher students to a printing press at the back of Mr. Z’s classroom.
“Today is a special day,” Mr. Z tells his students.
Today they will have a visiting artist. “He pretty much showed me how to be the printmaker I am today,” adds Mr. Z.
The guest is Elgin, who taught the UWL classes where Sarah and Timothy met.
Students watch Elgin rub black ink into an etched design on a copper plate, wiping away the excess ink and sending it through the press. What comes out is a fine-lined print onto paper.
“Cool” the group says in unison. The students work on designs of their own: an octopus, a martian, a wide-open eye. Elgin walks the room admiring their work.
Eighth grader Anna Janssen, who has had Mr. Z for the past two years, says his art classes are her favorite of the day. The class is a safe space to create, adds student Emmalee Feick.
“This is a place where I can express myself and create that same little bubble for kids, so they can make their best work,” says Timothy.
Likewise, the printmaking program at UWL provided that comfortable atmosphere. Timothy spent more time at the UWL print shop in Center for the Arts than at home in college, he says. “All you needed was a loaf of bread, peanut butter and slippers…” jokes Sarah.
It was a collaborative, supportive community — not just a class, they agree.
But Professor Elgin had his class “rules,” they add. Among them was that students with varying levels in printmaking expertise could not mix. He didn’t want advanced students to potentially take over for beginners — denying them the full space to develop. In Elgin’s class, Sarah had been taking printmaking for several semesters by the time Timothy started — meaning they couldn’t collaborate.
“You two were a bunch of rule breakers,” quips Elgin.
The two found it hard not to break the rule — they had a lot in common and a lot of chemistry.
From UWL art classes, Timothy and Sarah not only found each other, but they also found the mentality they would need to be life-long artists. “I’m a fairly intense person. If you are not going to do something passionately, it’s not worth doing,” says Timothy.
They also both believe they need to continue to be dedicated artists to be good teachers of art. They recently took a grant-funded trip to Japan to learn traditional Japanese printmaking techniques in August.
When Sarah returned she showed all of her Baraboo High School students what she made and how. “I want them to understand that art is a real, living thing out there — not just something they can do for an hour a day.”
Students who have identified printmaking as their primary media have taught or are currently teaching at:
Genesee Lake School, Oconomowoc, WI
Stratford High School, Stratford, WI
Brooklyn Center Secondary, Brooklyn Center, MN
University of Washington
Tomah High School, Tomah, WI
Baraboo High School, Baraboo, WI
Jack Young Middle School, Baraboo, WI
Logan High School, La Crosse, WI
Longfellow Middle School/La Crosse Design Institute, La Crosse, WI
Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI
UW-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI
Wausau School District, Wausau, WI
Wonewoc Union Center School District, Wonewoc, WI
Summit Environmental School, La Crosse, WI
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Waunakee High School, Waunakee, WI
Cardinal Heights Upper Middle, Sun Prairie, WI
Clemson University, Clemson, SC
Texas A&M University, Corpus Christie, TX
Westby Elementary, Westby, WI
Mauston School District, Mauston, WI
Robert Frost, South Dakota
Godley Station School, Pooler, Georgia
CESA 5, Oshkosh, WI
Chileda, La Crosse, WI
Source: Printmaking Professor Joel Elgin.