- A small sampling of the artist’s prodigious output. Photography by Alexander Nesbitt
From her historic Rhode Island home, Ilse Buchert Nesbitt creates delicate woodblock prints on an antique printing press.
After many hours of carving tiny letters into blocks of wood, or setting type by hand (all in reverse as the printing practice requires), there are moments when Ilse Buchert Nesbitt’s eyes and mind begin to play tricks. Ordinary lettering flips and appears backwards to her. She laughs about this and shakes her head. “It is kind of minor insanity, cutting letters in wood.”
Nesbitt is a master of the woodblock print. Her work represents local New England scenes, as well as themes from her travels in Europe, Japan and across the United States.
Over the last 50 years, Nesbitt has produced an extensive body of work—fine art prints, illustrated collections of poetry, limited-edition books and a popular series of Christmas cards—using a simple knife, blocks of wood, metal type and two antique presses, an 1897 Golding platen press and an 1830 Acorn hand press.
- The Gideon Spooner House can claim an unbroken heritage as a home for merchants and people who work with their hands.
Nesbitt lives and works in a two-story 18th-century clapboard house in Newport, R.I.’s historic Point neighborhood. The building is named for Gideon Spooner, a shoemaker who lived and worked there between 1835 and 1863, but the structure is actually much older. Early records are a little sketchy, but a carpenter named Philip Morse probably built it between 1720 and 1758. Spooner expanded the building in the 1830s and 1840s by building an addition, raising the roof line and adding Greek Revival trim.
The Gideon Spooner House can claim an unbroken heritage as a home for merchants and people who work with their hands. In addition to a carpenter and shoemaker, the house has sheltered storekeepers, a painter, dressmaker, barber, shipwright and, fittingly, Nesbitt—an artist and painter—and her late husband Alexander, a teacher, calligrapher and type historian who died in 1995.
Nesbitt says they chose the Spooner House because “it had a shop, a house that we could live in and a little garden. It was the ideal place to bring up a family.” The couple’s two sons grew up in the workshop with them.
For more of “Art & Design 2009: Finding Joy in the Fine Print,” pick up the April 2009 issue of AmericanStyle today!