Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Moka Genie

My minor obsession with coffee has a lot to do with having spent the last 10 years living in Italy. Being but a thinly-veiled socialist society they long ago realized that certain staples; gas, bread, chianti, and espresso prices need to be artificially controlled to maintain social order. So, in almost all the bars in Tuscany an espresso will cost .90 cents (euro) as long as you drink it standing up at the bar. (Much more if you sit down at a table where a different "tourist" price list kicks in.)
So while I was living there, I'd drop the kids off at school and head to the bar on the corner, Bar Petrarca, just outside Porta Romana in Florence and have my morning cappuccino and a brioche. Then again, picking them up at 4pm stop in at the Bar Il Poggio for an espresso. I could have made coffee at home, but the ritual of standing at the bar, chatting with the barista and quickly reading the newspaper coupled with a 15 minute break from the house chores and farmwork was important.
So, Imagine my horror to find on my yearly return to the US that a cappuccino costs $3.00-$3.50 here and an espresso--often badly made and served in a paper cup the size of a medium popcorn at the theater often $2. So, while I loved taking coffee socially in Italy, I retreated to the kitchen and the stovetop moka or french press to make coffee that I could afford and brood about the vagaries of fate.
Fortunately, Santa Cruz has some really good coffee bars and while they are still expensive at least the quality is good. And on one foggy morning as I stopped in to the local coffee place and stared at my little espresso cup with the little spoon and sugar cube wondering about my life and life's choices out of the crema and steam rose this little genie who asked me about the ebbs and tides of my life and then (this being California and a surf capital) about the current surf conditions. Then after a bit of hemming and hawing, chatting about the weather and local politics he finally got to the point and asked what I wanted out of life and said he would grant me a wish. When I asked how come all the other genies I'd ever heard about usually offered at least three wishes he shrugged his shoulders, twisted the hairs of his yellow eyebrows and said, "Hey, I'm the espresso genie" "With me there's just one strong, dense, chocolatey, concentrated wish". Then, with a sly grin he said, "If you wanted three wishes you should have gone with the double-shot, extra-tall soy, non-fat pumpkin latte."
And then, after a pause, "So", he went on, "what's it going to be?....."

"The espresso genie grants just ONE wish..."
3.5"x"9.5" Japanese polychrome wood block print
9 blocks, 13 colors, printed on Kizuki Hanga 135g/m2 Japanese Hosho paper.
open edition/40 printed to date.


  1. Great print, Andrew. I really like the subtle color gradiation and the way the wood grain shows through in the background, as well as the story behind it. As for your previous post, glad to hear you will be doing the tie print at some point, as the design is striking in its simplicity and the story behind it is good.

    I've been RSSing and enjoying your blog since back in the day of the earthworm print, and dreaming about what it would be like to flee life as I know it. I'm trying to hold out until my kids, who look to be around the age of yours, are out of high school. In the meantime, I'm earning a living making architecture look pretty and filling up sketchbook pages with scary drawings of imposing looking buildings and McMansions.

    While I have your attention, I have to add that I've been printmaking for about a year, and I've come across many people who seem to have become totally engrossed with moku hanga at some middle-aged point. I've been puzzeled to why that is, why this type of artwork is so compelling to people at the same point in their life. And then one day I read a description of an exchange print on Baren Forum that really struck me as significant.

    "I suppose commenting on the desire to have power on a small scale to create beauty or control our environment while we physically and inexorably age and realize how little control we really possess."

    Maybe you nailed it.

  2. Dear Starkeyart,
    Thank you for commenting and reading. I am always surprised when someone actually reads what I write....I'd better be more careful.
    The oak block used to print the background has a really nice wavy open grain that mimicked the sinuous flow of the rising genie. It was really interesting printed matte in one color but I needed the graded wash to offset and create interest in the face of the genie--who was printed in a mouse-y, brown-grey.
    Someday, I'll write about my time in Pietrasanta carving about an engrossing and compelling obsession--there's a large community of international visitors that show up there to learn marble and stone carving---a large percentage are architects--
    But the issues are the same; control over the environment; physically manipulating a material to change it's appearance; creating something "permanent" that remains ephemeral. The debate of art vs. craft; beauty and creativity vs accessibility and commercial potential.
    Thanks again for looking and good luck with your prints; your building, life and family.

  3. Hi Andrew, enjoyed your story very much and love the print, although you did left us hanging at the end......looking forward to more of your work.

    Julio Rodriguez

  4. Gorgeous Print! That is a wonderful story about the print idea. Brovo from another coffee lover.

  5. i like the coffee guy alot. You could do a whole series on beverages. Juniper with gin, hops with beer.

    I'll take a t-shirt extra large please.

    Do keep going with this


  6. Thanks, Keith.
    Hmmm. Hops. I planted that once; It is a beautiful plant; vines to over 25 feet over the summer creating beautiful shade and these lovely, paper-lantern flowers. Then, you cut it to the ground every fall. Oh, I guess some people even use the flowers....?
    There's a great Hohenstein poster from 1897(He was the Italian Liberty, Mucha-inspired, poster artist) of a muscular guy loading a cask of beer surrounded by twining hops vines.....worth a revisit maybe....thanks for the idea.

  7. I love this print, and I'm a tea drinker! The colors are wonderful and your genie has such personality. Great eyebrows and goatee.