Pippin Frisbie-Calder


Propaganda (a New Orleans online magazine) interviewed me

A Study Of: Pippin Calder-Frisbie and Pippin Print

Posted by Christy | MANAGING ED. on Jul 15, 2013

Like a lot of NOLA natives, I’m the type that loves to get to know a total stranger. You never really know someone’s story until you ask them.

While I was strolling Frenchmen Art Market one evening, I discovered Pippin Calder-Frisbie’s incredibly detailed woodblock prints of our wetlands. Operating under the moniker Pippin Print, her work incorporates everything from portraits to swamp scenes. Taking cues from her enviable upbringing (childhood boat trips to South America, anyone?), to artist residencies in Florida, Indonesia, and most recently, a teaching stint in Haiti, Calder-Frisbie is a remarkable artist leading a fascinating life. Her story is just as intriguing as the images she creates.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

Thanks to my parent’s unusual occupations (my father is a writer and my mother is an artist), I had a unique upbringing. Up until high school, the whole family would pile into a 40ft boat my parents built and we would take off, sailing around the Caribbean and to Central America, including a circumnavigation of Cuba and forays into the mountains of Guatemala. My childhood spent homeschooling and traveling has affected me deeply. My mother, forever a nature lover, turned science lessons into snorkeling and reef ecology. Instead of math, we would often sneak away to paint trees.  Watching these landscapes change or disappear over the course of my life, has been, and continues to be, an inspiration for documenting them as prints.  

Do you exclusively work with prints, or do you paint as well? Are prints your preferred medium?

 I find working in just one medium is too narrow a focus with an unnecessarily limited horizon. Watercolors and acrylics help me gain a better relationship with color. Printmaking helps with line. Papermaking is a healthier way to make a mess! For the most part, though, I consider myself a printmaker. I enjoy the ebb and flow of control that comes with printmaking. More than most mediums, printmaking feels like an open collaboration with the medium: I dictate a few of the terms and the wood or screen bring a few of their own.

Printmaking is also a process filled with magic. When I paint I am directly and intentionally applying the lines, so there are few surprises. With woodcut, I will spend up to two months working on a block, then ink it. You never know exactly what that month or two of work will look like because the image becomes much more graphic with the application of ink, and it prints in reverse!

You had an artist residency in Florida and studied in Indonesia. How did these experiences influence your work?


Indonesia was crazy, full of late night graffiti and motorcycle rides. I spent all my days carving and the nights on the street.  I camped out in the top of an unused factory with gaping holes in the floor and no walls on one side of my space, and a loudspeaker in the mosque next door blaring out the call to prayer at 5 am! The arts community in Yogyakarta is welcoming and incredibly talented. They scooped me up and I fell in love! I completed a series of large block prints encapsulating the feelings this elicited.

Florida was the polar opposite. I spent my days alone canoeing and swampwalking in the 95% heat and humidity, immersed in the natural environment. Whenhurricane Isaac came, I spent 3 days in the house carving, and when the power went out I moved to the porch. Luckily, Big Cypress just experienced some rain and wind, nothing like New Orleans. It was a deeply personal and hermitic experience but it’s hard to feel lonely in the swamps!

Haiti has been less of an artist residency and much more of a teaching position. I think traveling to teach is my new favorite way to experience a place. I spent most of my days preparing for the screenprinting class I taught in the evening. The goal of Jakmel Ekspresyon (the program I was working for) is the empowerment of the already talented working artists in Jacmel through new skill sets and exposure to different artists. I’ve taught a lot in the States where running water, electricity, general hardware stores and infrastructure are taken for granted. In Haiti nothing was guaranteed. Improvising with the students on creative solutions for spray adhesive, water pressure screen clamps and lighting was way more challenging than I was expecting and deeply fulfilling. My students in Haiti were amazing and almost every printed shirt was met with a round of high-fives and extreme excitement.

How would you describe your style?

Process based.

How long have you been in New Orleans? Where is the best place for people to purchase your work?

I think three and a half years. You can find me at the Frenchmen night market on Friday and Sunday nights, but I will be traveling around Maine and Washington for the next 2 months. I also work with and sell screen prints through the New Orleans Community Printshop, and my woodcuts are for sale at Gulf Coast Restoration Network. With both organizations, a percentage of the sales goes to continuing their valuable missions. I’m always happy to answer questions and can be contacted through my website,www.pippinprint.com.

Who are some of your favorite New Orleans artists/art galleries?

Swoon, she is based in New York, but does a lot of work with the New Orleans community. She has been a long time role model for me and is largely responsible for my interest in large-scale woodcut. Ron Bechet’s paintingscapture the deep sense of peace and tangle of color that I feel when immersed in the swamps.

I’ve actually always been more enamored canoeing in the swamps than walking around a gallery. That being said, what I like about New Orleans is there are a lot of galleries that serve both as show spaces for great art and community art spaces. Galleries like Antenna, the Front and Good Children do a lot to promote new ideas around art and education. Also, A Gallery for Fine Photography has some really impressive photography work.

What are your thoughts on the local art scene in general?

It’s wonderful. New Orleans history and architecture is fantastic and inspiring. I’m constantly drawn to plays and puppet shows that go way beyond my expectations, or the eccentricities of other places.

The New Orleans Community Print Shop, which was my inspiration to move to New Orleans, is a good example of an art space that tries to service the surrounding community as well as its members. The organization’s mission is to create an affordable space where people of all ages can come and create prints and darkroom photography. Also, having centers like NOCCA down the street, as well as other organizations that foster art in youth, makes New Orleans a special place to be an artist.