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Biography

Elizabeth Andrews Studio On the Fourth of November, I was born the second child of two Artists in Buffalo, NY at 12:06 pm. I know the time exactly, because it is on my birth certificate. As an inquisitive 6 year old searching for details about her birth, my Mother joked the impending arrival had caused her to miss lunch that day. I did not understand the humor in this and have struggled with guilt, anxiety, and the perfect knack of misjudging audiences all my life.

When I was a week old, the family moved to New York City. My mother held me up to the car window to see the Hudson River as she regaled my brother, four years older than I, with the tale of the "Headless Horseman." She didn’t know I was listening, too. I believe now, that this is the story, planted like an invisible seed, which began to grow into a life long ritual of checking under the bed before going to sleep.

We lived in several apartments over the years before moving to the twentieth floor of a Housing Project on 127th St. and Amsterdam Avenue. By this time I had received two more brothers and a sister, and another sibling was on the way. My Father had converted to Catholicism. Outshining all my siblings in anxiety and humility, my parents chose me to represent the Andrews Family at the Church of the Annunciation Catechism classes. I had my First Communion and Confirmation by the Fourth grade. It was then too when my Parents noticed my second penchant—my fairly realistic drawings of my brothers and scenes of the Crucifixion. They showed my Art work to the school at the Museum of Modern Art and I was offered a scholarship to take classes. I loved taking the subway after public school, catechism classes, and speech therapy sessions, to create Art.

Cluttered and cranky in a 3 bedroom apartment, the adults were feeling the magnetic pull of New Jersey, enticed by stories of weekend cocktail parties where children could be left unsupervised along with other neighborhood children. We moved to Teaneck, New Jersey in the fall and I began Fifth grade at Hawthorne Elementary School. I was not able to attend the Museum School anymore so I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, drawing and writing poems. My mother continued to work as a Junior High School Art Teacher in the Bronx and there were still many opportunities to visit the Big City. We now recall fondly the time the four oldest children were loaded into the blue Ford station wagon to collect "weathered" bricks from the deteriorating buildings of the lower bowery in Manhattan, for my Mother’s back yard patio project.

During the summer of 1972 we moved to Lockport, New York, a small town in Western New York State. My Father, an only child, had inherited the 100 year old Andrews Ancestral home. This seemed to offer my parents an opportunity to pursue their individual Artistic careers in an environment that, once again, optioned unsupervised child rearing. In the outer most reaches of the School district, we were Yellow bused to school, making it difficult to attend extracurricular activities or make friends with the "Townies." I spent a lot of time in my bedroom drawing and writing poems.

After I graduated High School, my parents were eager to make the upstairs of our house into an apartment. They delivered me, kicking and screaming, to Buffalo State College in Buffalo, New York to study ART. I loved creating Art, I just wanted to do it from my bedroom. After three years of taking any course that distracted me, and panicked by the idea of supporting myself the following year, I transferred to the University of Buffalo to extend my education. Inspired to become a Medical Illustrator, I submitted a proposal for Independent Study culminating with a Senior show of my work at the Medical Library. The medical students were delighted with my drawings, but suspicious how a forest of kidneys or cave dwellings inspired from histology slides would assist them. Easily dissuaded I sublimated my artistic ambitions and took a clerical position in the Lingerie Department of a Downtown Department store. Once again, I spent a lot of time drawing, writing short stories and poems in my bedroom.

My first daughter was soon born, and my creative energy returned. I entered my first Outdoor Art Show in Lewiston, New York. and was gratefully rewarded with the First Place Award in Drawing and Graphics for the art work that I had been creating in bedrooms all those years. With the sale of only a few hand made cards I had enough encouragement to stay at my full time job—now as Manager of a Fabric Store. My Mother’s prescient gift of sending me to College with a sewing machine rather than the electric typewriters of my peers, had been fulfilled.

I decided it was time to get married. During the Honeymoon in the Adirondacks, I discovered a book of Amish Quilts. Yes, looking back, I probably shouldn’t have taken that sewing machine with me. Regardless, I was soon designing baby announcements. The Quilting book came in handy because I had learned to do strip quilting, incorporating the technique into the birth announcements. With the birth of a second daughter I was left with two dozen blue quilted cards. Popular opinion encouraged me to sell the cards at local gift shops and soon, I was getting orders from The Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, California, and the Museum of American Folk Art in New York. I was able to also design miniature quilts and quilted accessories with this cutting and sewing technique. It grew into a Cottage industry when I discovered other Mothers eager to stay at home with their precocious offspring and make a little money sewing. In a Dodge Omni hatchback I traveled to retail shows selling our wares. Using the precepts of a Chinese puzzle box, I was able to pack two young daughters, a Show canopy, displays, handcrafted merchandise, and deftly slip in behind the wheel.

At 39 years old, the monster under the bed crawled out and reminded me that is was time to begin illuminating my experiences, joys, written stories, and poems. This coincidentally coincided with my daughters becoming teenagers.

In the Summer of 1997 I signed up for an etching class at Buffalo State College. Professor Peter Sowiski gently prodded and encouraged our experimentation. The magic and mystery behind the intaglio process was the technical complement to all my stories and poems. I had always found pictures, ideas and beginnings in unusual places. Now, a "false bite," an aquatint bubble, a dry point squiggle or a hard ground smudge could generate its’ own tale. I discovered the universal stories and emotions floating through out the universe would eventually need to rest and some were bound to land on my piece of copper or zinc. I would "illuminate" them, make them visual and thus make them "real."

Professor Sowiski graciously permitted me to use the studios at Buffalo State College for the next few years. In the Summer of 2000 I won a large "Best of Show" Award at ARTSfest in Corning, New York which permitted me to make a down payment on a handmade Praga Etching press. At the time, they were being built in Toronto, Canada and all I had to do was borrow a truck, put the balance on a credit card, and hand the Canadian Customers officer a broad smile and shipping Manifest.

I began this part of my life working in a Studio not far from the Andrews Ancestral Home. My etching press pays homage to the past. Nostalgia and history blend with the future. I draw and print by hand, not too far from the kitchen table on 125th Street.

In the following years I traveled to many Art Festivals collecting fans and friends who shared my artistic sensibilities. One outdoor show, the Roycroft Summer Art Festival in East Aurora, New York, I found people particularly "taken" with my etchings. Dorothy Markert, a long time Roycroft Renaissance Master printmaker, asked me to consider applying for the Roycroft Mark. I had never considered the idea of becoming a Roycroft Artisan. These people were serious artists, technically non-pareil and mature. It wasn’t the kind of organization where artists looked at the world like I did, slightly askew. But, what we did have in common I learned was love of tradition, history and craftsmanship. So, encouraged by friends, I completed some serious etchings and detailed my accomplishments and attributes for the jury process. One frosty winter morning my daughter Linden drove the etchings and I to East Aurora to be juried by the Master guild members. If truth be told, in detail, I was in the back of the Mini Van during whole ride, still framing the pieces to be juried as we drove onto the Roycroft Campus. Well, that is history too as I am now a Roycroft Rennaissance Master Artisan. The wonderfully skilled and creative Artisans of this present day guild have continued to inspire my Art and craftsmanship.

Elizabeth Andrews Etchings, 110 Ruskin Ave, Syracuse NY 13207 phone 585-278-8160

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