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“A Kenspeckle Marriage” Fireside Chat with Rick Allen and Marian Lanksy


This Saturday, March 9th we welcome Marian Lansky and Rick Allen as our final artists to take part in Sivertson Gallery’s 2013 Fireside Chat Series. As we approach the gallery’s 10 year anniversary of providing customers with Kenspeckle Letterpress Prints, a blog post dedicated to the two of them feels right. Seldom is there an individual who walks by Rick and Marian’s art without publicly expressing some sort of emotion. I cannot count the number of times I have heard shrieks of laughter emanating from costumers who stumble upon Rick’s wall at the gallery, or the look of amazement when folks first catch a glimpse of Marian’s many eggs on Canvas. As I type, I am witnessing a mother and son duo jabbing each other in the side, sharing laughs with each other after finding ANOTHER hilarious print in the Kenspeckle bin.

Last week I was lucky enough to meet up with Rick and Marian (and also the Warrior Printress) in their Duluth studio in Canal Park to talk about life, love, and art. The interview that follows is a fun sneak peek at the topics the duo will cover during their upcoming fireside chat titled: “A Kenspeckle Marriage, Or, How It All Works.” A sneak peak only, because I had to swear not to give away all the details of their story; you will just have to come on Saturday to hear it all. And TRUST ME, you want to hear the whole story.

So what came first for you two, love or art?
We were both artists before we met. I was a Graphic Designer and he was an artist, we met in this capacity. A few different people suggested that we meet and work together on a project and that was the end. (Laughter) That was it.

Marian Checking Out Rick’s Newest Print For The First Time

How did you two both get started in the art world?
Marian: I started my graphic design business when my son was two, for more flexibility, I could spend more time with him. I have always loved combining words and images so graphic design was kind of natural. I saw one of the first Macintosh computers in Duluth, and I just really had to have it. I just knew this is what I wanted to do.  So I went to the bank, without a business plan, in my jeans, and asked for a $13,000 business loan for a computer, scanner and printer.  It was the strangest thing; I must have been in an altered state or something (laughter).

The Warrior Printress

I’m a failed humanist. I went to a good liberal arts school because my parents thought a good liberal arts education was a lot safer than art school. I got a degree in History, started working on a higher degree, I worked at a bookstore, an outdoor sporting goods store, I ran a climbing school, I was a paralegal… Law is the last resort of the failed humanist.  Then finally, I decided to go to art school anyway, 10 or 12 years late. I got into RISD and spent a year there and came back to MN and started working as an illustrator in the Twin Cities.

Rick had a very great career as an illustrator in the Twin Cities, until the computer. “Art Directors could do their own illustrations and cut out that really annoying middle man” said Rick. Unfortunately, most of Rick’s illustrator friends’ great careers in illustration also just went away at that time.

“Finger” Prints

Rick, when did you get into Printmaking?
Rick: Like her, I’ve always liked words…
Marian: Obviously! (laughter)
I was old enough that in Middle School shop class, the last section was printmaking. In the 1970s they still thought that printing was a profession you could spend your career in. So I worked on presses and set type, and always loved it, just loved it.
Marian: During that period when the illustration market was failing and Rick was spending a lot of time staring out the window…
Rick: And at walls (laughter)
I decided to design a website for him. While I was looking around the web for ideas I came across a letterpress site. I noticed that in the classifieds section someone was selling a complete shop, for $700. In Connecticut. And I had another one of those no doubt moments. I just thought “I am going to buy this for Rick.”
Rick: At Marian’s encouragement I just decided to do what I wanted to do, regardless of how silly, or stupid, or pointless it was. So I started creating coffee drinking bears and canoes in antlers, and we’ve never looked back (laughter).

Do you have a favorite print or image of the other?

Marian and Rick’s favorite piece “The Dreamer”

Rick: I know which one! I like the package series, the elephant. But, I’d actually take the whole package series as my one favorite. It is so her. It’s words, it’s image, it’s pattern…
Marian: It’s wacky!
Rick: It’s unrestrained, but it’s also very disciplined. It’s… it’s so HER.
Marian: There are so many of his that I love; I often love his newest one. (Laughter) The Trapper’s Daughter and the Long View, I really love that one. I feel that in ‘The Long View,’ Rick really accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. I felt like it is perfectly dialed. For being a 25 block print, way over the top in terms of work, effort and planning… it’s just… (Marian smiles) 

The perfect ending to a perfect interview. My time spent with Marian and Rick last weekend was one for the records! Please join us this Saturday, March 9th at 6pm as we welcome two of the most inspiring, compassionate, and hilarious artists Sivertson Gallery has to offer, Rick Allen and Marian Lansky.

Blog and Photography by Abby Tofte


  1. Bill Beck

    I still remember how much fun it was to work with Marian back when I was starting Lakeside Writers’ Group in the late 1980s.

  2. marian

    Bill Beck! If you see this… get in touch. Or stop by if you’re ever in Duluth. We’re in the DeWitt Seitz building on the second floor. Would love to see you!

  3. Sarah

    Yay! It makes my heart happy to hear M+R’s story! And what a great blog reporter! Such a happy mood! Im sad to have to miss the event! love to you!

  4. A Busy Weekend Ahead

    […] To read a great interview of the couple by Abby Tofte, click here. The Fireside Chat starts at 6 p.m. All invited. Refreshments served. Photo by David R. Johnson. […]

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