52 Weeks of Printmakers: Sarah Alves

Because a lot of printmaking equipment (exposure units, large presses, wash out stations) is large and expensive, a lot of us have to work in shared printmaking studios at least part of the time. And one of the best things about working at the shared printmaking studio is getting to meet other printmakers and check out their work.

Sarah Alves (of Little by Little Things) is one of the printmakers I’ve met recently, and I was drawn to her bright, textured work (plus she’s just a lovely person). Originally from Brazil, Sarah has lived all over the world, and is currently settled in San Francisco. If you’re in the Bay Area, she’ll be exhibiting at this weekend’s Renegade Craft Fair, so stop by to see her work in person!

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 went to university in London and I studied something called Design for Moving Image, which was a cross between Graphic Design and Animation. I got to try my hand at all sorts of things but had the most fun with illustration, model making and stop motion.

It has been quite a long journey through circus, music, fashion, stop motion, photography, calligraphy… the list could go on. I think print making found me in the end. I love colour and texture and patterns and it gives me another outlet to explore new ideas and keep learning.

How would you describe your work?

That’s a difficult one, but I think “playful” would do it. I’d probably describe myself the same way actually. I like to try and have fun with my work and I’m often suspicious of people that take themselves too seriously.

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

I don’t remember ever not making things but I think this has a lot to do with where and when I grew up. In the mid 80’s Brazil was a young democracy coming out of just over 2 decades of dictatorship – you just had to make do and be resourceful. I remember making clothes for my toys, board games, origami animals and even making our Christmas tree out of bits I found in the house. We didn’t have too many Pine trees in the tropics then.

Is there a ritual or activity that is crucial to your practice? (For example, I have to go on a long walk every day – it’s where I solve most of my problems!)

Definitely, I’m an animal of routine after all. Although the rituals have changed over the years.

In London my 30min bike ride to work really helped me clear my head feel connected to the city. For the dark Finnish winters in Helsinki I had a wonderfully cheesy Motown playlist to wake up in the mornings and start the day. Nowadays here in San Francisco a nice cup of coffee with our cat on my lap and the BBC world service playing will do me just fine.

What are you currently working on, and why?

Right now I’m busy getting ready for the Renegade Craft Fair here in San Francisco. But I’m always thinking of new illustrations and patterns and I’m filling up my sketchbooks like never before.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

I probably have too many really. I’d love to collaborate with brands like Marimekko and Hay, on any project really :) I also dream of running my own creative space one day. Where people from different creative disciplines can work and teach, and show and sell their work. And anything that give me the excuse to have a nice, big, ever-changing window display… one day…

What’s next?

London is next. I was enormously flattered to be invited to show my work at this years London Design Fair in September. It is an event I have visited many times and it will be wonderful to be a part of it.

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

Have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously and work hard.

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

That if it wasn’t clear – I absolutely love what I do and that surrounding myself with wonderful, encouraging and supportive people makes me a better person and makes my work better too.

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

Website: https://www.littlebylittlethings.com

Instagram: @littlebylittle_things

 

 

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Veronica Corzo-Duchardt

Photograph by Anjali Pinto

Veronica Corzo-Duchardt is a Cuban-American artist, designer, and printmaker based in Philadelphia. Fascinated by traces of history embedded in the objects we use, collect and leave behind, her practice is rooted in memory, heritage, and material culture. She creates screenprints that are both textured and minimal, and has collaborated with companies such as CB2 and Addidas. You can see more of her work on Instagram and her 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 found my way to printmaking while in grad school. It seemed like a very tactile way to get my ideas across in a language I already understood from working as a graphic designer. I loved both the sense of play and precision in printmaking. That and I loved getting off the computer and getting my hands dirty.

How would you describe your work?

My work is abstract, textural and minimal. It engages with cultural identity, memory, and history contained within the everyday objects and materials that surround us.

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

I screenprinted the back of two photographs of my great grandparents. I loved seeing the marks of time and their handwriting translated to ink on paper. 

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

My fine art practice and is always informing my design practice and vs. versa. My design work is very expressive and I think my printmaking has a graphic sensibility.

What are you currently working on, and why?

I’m working on a new body of work right. Which I’m super excited about. These pieces are original works on paper created with coffee grounds, spray paint and screenprint. I’ve been using sugar and coffee as materials in my work for a few years as a way to engage with my Cuban identity and my relationship with Cuba. This new work brings together a lot of the ideas I’ve been investigating for a while.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

I’d love to work with a hotel to create the artwork for their interiors.  I’m really excited by the idea of creating a sense of place that’s both familiar yet a bit strange. I think a hotel is a perfect playground for that. Everything from in-room original works, wallpaper, and textiles.

What’s next?

I’m planning on pushing this body of work further not just through prints, but I’m interested in incorporating sounds as part of the sensory experience as well. I’m taking a Sounds Ethnographies workshop at Union Docs in Brooklyn at the end of the month and I’m really excited to see where that takes the work.

So my next goal is to exhibit this work in a way that incorporates prints, objects, photography, and sound. 

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

Keep practicing, the more you print the better you will get. It sounds like simple advice but I do think that you can only get good at something by continuing to push through it. 

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

It really does look better in person. I know every artist says that but I’m a sucker for the subtlety in colors and how I overlay textures, unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate on screen in the best way.  

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

Instagram: @winterbureau   (Where you will find my most updated work!)

Twitter @winterbureau

Websites: winterbureau.com and veronicacorzoduchardt.com

52 Weeks of Printmakers: Arsenal Handicraft

This week, I’m introducing you toe Christina and Dennis Jacobs, the husband and wife duo behind Arsenal Handicraft. Working out of their home studio in the Detroit area, Christina and Dennis agonize over every tiny detail, illustrating and screen printing each piece from beginning to end.

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?

AH: In college, Dennis was collecting screen printed posters, especially Shepard Fairey’s. He started to experiment with making his own artwork, mostly with stencils and spray paint, and was part of a few gallery shows in Detroit. He learned to screen print as a way to work faster – cutting stencils was time consuming.  It also allowed him to make multiples of the same image.  Once we had a small print studio set up, we sought out opportunities to make gig posters for bands. We also bought a couple of small printing presses and a little collection of lead and wood type. However, we stick mostly to screen printing these days.

How would you describe your work?

Our screen printed illustrations hopefully tell a story or evoke some kind of feeling. One of the best things we ever overheard about our work was said by a mom holding a toddler and looking at one of our prints. The mom wanted to buy it for his room, and the kid asked, “Why?” She said, “Because I think when you look at it, you can imagine things happening in it.”

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

The first thing we made together was our wedding invitations in 2009. They were on boring white paper with navy blue ink that printed almost black. We used a delicate script font that was impossible for us to burn correctly with our setup, which was a shop light from Home Depot hanging over a piece of black fabric on the basement floor. To this day, we still try to push the limits of our printmaking abilities with everything we make. 8 years in, we’re still finding ways to screw things up and learn from our mistakes.

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

When getting started seems impossible, we force ourselves to work for just 10 minutes even if we don’t feel like it. After that, if we still want to quit, it’s okay, but we usually get in a groove before then. Before getting to work, Christina sometimes lights a stick of Japanese incense that’s supposed to enhance creativity. It forces her to sit there and work for at least as long as it’s burning so the fancy incense doesn’t go to waste. It’s silly, but it works.

What are you currently working on, and why?

The next print on press is a cross between a mountain landscape and an infographic, and it depicts the highest peaks in the Pacific Northwest. We’re taking a trip to the Oregon coast, and doing a pop up shop at one of the places that stocks our artwork.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

Christina really wants to do a large scale piece of public art. Dennis wants to design labels for a brewery. We’d also love to do a solo gallery show.

What’s next?

We have a proposal in the works for a mural, so hopefully that pans out! We’ll also be one of the artists working on site again at Mo Pop, which is a local music festival. We’ll have a piece in a group show at a gallery in Chicago, a packaging design project, and somewhere in there, we’d like to create a new line of holiday cards for 2017. We do a lot of craft shows in the fall and winter, and we never start prepping for those early enough.

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

Work as late into the night as your youth will allow.

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

We absolutely love to talk shop. If you ever see us at a show, or want to ask a screen printing related question via email/comment, do it! Lately, we’ve been using Instagram Stories more to document our process, and sometimes, when we’re feeling brave, we’ll do a live “studio broadcast” and answer questions. We love to explain how our prints are made, as well as talk with other artists about printmaking. It’s a wonderful, generous community to be a part of.

How can people find you?

Website + shop: http://arsenalhandicraft.com/

Instagram: @arsenalhandicraft

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arsenalhandicraft

Twitter: @arsenalhcraft

52 Weeks of Printmakers: The Little Friends of Printmaking

The Little Friends of Printmaking is just one of JW and Melissa Buchanan’s many creative ventures. Artists and designers, JW and Melissa met at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where they studied Fine Arts and Art History.

But that’s a rather dry introduction for two artists who are both fun – and funny. A few years ago I saw a hilarious poster in a photo of Ink + Smog Edition’s studio. It said “Print Faster, Mother Fucker,” and I knew I had to have it. Turns out the poster was designed and printed by JW and Melissa. I think that hilarious irreverence is such a hallmark of their work (and not all of it uses cuss words), and I am, as my Grammy would have said, tickled to introduce you to their work and them here.

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?

TLFOP: Melissa is a bone-deep printmaker who made linocuts as a middle-schooler and exhibited her childhood prints at the Wisconsin State Fair. JW took a vocational silkscreen class in high school and loved it, but didn’t return to it until college. At the UW, the printmaking facilities are palatial monuments to process and detail, buzzing with energy and filled with strange characters. And so it didn’t take much convincing from Melissa to get him to switch over to printmaking from sculpture.

How would you describe your work?

Cartoon pictures for dumb babies? Couch Art for weirdos? We’re screenprinters, and the peculiarities of the silkscreen process completely inform our aesthetic. We love flat expanses of ink, overprinting and underprinting, off-register-ness, trapping that looks good, the color and texture shifts that happen when two layers of ink interact. We love thick ink that you can feel with your fingernail, and prints that consider the materiality of the paper and the ink, and prints that you can consider as a 3-D object instead of an image. And so we put all of that into our work. That all of that rigor gets applied to some dumb cartoon picture for babies is beside the point.

What’s the first thing you ever remember making?

The first thing we can remember making together was a collage that Melissa then adapted into a linocut.

In addition to your fine art work, you also design a lot of commercial, client work. Do these two distinct practices influence each other? If so, how?

It’s really impossible to keep the two practices separate, and that’s been a very helpful thing, actually. The self-initiated artwork we make has a huge influence on the direction of our commercial work, as art directors typically use our prints as suggestions for new commercial projects. So it creates a kind of self-sustaining cycle where we develop a new style (or a new set of imagery, or a new context for our work, etc.) and then we get hired to create more of it. Hopefully. Well, anyway, it’s been working thus far.

It’s hard to quantify the influence that doing commercial work has had on our prints. We know it’s forced us to become more fluent in the language of design, and to give more consideration to merchandising and the market for our own work. I hope that doesn’t sound super cynical, because we mean it in a positive way!

How do you balance your creative practice with the demands of also running a business?

First, we’ve been very, very lucky to have sort of cultivated an image as two fun and funny people who are brimming with ideas (not untrue, tbh). So, the work we get asked to do is usually pretty fun and art directors will give us a lot of room to express ourselves and indulge our silliness. We don’t find our commercial work to be a chore or something we do as a way to keep the studio lights on.

How we cultivated that image, and I guess how not be driven crazy by the rigors of running a business generally, is to do every little part of the business your own way and let each little thing be an expression of your own personality. Make it part of your practice, and the people who consume your work will get to know you better. This can only be a good thing. (Unless you have a terrible, monstrous personality, in which case go ahead and be opaque and don’t express yourself outside of your work.)

What are you currently working on, and why?

We’re working on a bunch of little things right now. A record cover, because we’re music fans and we like doing them. A Japanese scarf design, because we’re fascinated with hand-printed scarves. It’s an area of screenprinting where we feel we just know nothing. We just came back from Tokyo (for an unrelated project) and the idea that all these scarves were still being hand-printed in the traditional way just blew us away. The project just dropped into our lap, unrelated to our trip, but we’ll take it! Some commission work, which we almost never do (mostly because people blanche at the cost of producing a custom edition). This project is for some friends, including an art director we love working with.

Do you have a dream project (or two)?

We feel we ought to be doing children’s picture books, and as dreams go, it seems pretty achievable. We’re always on the treadmill of the next print, the next illustration, the next event. The idea of clearing the schedule and spending x-amount of time on a long-term project is scary to us, because it’s just not part of our process. So we need to recalibrate our brains a little.

What’s next?

Summer art fairs are coming up, and then the fall fairs and the winter fairs after that. In between, we’ll be printing new editions and making new pins & patches and trying out new product ideas and doing illustration work. Repeat ad infinitum.

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

Take it easy and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. We spent that time of our lives feeling so impatient and anxious, which definitely fueled our productivity, but also took such a personal toll on us. This is a special time, and you’re lucky to have it, because no one expects anything of you yet. And so you have all of this time to explore new ideas and new processes and figure out what your practice is going to be like. Have fun.

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

It probably hasn’t come across in this interview, but we are two deeply unserious people. We like fun. FUN IS GOOD! We have a cat and a dog, and they will vouch for our character. Moving to California changed our lives, mostly for the better.

How can people find you?

Our shop is at thelittlefriendsofprintmaking.com/oops, and our IG handle is @littlefriendsof. For everything else, just use Google.