Retiree Barbara Zietchick began taking painting lessons and learning about printmaking while she was still a kindergarten teacher on Staten Island in the 1980s. She has been addicted to the art form ever since.
Now, 37 years after her retirement, Zietchick’s lifetime commitment to “change and growth” continues through the printmaking she does in her studio in New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania — printmaking that has earned her international recognition and won awards at many juried shows.
“I still love to experiment, to be adventuresome,” she said. “I like being my own boss and working with colors and shapes.”
Following her retirement in 1984 after 25 years inspiring kindergartners’ creativity at PS 45 and PS 54 on Staten Island, Zietchick eased into full-time art, continuing to teach English for five years as an adjunct instructor at Union County College and Kean and DeVry universities, all in New Jersey. But printmaking finally became her full-time focus.
While she still enjoys creating woodcuts, linocuts and even silk screens, etching has become Zeitchick’s favorite printmaking process. She revels in the challenge of all the thought that is required before the plate is etched or the block is carved, as well as the adventure that begins once the first state of the print is revealed.
“I love the different aspects this art form requires — the drawing, etching, printing, adding to the colors. It goes on and on, looking at it and deciding what to do next,” explained Zeitchick, who served as chapter leader at both her schools and at PS 45 won the UFT’s Smallheiser Award, which recognizes educators who strive to improve their colleagues’ working conditions.
She bought a small etching press shortly after her retirement and began spending more and more time in her studio. She created etching plates of copper and zinc while she continued to study the many skills involved in printmaking and took courses at the School for Visual Arts in Manhattan, Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and other schools.
Zietchick enjoys the discipline demanded by etching. “I love using my hands and eyes,” she said, “and in the studio, I can only focus on one thing at a time. So when I’m carving, that’s it.”
Always in search of stimulation and inspiration, Zietchick travels the world and visits museums. “I never know what will inspire me,” she said. “I love animals and their graceful forms and I am also fascinated by the possibilities of abstract art. The balance between shapes, colors and forms is an inspiration.”
For company during long days working alone in the studio, Zietchick listens to audio books and, when she’s in the mood for music, Mozart and Bob Dylan.
Her work has appeared in the international publication of the Southern Graphics Council, the largest print organization in North America. Her prints are part of the collections of the Newark Public Library and the New Jersey Historical Society. Zietchick also is a member of the Arts and Cultural Council of Bucks County and continues to show her work and compete in shows.
As a member of the International Print Exchange, Zeitchick is able to share her work with printmakers around the world, and her work appears on their websites as well as on her own.