Monday, June 16, 2008

Etsy Printmaker Interview: Leanne Graeff

Interviewed by: VIZart

Leanne Graeff


Current Exhibit hanging at The Red Thread Studio

Brief Bio
Current Life: I live in upper Bucks County PA - with my husband and two lovely children (4 and 5). I split my time between; "mom chores", interior design work ( for my husband's business - he has his own architecture firm) , and my love of printmaking and other artist endeavors.

Old life: I worked for 10 years in NYC in product development and textile design for a number of companies - including Tommy Hilfiger and The Museum of Modern Art. Traveled tons - and had an all around fabulous time meeting other designers and artists.

How did you get started in printmaking?
I went to RISD for my masters in textile design back in the early 90's. That is where I fell in love with printing. It was like a whole world of expression opened up for me . I love the smell of the pigments and how they are like cake batter when you mix them up. I love experimenting with a screen in many ways - layering transparencies etc.

I did a lot of textile printing before I had kids - then it pretty much stopped - due to.....well you know time constraints, space constraints. My image of just putting the baby in a sling on my back - and continuing to print was not realistic...

I had sort of given up even trying - and then I found Etsy. Wow - what another life changing - attitude changing event. Everyone was doing something - all different types of artwork - crafts - it was a bit overwhelming - but I was in love instantly.

I was really inspired by the printers - both silkscreen and linoblock. The process seemed similar in nature. I thought I would try to do a few lino's to see if it would be enjoyable... and it was great. I can just whip out my blocks at the kitchen counter - and my rolling pin ( very high tech) . I would love a press - as I find I have about 15% problem prints - but my method still works.

Is lino the printmaking medium you most often work in now?
I do work in lino mostly for my Etsy shop, but I am also completing some positives to be made into silkscreens for textile prints.

Is your kitchen counter where you do most of your work?
Yes, I do all of my lino printing on my kitchen counter. The light is good - and I can usually spread out ( especially if I have done a good clean up prior). The counter is a good height for my rolling pin printing method.( I will send a photo). I use my dining room table for other layouts - and for most of my carving so I can sit down.

What is your creative process for any given print? (e.g. sketch first? pre-planned or freeform? use photos?)
I usually have a photo or image that I work with. Here is an example of a portrait photo I received. I first make a number of sketches - simplifying as I work. I then transfer the image to the block and start carving. There are always small changes during the carving as well.

What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places,events,etc.)?
The two biggest artistic influences have been Vera and Andy Warhol. When I was a girl - I always loved my Vera sheets. I had the Bamboo pattern in bright green. I loved everything I saw with her name. Andy Warhol inspired me to create repeated images in another way. Flat colors and graphic styles attract me the most. As far as subjects - I really love to capture images or scenes that have a story - either just to me - or to everyone by virtue of their age and universal quality. Showing the patina of a house through a lino print just seems natural to me.

What do you you enjoy most about printmaking?
The best part of printmaking is pulling a great print. Feeling that I have captured some essence of the original.

What is your least favorite part of the process?
The worst part is not having enough time to print and create. I have two small children and a house and other work responsibilities( why can't their just be 3 uninterruped hours in every day??). I find that I just get through some kind of breakthrough and then I'm off the project for 2 or three days. It's hard to keep momentum going.

How has your work changed and evolved since you first started?
When I first started printing my silkscreens were more photography based - and I was creating textiles. Now I still create textiles - as well as lino images - but my process is really based on the sketching and painting - instead of photography and xerox manipulation.

How do you get past creative slumps?
Um... well I feel that my slumps are not due to a lack of interest or ideas - but just the lack of time to put them to paper. It does get a bit depressing at times - but then I look at my kids faces and realize that they will only be small for a short time - and I can give up a little satisfaction in my own work for a few more years.

How do you promote your work?
A. I'm not the best at promotion- but I have a blog - I have my Moo cards... which I give out regularly... and word of mouth.

Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
1. Don't get discouraged if your first group of prints turn out terrible - your technique and they will improve. 2. Make sure you are using the proper inks - silkscreen ink will not work for lino ( I made that mistake by accident). 3. A rolling pin does work - but get a Baren as well. 4. Experiment - you may be surprised and pleased by your trials.

Thank you Leanne. It was a pleasure to interview you!


Ellen Shipley said...

Oh, oh -- can we have pictures, pretty please? 8-]

Ele said...

I love the image of ink as cake batter!

I second the motion for photos!


Ellen Shipley said...

Yay! Pictues. 8-] The houses have so much character.

susan heggestad said...

Beautiful work - great interview!

Ele said...

Thanks- so lovely with all that colour and the beautiful sketch.

Leanne Graeff said...

Thanks so much for your comments!

I posted a pic of me in the kitchen printing on my blog...

Amie Roman said...

I love the graphic quality of your work, Leanne. It seems that your interest in Warhol is well expressed in your own work. Nice house portraits!