Wednesday, November 19, 2014

St. Kate’s Alumna Apprenticed with Adé Bethune

Icon of the Mother of God and Christ the Teacher,
designed by Adé Bethune.
St. Kate’s alumna Martha Greenwood Spaans, ’63, assisted Adé Bethune in creating the Icon of the Mother of God and Christ the Teacher, currently on display at the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery. Spaans spent the summer of 1964 working as an apprentice in Bethune’s Newport, RI home, where she set up a silkscreen shop in the basement. According to Spaans, “Adé showed me two large penciled icons she drew on white paper, one of Jesus and the other of the Madonna. She wanted to make them into large plaques for use in churches and chapels.

"I ordered clear birch boards to be cut to size for the plaques. I built drying racks so I could print one color at a time and all the boards would be drying in a convenient area close to where I was silk-screening. Adé and I got together at her big worktable upstairs and decided upon colors for the two icons. Adé watched for hours as I worked with her drawings and cut a stencil with an Exacto knife for each color on the icons.”

After the printing process was complete, Bethune sent Spaans to Boston to purchase gold leaf from her Russian gold dealer. Spaans applied the gold leaf to the halos and completed the icons, which were then sold through Bethune’s St. Leo Shop Bulletin

Bethune taught apprentices like Spaans throughout her career. She founded a workshop along with fellow Newport artists Graham Carey and John Howard Benson, which they cheekily called “John Stevens University.” Contrary to its name, John Stevens was not a university, but a working studio founded on the principle of quality craftsmanship. At John Stevens, students such as Spaans learned through hands-on apprenticeships with the artists. Bethune (whose childhood nickname was Lion) referred to the shared living and working area in her home as “Lion College” and dubbed her apprentices “cubs.”

No comments:

Post a Comment