Monday, May 19, 2008

Etsy Printmaker Interview: Bird Nerd

Chelsea Groves

Website and

Brief Bio
I'm 26 years old and married to a software engineer. We've lived in the San Francisco bay area for a little over a year, but I am originally from South Carolina. We have a dog named Delilah, who is my constant companion during the day.

What printmaking medium do you most often work in?
Linocut block prints

How did you get started in printmaking?
I learned linocut printmaking in high school, starting in the 10th grade and learned more in the 12th grade.

I noticed that from your website that you do art full time. How did you make the decision to become a full-time artist?
I was working as a graphic designer part-time when I began making art for fun. I felt I had to constantly curb and compromise my creativity in my job, and I wanted to make something just for me, something that wasn't on a computer screen, that I could actually hold in my hands. I decided to try selling my creations and it worked out much better than I had hoped. I began making more and more art, and it consumed most of my time. At that point, I was going to my graphic design job only when I was absolutely needed for projects. My husband got a new job in San Francisco, which took me away from graphic design for good. I've been making art full-time since March of 2007.

Describe where you work.
I work in my home in the room which is technically our den. It's one of the largest rooms in the house and has the most windows. It has two desks, one for art, and one for computing. The computer desk also has a sewing machine underneath, which I can pull up when I need it. I tend not to sit at desks, so I also have a daybed in the room, which I sit/lay on while I draw and paint. My prints are made on my dining room table, which is in the adjacent room.

What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I sketch first, then make a clean, finalized drawing. I then take the drawing and transfer it to my block using contact paper. My prints tend to be very graphic and with clean, bold lines, so I plan it all carefully before I begin carving the linoleum.

What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I'm not sure exactly what it is about it, but I remember being thrilled after making my first print. In an age where everything is digital and made perfectly by machines, it is so refreshing it carve something with your hands and be able to produce an image. No two prints are exactly alike, and it can be fun to see the small variations.

What's your least favorite part of the process?
When I put too much ink on a block and the print comes out blurry and I have to just sigh and put it in the trash. I guess I don't like the fact that once I've made a mistake, there's nothing I can do to fix it.

What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
I am mainly inspired by art nouveau and Japanese design. Nature is also HUGE for me. I see certain flowers, leaves, or forms in my everyday life and feel compelled to make a print.

How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I used to make more multi-layer prints, but now I prefer the simplicity of single-layer prints. I think I used to think that if something was more complicated and more difficult to make, it automatically made it better. I have definitely learned that this is not the case.

I've also learned chine-colle, which I've just started to incorporate in my work and look forward to doing more. The most recent thing I've learned is screen-printing, which I use to print on fabric and make bird stuffies and sachets.

How do you get past creative slumps?
I don't really have slumps. Sometimes I find that I have too many ideas floating in my head and I feel like I can't execute them the way I want to, which can be really frustrating. In those instances, I force myself to take a break for a few days. When I return to my work, I am usually more clear-headed and can make things the way I want to.

How do you promote your work?
I don't do very much for promotion. I am on a few sites like Flickr, Indiepublic, and Trunkt. I try to list something on Etsy every day to keep my visibility up.

Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
My advice is to learn one printmaking technique thoroughly first, and then to move onto other areas you are interested in. There are so many different printing techniques that I think it can be a little confusing or discouraging to try to tackle it all. Once I felt I'd mastered linocut printing, I felt confident to move to screen-printing because I had a good grasp on the basics and what I was trying to accomplish.

Thanks to Chelsea for sharing her life as an artist. It was a pleasure to interview her.

6 comments: said...

Great interview, and wonderful artist. Love the photos, love the art.

minouette said...

Lovely photos! Thanks for another interesting interview.

artslice said...

Thank you for that interview! I love the studio space and the bird sachets, what a nice idea.


mizu designs said...

really really inspiring - thank you!

Unknown said...

Love how you interpret your subject matter, Chelsea, and what a creative use of prints! Great interview!

barbara@sparrowavenue said...

what an inspiring interview. I love your birds and leaves.