52 Weeks of Printmakers: Kelli MacConnell

Portland-based artist Kelli MacConnell carefully explores landscapes, then translates her natural surroundings into richly detailed prints. For her, printmaking serves as a key vehicle in fostering a relationship between humans and the natural world. She is currently working on an ongoing series of prints called Prints for Preservation. She talks about this project – and so much more – in our interview.

When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?

It actually wasn’t until college when I discovered printmaking. I was a drawing/painting major when I took my first intro to printmaking class as a sophomore. I was immediately hooked and shortly after changed my focus to printmaking! I’ve been creating mainly relief prints ever since, however I still enjoy drawing and painting.

How would you describe your work?

Graphic nature inspired impressions of the wild.

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

The first thing I ever remember making was a piece of art I created by melting crayons when I was 3 or 4 at my preschool. I still remember I absolutely loved the smell of the melted wax and watching it transform into a liquid and then a solid again on my paper as it cooled. Well, and making cookies with my mom… not sure which came first!

Is there a ritual or activity that is crucial to your practice?

Coffee! And I often find myself in a clearer state of mind and much more motivated to create after a hike in the woods.

What are you currently working on, and why?

I’m currently working on a handful of projects simultaneously. I’m just finishing up a small edition of prints for a fundraiser show, a wine label design for an Oregon winery, an ongoing series of 4 ft. native tree linocuts, and I am gearing up for an action packed summer of outdoor fine art shows in Washington and Oregon. I find that I really enjoy working on a variety of projects at once. As an artist, there are so many different avenues to venture down, and I think it’s refreshing to mix things up a little!

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

I have many projects whirling around in my head, but the biggest one that comes to mind is to live and have a printmaking studio in a somewhat remote town or wilderness area. This place would be a studio/art center where I can teach workshops for children and adults, and also an artist retreat destination. It would be a place for other artists/printmakers to come for months at a time to create (artist residencies), find peace and work through their own ideas and concepts for making and creating.

What’s next?

I will be continuing my ongoing series of large format native tree prints (Next up is the Ponderosa Pine), while I travel and participate in a handful of shows this summer.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Never stop creating… Learning is a process of ups and downs, and it is with mistakes that we find clarity!

What do you want readers to know about you or your work?

I create these nature inspired images not only because it brings me joy, but I create in hopes to connect others to the natural world as well. I hope that these prints are little reminders of what is out there beyond our windows, phones, computers… I also hope that they may spark interest in a particular place or bring up a memory or connection with a particular tree, for example, and then be the motivation for a visit to a forest, river, mountain or maybe a lake.

I feel like so many of us have become disconnected from the natural world, and forget that our health is affected by this. I believe contact with nature improves our physical, mental and emotional well-being. People need to reconnect to the wilderness around them, and it is then that they will feel fulfilled; It is then that they will live a more satisfying life and feel content.

Also, in response to my strong feelings toward the importance of the nature, as of this year, I’ve started an ongoing series of prints called Prints for Preservation. I will be creating one edition annually that benefits a nonprofit that helps preserve and restore threatened wilderness areas.. This year’s print is the Whitebark Pine and all profits are being donated to The Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation.

How can people find you?

Website: www.kellimacconnell.com

Instagram: @kelli_macconnellprints

Facebook: Kelli MacConnell Prints

 

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Valerie Lueth of Tugboat Printshop

Overlook, by Valerie Lueth in collaboration with Paul Roden
Log, by Valerie Lueth in collaboration with Paul Roden
This week’s printmaker is Pittsburgh-based artist Valerie Lueth of Tugboat Printshop. A self-described “prairie gal” (born in Iowa and raised in rural South Dakota), Valerie creates intricate woodcuts of the natural world. Her work is large and stunning; for more photos of her work, and to learn more about her process, check out Tugboat Printshop’s website.
When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?
I was one of those kids that always wanted to be an artist from the time I was young, very self-propelled to make, and interested in all mediums across the board but especially drawing.  During my first year in university, my drawing professor Lloyd Menard (also the professor of printmaking at USD) offered me a summer position assisting at Frogman’s Print and Paper Workshops and a work study job at the USD Print Department. That summer I took my first print courses and learned a tremendous amount working alongside graduate/high level print students maintaining the shop and assisting their projects. I really was unaware of printmaking as a medium until that summer, but from then on I was hooked! I spent the next 5 years (I took education at my own pace) exploring all facets of print. What interested me most about printmaking was how it furthered my drawings–and I loved the people I met, such a fantastic and upbeat community!
Working exclusively in woodcut came later for me, with the formation of Tugboat Printshop in 2006. Tugboat co-founder Paul Roden and I began collaborating in woodcut at that time. Working on blocks felt very natural from the start, and the work I made for Tugboat with Paul kept me thinking expansively and challenging woodcut’s possibilities daily. 11 years and many prints later, I continue to have a full blown love for woodcut; it is absolutely the medium I will continue to work in for a while to come!
Moth, by Valerie Lueth in collaboration with Paul Roden
How would you describe your work?
I like to make things that are beautiful, that transmit positivity and bring joy to others. My work celebrates the natural world, with an underbelly of prying at man/womankind’s relationship to it.
Daisy Bouquet, by Valerie Lueth in collaboration with Paul Roden
What’s the first thing you ever remember making?
A crayon drawing of a sky at sunset. And before that many, many forts.
Your work is so striking and so technically complex. Tell me a bit about your process.
I spend a good chunk of time developing drawings directly on the woodblock (3/4″ birch plywood), and then another hefty block of days patiently hand-carving those drawings in relief. Approach is very traditional, no computers, everything by hand. Color work is done on transfers printed from the key, typically not more than 4-5 blocks tops for any one print.
 
What are you currently working on, and why?
Right now, I am working on a new color woodcut titled “EVE” (on pre-order right now, almost done!). I started drawing “EVE” around election time last year; I have been thinking a lot about women’s roles.
 
Do you have a dream project (or two)?
Oh yes! Many! I’d love a vast amount of time to just make and make and make. And then be transported to someplace else exotic and new to do more making and making.
What’s next?
More woodcuts! Drawings! Maybe some ceramics? Planting my summer garden.
 
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Focus on doing work that you love and keep it a priority.
 
What do you want readers to know about you or your work?
Come visit Tugboat if you’re ever in Pittsburgh!  I’m happy to arrange visits to shop prints & talk prints at the T.B.P.S. studio!
10. How can people find you?
instagram: @tugboatprintshop

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Nic Annette Miller

This week’s printmaker is Brooklyn-based artist Nic Annette Miller. Nic  is a multidisciplinary artist who has a particular interest in woodblock printmaking, installation, concept research, and art direction of photography and video. While trained in traditional printmaking techniques, Nic has taken her work beyond traditional, two-dimensional prints, creating sculptural objects, short videos, and large installations. After reading her interview, take a minute to watch her short stop-motion animation video, All I Can Do Is What I Do, to see for yourself. You may end up watching it over and over again.

JH: When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?

NAM: I was initially enrolled in the photography program at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I attended a lecture by visiting artist, Sean Caulfield and signed up for his workshop. Printmaking was a very foreign world and Sean’s work really drew me in enough to take the basics class the next semester, ultimately changing my major. My instructor Kathy Puzey is a notorious woodcut printmaker who shared her love of printing from grain. It was my thesis show where I had to find a way to display my work and had a hard time putting a frame to animal heads. This is when I mounted them to ¾” plywood and cut them out with a jigsaw. From there my prints turned into objects and over the years I started creating environments from them. The large-scale installations are what really motivate me to make.

 How would you describe your work?

My prints become little objects that I call sculptural woodcut prints. The process involves carving the image in birch plywood and then printing from it onto Thai Mulberry paper with an etching press. From there I mount the paper to plywood, cut it out with a scroll saw, sand, keyhole, dust and hang. Maybe add some watercolor or pigment dust.

 What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

A feature length film* using computer paper, the kind that had to be perforated apart, wrapped like scroll paper with two paper towel rolls and displayed in a cereal box.

*Things feel like forever when you’re young.

 You are both a fine artist and a commercial one. How do both practices influence each other?

One cannot exist without the other. Only recently did I realize that I am more of an installation artist than a printmaker. I am not trying to create a single piece or print. It’s a collection for an environment and for a thought I am processing. After a show, selling a sculptural woodcut print in my online shop supports my job as an artist. A “kickfinisher,” if you will (Kickstarter joke). Having a direct relationship with customers means a lot to me as I learn a backstory to what the work means to them or how it makes them feel. It’s a whole beautiful give-and-receive.

What are you currently working on, and why?

I’m at the tail(feather) end of The Murmurmotion Project. Last year I couldn’t find a venue to do an install, so I made space on the internet with a stop-motion video of the European Starling’s formative flight. I connected their smoke-like abstract movement to how my depression feels. Studying murmuration videos showed me the beauty in what feels strange and seemingly chaotic if you just watch it. Little did I know that this project would result into four installs, publishing a personal essay and bonding with numerous friends and strangers about the very human desperate feeling. I say I am at the end of the project because I only have a few sets left, which means the funding is coming to a close. However, my depression will continue to be worked on through this new understanding of watching it; admiring it.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

A very enthusiastic YES. Many. I literally don’t know where to begin to tell you or with them in general.

What’s next?

Hopefully one of those long overdue dream projects involving hands and the imagination. Otherwise known as sign language. My mother is deaf and ASL is actually my first language. This project is a way to communicate and show the words I hear and see.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

You’re going to learn a lot from each project, whether it’s technique or meaning. So what the hell are you waiting for?

How can people find you?

Web: www.nicannettemiller.com

Shop: nicannettemiller.bigcartel.com

Instagram: @nicamiller

Twitter: @nicamiller

Facebook: www.facebook.com/NicAnnetteMillerStudio

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Valori Wells

Valori Wells is a printmaker, photographer, a professional quilter, a fabric and pattern designer, and the co-owner of The Stitchin’ Post in Sisters, Oregon. Trained as a photographer, Valori experimented with printmaking while she attended Pacific Northwest College of Art, and eventually made her way into the world of surface design (in addition to everything else she does!).

JH: When kids say that they want to be artists, most grownups assume that they want to become painters or illustrators (or, occasionally, sculptors) – but never printmakers. How did you find your way into this medium? What other media do you work in?

VW: I have always loved to take photos and that was my dream since I was 13 and took my first photography class. The college I attended didn’t have a lot of electives for photography but had an AMAZING printmaking department. I fell in love with printmaking my first year of college and continued to study through out the four years.

How would you describe your work?

I work from my heart and am constantly inspired by my kids and their love of life. My work is playful and layered with colors and textures. I feel like my work is ever changing and evolving.

 

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

Gosh that is hard because I grew up in a very creative household. I think the first thing I remember making was a quilt with my mom, probably for a doll or my cat.

You are both a fine artist and a commercial one. How do both practices influence each other?

They are interchangeable in how they influence one another….. there are times that I find myself creating just to create and then it evolves into a fabric collection or vise versa. When I am creating to just create I am still working with fabric, printing, and sewing all of those are also linked to my job as a fabric designer.

What are you currently working on, and why?

I am working on a series of quilts for a show in July. I haven’t worked on a project like this before so it is very exciting and energizing. I am also designing my 40th collection of fabric to be released the spring of 2018 which will be my 20th anniversary of designing fabric. It is very exciting and I am still pinching myself that I have been doing this for 20 years.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

My dream projects involve sharing my love of printmaking through artist retreats all over the world.

What’s next?

I am dreaming and growing as an artist everyday and I feel like the possibilities of what is next are endless. I am open to new adventures and projects that continue to inspire me and push me as an artist.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Experiment, experiment, experiment, fail and grow. Never be afraid of what can happen next. Take chances and push your creativity.

How can people find you? (website, shop, Instagram, Facebook page, Twitter, etc.)

Website: www.valoriwells.com

Instagram: @valoriwells

Twitter: @valoriwells

Facebook: Valori Wells Designs Page