What are your memories from when you were a new hire? Here are 5 of mine.

I have a new job! (:

It seems like serendipity that while being a paper artist and owning a small business called Paperhugger, I would eventually work in a place that LOVES PAPER! Before 2020 ended, I accepted an employment opportunity for a Chicago non-profit called Spudnik Press Cooperative and joined the team as their new Marketing Lead.

I was so happy to find the job posting, but I was nervous about submitting my application because I did not have a printmaking background which was a preferred qualification. And now that I am part of the team, I can absolutely understand why. There are tons of printmaking art processes! I have actually learned a tiny chunk (but certainly a huge amount to my standard) about printmaking since.

Getting the job offer was a quirky story in itself and some of my experiences at work to date are one for the books. Here are FIVE (5) memorable things about this journey so far, from the seemingly mundane/silly, to the “this-is-freaking-amazing-and-motivating-I-can-definitely-see-myself-growing-as-an-artist” kind of moments.

View of the heat press and relief printing area among others at Spudnik Press

1. The job interview itself

This is not about best practices at all. Mine was actually about the mundane and seemingly funny things that have made my interviews memorable (at least for me). During my initial interview, the sun went down and I was barely visible onscreen. I couldn’t adjust anything or move to switch the lights on because I was too shy and I honestly did not have a lot of experience at that time with working remotely and doing video conferences from home. BUT WAIT, HERE’S MORE. I was in the middle of my final interview when Alexa decided to yap ever so loudly and tried to book me an Uber! I was really embarrassed about these at first, but my husband pointed out that those instances might have made me a bit more memorable. I have learned to embrace the experience instead, regardless of the outcome.

Yang Pulongbarit-Cuevo pulling out a drawer of uppercase woodblocks used for letterpress printmaking

2. The first day onsite

I had my tour of the Spudnik Press site a few days after I accepted my job offer (yay!). I hitched a ride with my husband, who’s working at a physical therapy clinic four minutes (drive) away from the studio, so I arrived pretty early for my tour and orientation. I met Anders, one of the other staff members that I only met through video beforehand. While waiting for our director Angee, I took photos of the tools and equipment, and just basked in the great feeling of being in a workshop for creating amazing artworks. The most interesting thing I learned that day was where the “uppercase” and “lowercase” terms originated from. The types are set by placing the case with all the capital letters on top of the drawer and the case holding the small letters are below it. Isn’t that cool?

View of Spudnik Press print shop in Chicago where the risography machine is

3. The first training

Being the only staff member who is not a printmaker, I have to learn some of the processes. Risography is a printmaking method that can be taught in one day so I took that one before the holidays. I have encountered risograph before when we need bulk-printed fliers very quickly for work. I was also in a printing press a lot back when I was part of my alma mater’s university student publication. But print as an art, I have zero knowledge about it. And risography was so much more than printing things in bulk quickly! My instructor told me that there’s a growing interest in this type of print because of its fun, vintage appeal. I can see it through how the translucent colors mingle and create vibrant compositions after every layer. I brought a paperuct piece with me, which we tried to use to create 11×17 posters. I put it on the flatbed and we just created posters using blue and yellow inks that printed out on the background, leaving a blank impression of my papercut piece.

4. The first practice of what  I learned from that training

Since my husband was still working, I decided to practice what I’ve learned about risography while waiting for him to pick me up. I brought with me some papercutting supplies so I finished one of the sugar skulls that I’ve been working on. I have two of them ready and I wanted to create a trio on a poster, so that was tricky. Risography can be done with digital files now and you can get more intricate graphic designs with them. But I have not tried that and I do not have digital artworks with me so it was super fun doing everything manually. I was like a mad scientist making paper compositions on the flatbed – from my papercut artworks, to tiny leftover cutouts, to torn paper that I used to add more design elements.

View of the screen printing area at Spudnik Press in Chicago

5. The first project

Another remarkable thing about the many programs that Spudnik has is its involvement with Ten x Ten Chicago – a dual collaboration between visual artists and musicians that translates artistic gestures across media. Spudnik’s role is to publish the screen-print artworks made by the collaborating visual artists and musicians, and there was a culminating online event for the first batch last January 23rd. I went onsite to help Angee with the screen printing and learned a lot about the process. I was also able to assist with the screen printing of an Amanda Williams project, which I later found out was going to be exhibited at the MoMA on February 20th! *weeping*

As a complete noob, I’m going to say this again: there are SO MANY processes under printmaking from letterpress, risography, etching, screen-printing, intaglio, offset printing and more! It got pretty overwhelming but I was also aware of the incredible opportunity to continuously learn and grow as an artist. This is the kind of work challenges that I would like to have. *chef’s kiss*

I know this is going to be a wonderful journey and I am also excited to share more of this new adventure that I am undertaking by bringing some printmaking into the mix of what I currently do as a papercut artist. More soon! (:


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