Magnolia Editions Enables Artistic Expression in Huge Formats

Since 1981, Don and Era Farnsworth have nurtured artists in their West Oakland studio to help them bring super big art on virtually anything.


Photo courtesy Magnolia Editions

What do the Brown Sugar Kitchen, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, and San Francisco International Airport have in common? Photos, triptychs, and murals created by artists with the help of Oakland’s Magnolia Editions.

Primarily a printmaking studio, Magnolia gives artists access to resources, including an 8-by-4-foot printer that can print on almost anything—including tiles, glass, and aluminum—as well as ceramic kilns and sewing machines for tapestry finishing. Founders Don and Era Farnsworth have nurtured artists in their West Oakland studio since 1981.

“We expand the ability of an artist to do things they can’t do in their own studios because they don’t have enough space or can’t afford a half-million-dollar piece of equipment,” said Don Farnsworth. “We work with many artists to expand the media they can work in.”

One day a week, local or visiting artists can use the 8,000-square-foot studio’s equipment, which also includes a laser cutter and a 3-D digital printer, for a fee. The rest of the week is devoted to collaboration with artists on joint projects such as prints or tapestries.

These pieces are sold to galleries, collectors, and museums, “and we share the income with the artist,” Don Farnsworth said. Magnolia also does joint projects with artists to create publicly commissioned art.

Work from the studio pops up all over Oakland. You can drop by Brown Sugar Kitchen for a feast of its legendary cornmeal waffles and enjoy photos of the surrounding West Oakland neighborhood printed at Magnolia.

“[Artist] Amanda Williams did all the photos hanging in Brown Sugar. She printed them at Magnolia on canvas,” said Era Farnsworth. The photos depict such things as neighborhood chickens, “the kinds of quirky things that make a community interesting,” she said. The studio is just a few blocks from Brown Sugar.

If you’ve visited the Dalziel Building near Oakland City Hall, you probably noticed the City Center Triptych in the vestibule.The triptych features three views of Broadway and 14th Street. The painting is the work of Anthony Holdsworth, well-known for his realistic streetscapes. Magnolia helped Holdsworth create a mockup for the publicly funded mural to illustrate what it would look like when completed, among other things.

Magnolia also played a significant role in the creation of an enormous 20-by-26 photo of the majestic trees of Marin County’s Muir Woods that was installed at San Francisco International Airport in August.

“I wanted to bring the beauty of Muir Woods to world travelers,” said San Francisco photographer Alice Shaw. “I re-photographed the site six times to get the final image, which is 24 megapixel files.” Magnolia stitched the files together and printed 25 panels, measuring 4 feet by 5 feet, which were seamlessly combined to create the piece.

In painstaking detail work, Shaw then painted gold leaf between the trees to simulate sunlight. “It’s like a sunset coming through the trees on the Dipsea Trail,” she said.

“They are great at helping artists realize their ideas,” Shaw said of Magnolia. “Even if Magnolia doesn’t already do what the artist is thinking of, they will learn how to do it or come up with a way to make it happen.”


Add your comment: