Feoli at work at the press in Venice

Roberta Feoli is an artist and teacher based in Venice, Italy. She works as the print shop manager at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica (International School of Graphics) in Venice. She visited Zea Mays as resident in 2019 during an extensive printmaking trip to the United States. During this trip Feoli visited and explored many of the nearby New England printmaking studios. A seasoned engraver and technician, Feoli delved deeply into the resources and community Zea Mays offered.

Feoli describes how, as she worked, she carefully documented and recorded the instruction. “I tried to concentrate on producing a ‘print dictionary’ therefore a set of prints made with the different techniques I learned day after day and experimentation night after night. In this way I created a small book in limited edition which I called ‘La prima italiana,’ because at least at the time of my residence, I was the only Italian to have taken part in the residency and in this I have collected everything I have learned.” Feoli brought her experience, and carefully collected notes back to Italy, integrating it into her teaching practice and philosophy. “Using the study texts that I had during my residency at Zea Mays as a printing bible, I created cycles of lessons dedicated only to sustainable printing and I also included this possibility in the advanced training course in graphic art that I organize for the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica to push also the new generation of engravers that I train to confront this reality.”

Photos of the print dictionary made during the residency

Feoli explains the joy she felt learning while at Zea Mays after years of teaching, saying, “From the use of BIG ground, through the alternative to the tragic aquatint with rosin to the fun marbling of the slab I discovered a new world! All the techniques seemed new to me because they were told and shown by those who have made research and experimentation a lifestyle.” She also notes how she was able to connect in person with many of the printmakers responsible for the techniques she was working with. “My research on less toxic techniques led me to confront people who I consider Masters of these sustainable possibilities. In this way I created a contact with Susan Rostow being a super fan of her inks, I bonded with Catherine Kernan, expert in using this soy oil based solution, I also had a confrontation with Andrew Baldwin, creator of the BIG ground. It is no coincidence that I ended up between the presses and knowledge of Zea Mays and all this just pushed me even more to teach respectful engraving.”

A photo of Feoli in her printing shop with her ZMP diploma

After her residency ended Feoli returned the invitation to Liz and Sheldon. “Surely my first need after the experience at Zea Mays was to share what I had discovered and it was an honor for me to invite Liz Chalfin and Sheldon Carroll to Venice. I was hoping to be able to offer Italian engravers the opportunity to deal with these exceptional people. Too bad it happened in a period of change and the beginning of the tension linked to what would later become the pandemic we know.” 

An etching dedicated to Feoli’s idealized shaman

With normal studio practices upended during the pandemic lockdown in Italy, Feoli responded by creating a new digital studio space. “I called the time of forced confinement my P&P moment. Pandemic & Printmaking. I decided to teach printmaking, online, for free and with all the limitations and opportunities that an apartment can offer. Together with Anna Benedini, a longtime friend, engraver and jewelry maker, we started a series of live broadcasts just for fun.” Feoli reached out to many others at home, adapting and innovating lessons to utilize everything available. She recalls it as, “A continuous brave comparison with different themes that gave us 7 days between one video and another to invent a solution. We have given ourselves deadlines and arguments from alternative matrices to the production of home-inks to the opportunity of reinvented letterpress. We surprised people by explaining how to use the milk carton as a matrix, what a monotype is and how to spread the ink with a lint lever for pets. How to engrave, ink and print with what you find on the bottom of the drawers? What’s in that box you’ve been storing up scraps for years? What can we do with all those rags? We can print everything! And that’s exactly what we did with joy. What began as a chat between friends quickly became a recurring appointment for an audience stuck between four walls and all this took the name of: #IOSTAMPOACASA (I PRINT AT HOME).”

A photo of the class with Liz and Sheldon in Venice

It’s clear that Feoli has the remarkable ability to cultivate printmaking wherever she goes, and whatever situation she finds herself in. And she is able to recognize and encourage this in other artists, a true teacher. She embodies this spirit as she recalls her residency: “Zea Mays is not just a print shop but a fundamental meeting point. I spoke with new people, I drank coffee with them, I saw the snow fall in the night, I drank beer in the bar with the red door, I ate yogurt quickly because I wanted to go back to printing. It doesn’t matter if it is in front of you the Master, a student, an intern or a member, it just matters that you are dealing with an enthusiast. This is preserved in that place between paper and studies, the magic of being passionate.” 

Feoli at work at the “pandemic table”in her home

Follow Roberta Feoli in the studio via her Facebook https://www.facebook.com/robertafeolidelucia/

And see more of her work on Instagram @_roberta_feoli_de_lucia_