Sunday, August 7, 2011

Interview with Mirka Hokkanen of FinnfactorArts


I was born and raised in Finland, which affects a lot of my choices for colors and themes as an artist. I moved to Rockford, Illinois in 1998 to go to college and finished school in Dallas Texas with an MFA in 2006. I have taught classes at all levels from universities to my garage and now work as a full time artist, illustrator and crafts person. My husband is in the Army, which is a challenge with constant moving around. A couple of years ago we were in Georgia, then in Dupont WA, and now we live in southwest Germany.   

Why Printmaking?

Since I could hold a crayon, I have always drawn and when I took a printmaking class my first year in college I was hooked. Making prints are like making a glorious drawing and instead of getting only one you get as many as you can bare to print. I love that more people can appreciate my work because there is more of it to go around and I can sell it more affordably than an original drawing or painting. 

What is your favorite print medium and why? 

My favorite has always been etching, I think because it is the closest to drawing and less cumbersome than lithographs. The deep blacks, variety of mark making and the ink that actually sits in relief on the paper are irresistible. Relief printing would be a close second. I like the manual work of carving into a plate. 

How long have you been printing and how has your work evolved? 

I have been printing since 1998. The main focus has always been animals and nature with very little deviation.  My work has gone through two major themes. The first series was about factory farming and its hazards to our health, the animals and our earth. Imagine lots of pictures of cows, chickens and pigs. Now I am working on a whimsical series of animals that are being displaced by sprawling suburbs.  In the series the animals are spying on us and plotting how to take their land back.  Imagine lots of woodland creatures in suspicious activities. 

What or Who influences your work? 

The variety of creatures that God has placed on this earth is astounding to me. There are so many colors, patterns, shapes and sizes out there to discover. Nature itself is my biggest inspiration. Outside of nature, Instead of a specific artist or a movement, I am drawn to subject matter. I have a box where I collect magazine clippings, cards and paraphernalia of things that spark my interest.  A lot of time it is art with animals in it, work that has very interesting lines, or earthy color combinations. Out of all artists, Joseph Cornell has always been my favorite.  I like vintage looking things that look like they are in some state or disrepair or decay. 

How do your promote your work? 

This is always a challenge with constant moving. Whenever we move, I do my best to get to know the art community. My work gets promoted in person through exhibitions that I am in and though craft fairs. Through those I get featured in newspaper articles and recently even a TV interview. Online, I have a website, blog, Etsy store, twitter and send out new and upcoming events to an email list.  Every once in a while I’ll do something else to spice things up, but so far referrals from others and word of mouth seems to work the best for me.  

Any good printing tips or funny printing stories (or both??) 

You can find lots of printing tips on my blog where I post videos and how-to’s. Something silly- I was just doing a visiting artist residency in San Antonio, and made some copper plate etchings there. They had two large vertical tanks for etching, so I went ahead business as usual and etched three plates over the course of a week. At the end of the week, I actually looked down and realized that one of the tanks was for the ferric chloride and the other one was meant to be a rinse for plates before going to the facet.  For the whole time, I had been etching my plates in the rinse bath, but apparently it was so used, that it had enough ferric in it to etch my plates just fine… I was a little embarrassed, since I was supposed to be the etching expert.  But no one noticed, since I was there by myself for most of the time.

Check out Mirka's Etsy Site and Website