BIG INK Brings the “Big Tuna” Press to Pyramid Atlantic Art Center

By Editorial Team on October 4, 2021
Event: Saturday, October 9 and Sunday, October 10 from 11am to 4pm

Admission is free.

You can catch the Big Tuna, a portable print press whose girth inspired its name, in action as it reels off large-scale works by 20 area artists Saturday and Sunday, October 9 & 10 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin Street in Hyattsville, MD.

BIG INK, a New England-based arts business, teams up with Pyramid Atlantic Art Center for a third time.

Each selected artist started work on their extra-large woodblocks in August using traditional Japanese chisels. BIG INK Director Lyell Castonguay has been guiding them through online instruction.

All the work leads up to a two-day public demonstration this weekend as the press produces paper prints from the woodblocks — essentially giant wooden stamps up to 4 feet by 8 feet, Castonguay said.

“Seeing woodblocks printed at this scale is impressive,” Castonguay. “(It’s) like magic. The woodblock is inked, sent through the press, and an image appears on the paper. It’s like watching a rabbit pulled out of a hat.”

BIG INK in 2016 raised $13,000 to build a traveling printing press, which could be assembled in museums, universities, art centers, galleries, and beyond. The company tours the country hosting workshops with the press.

Pyramid Atlantic Art Center will be open to visitors from 11am to 4pm each day. There will be a hands-on community art-making activity.

“This year is BIG INK’s largest gathering at Pyramid to date,” Castonguay said.

The slate will feature appearances and works by Paige Hemke Kleinfelder, Gail Shaw-Clemons, Anna Zellhofer, Amanda Gordon Miller, Alexandra Morazan, Jillian Jenkins Roper, Carolee Jakes, Sarah Matthews, Kimberly King, and Mark Wamaling on Saturday.

Sunday’s participating artists are Catherine Cole, William Wackwitz Jr., Leamon L Green, Kaisa Nichols-Russell, Judith Peck, Etai Rogers-Fett, Eliza Clifford, Deborah Grayson, Carol Barsha, and Amy Callner.

BIG INK is founded and directed by Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet. The program began with Castonguay envisioning a community of like-minded artists who share an interest in large-scale woodblock printmaking. Recognizing most artists don’t have the technical expertise required to produce such work, Castonguay began to teach the process at community printmaking studios.

It became clear that artists beyond the local scene were interested in instruction. However, BIG INK had to overcome a hurdle to teach to a broad audience. A specialized press weighing over a ton is normally required. Plus, there are less than half a dozen large-format presses in the United States available for public use.

Up to this point, venues with a large-format press on-site hosted workshops. BIG INK needed portable equipment to visit more places. In 2016, BIG INK raised $13,000 through public support to build a press designed for routine travel called The Big Tuna. It’s made a lasting impression when assembled in museums, universities, art centers, galleries, and beyond. Given its modular construction, The Big Tuna is transportable virtually anywhere.

BIG INK now tours the country hosting workshops with their press. What started as a small-town project has grown into a national program. Each year more artists become aware of how satisfying it is to carve and print. Also, the public becomes better informed about the process by viewing the art BIG INK participants create.

Since its founding in 2012, BIG INK has visited dozens of cities across the country and created thousands of prints. To learn more about the program and to apply to participate, please visit

Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is located at 4318 Gallatin St. Hyattville, MD.  All images courtesy BIG INK.