If y’all recall, over the past few weeks I’ve been exploring friends’ at-home printshop/studio spaces across the country! We’ve already seen the fascinating spaces of Hope Amico in California and Ann Flowers-Gosser in Illinois, as well as the beginnings of my own printing space in my very own tiny apartment kitchen!
Today we’ll be looking at The Little Blue Chair Press, owned and operated by Hope C. Johnson! Hope and I were students together at Louisiana State University, where she earned her BFA in Graphic Design and Printmaking. She and her friend TahJah Krauss were always lighting up the printshop with their fantastic smiles, winning personalities, dedicated work ethic and serious printmaking skills! They lifted my spirits and provided a welcome break from some of the riff-raff that would infect the printmaking studio at LSU at all hours of the day and night.
Since graduation, Hope’s been keeping very busy! She’s married with a beautiful little one and a thriving letterpress business based out of her own home! How she manages all of that with a smile, I’ll never know, but I email interviewed her to find a little more out about her daily life and arts practice at The Little Blue Chair.
Hope shares with us here her love of life, family and printmaking as well as her appreciation for a daily schedule and living every moment to its fullest! So, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this peek into Hope’s home printshop!
1. So, it’s been a long time since we’ve talked! You’re gradumawated now! And you have a hubby and an adorable little one! How do you have any time to work?!?
Time to work. Before I was a Mama, it was just my husband and me, both in school, both living off of whatever crakers we had in our booksacks, etc. Getting home for 7:00-8:00pm was a good day. Finishing the day’s work and prepping for the next day by midnight was normal. I was never used to looking at the clock.
Even during school, I had three printimaking courses back to back in the same lab, with the open lab to follow. So, I worked as much as I could, ate when I was hungry, went home when I was sleepy (or couldn’t take it anymore). With a bebe, the biggest difference is EVERYTHING being on the clock. I was never much of a scheudled person, but too many moms and happy babies conveninced me that schedules were the way to go. …especially when compared to the moms and babies who are not on a schedule.
So, with a little training (for the baby and myself), Finn wakes around 8:30, naps from 11:00-1:00 and again from 3:00-5:00. He goes to sleep at 7:30. HE IS A WONDERFUL SLEEPER. I honestly think I just have the best baby. I know we worked towards getting him on his little routine of sleeping through the night and being a happy nap taker, but seriously. He’s amazing. The pregnancy and labor and everything was just amazing.
So, with his schedule in place, for a printing day, I prep everything I can before he wakes up and when he’s awake. He entertains himself pretty easily. When he naps, I turn a box fan on high to buffer out any noise, and I get to printing. I’ve learned based on the job, that I can get out about 200-300 runs per naptime.
Once a week, I have a baby sitter that allows me to focus fully on the creative end of printing, the sketching, the designing…. printing with one eye open is easy, the dreaming is not. I HAVE to allow myself to have a creative outlet. Sometimes, it’s just sitting outside and thinking about the things I want to do! It’s definitely an adjustment, but I seem to be managing. I can’t wait to teach him how to print!! He’s heard those “clunk clunk” sounds of my press from the womb, so he ought to be used to the smells, noise, and all the goodness!!
2. What kind of projects do you take on for your studio? Do you normally take on commission work from specific clients? Or do you create lines of products that you sell to the public?
Both, but nothing too large, yet. I generally do custom work for clients. Most of my clients hear about me from Pinterest or blogging or internet searches. I do have an etsy shop I started up a few months ago. I’ve done decent with it, but definitely plan and hope to grow.
3. How do you feel about the art/craft divide? Do you get to make much “art for art’s sake”? Or do you feel it’s all one and the same?
Well, my husband is building me a studio attached to our garage. Once that’s in place, I definitely will be inspired to do more art for arts sake. I had more time before baby to do more art for arts sake, lots of it for his room. I’ll be setting up a place for silk screen. I want to do more relief printing. Honestly, it’s the space that’s stopping me at this point. So as long as I continue to annoy my husband until he builds, the sooner the studio will be there! =)))
4. What’s a typical day in the life of Hope like?
HAHA. I did a stop motion film project for a graphic design class “the day in the life of Hope.” I’m usually up by 6:00, well awake. I like to sit for 30 minutes. The husband knows not to talk to me for at least a half hour. He’s usually gone to work by 6:30. I do a few house wife work…dishes, laundry, start dinner (crock pots are the best).
By 8:30, I’m ready for the day, started and/or prepped for any printing or designing. I’m then greeting by a sweet smile, who is also ready for the day! It takes a good 45 minutes to feed him between a bottle and fruits. He loves fruits and veggies now!!
Usually, it’s the morning time that I run any errands. …or we will entertain. I’m back by 11:00, just in time for his nap. I take advantage of his two hour nap and work as much as I can. He’s up around 1:00, feed him again. While he’s up, I’ll try to finish any house work I left out on. We are outside a lot now that it’s warming up. He loves to be outside. I can put him in his walker, he’s content. I’ll sit there and draw, etc.
Nap at 3:00 …working and/or cooking and/or any type of productivity. He wakes at 5:00. Michael’s usually home by this time.
On Monday & Wednesdays, I have a bootcamp class. I worked out a good bit before pregnancy, so I’m getting back in the game. Finn loves bathtime. He’s asleep by 7:30 to 8:00.
Then Michael and I continue to catch up, talk about Finn, our days, etc. Sleepy time! Then the next day begins. It sounds so regimented, and it is, but I feel very much exactly where I need to be!!
5. What kind of equipment/supplies do you have in your studio? What else ya got in there? Snacks? Glitter?
My studio, currently, is COMPLETELY packed with all kinds of goodness. There’s no telling what I’ll find in there once I move out to my backyard studio. I have old arts & crafts I put together when I was 10 years old! I have a corkwall of projects from school, letterpress samples, art…art exchanges.I have a pie safe full of paper, envelopes, and inventory items. I have a shelf full of ink and tools for my press. Currently, I just have a tabletop C&P Pilot press. I recently purchased a tabletop stack cutter. It’s no Guilletine cutter, but it works pretty great! I would LOVEEE to find a C&P Old Style Press. I have some silk screen supplies, just no dark room. …ONE DAY.
6. What/Who would you say is your biggest inspiration on your work today?
Well, actually, my brother is probably the biggest inspiration. ….among others. My brother was killed in a car accident March of 2012. He was an amazing person. It’s hard to describe him without sounding so generic. He was special. He left his amazing attitude towards life within me. We were so much alike. He didn’t care about anything that didn’t matter. He only did what made him happy. Right now, what makes me happy is my family and making art. So I’m just going to do that. Sounds so cliche to say life’s too short… But from a much broader perspective, it only makes sense to do things that make your soul sound. So if it makes you happy, you be happy.
Thanks, Hope, for sharing you studio life, space and experiences with us! You are surely an inspiration to working artist-mommies everywhere!
You can see more of Hope’s work on her website, The Little Blue Chair, and in her Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/THElittleBLUECHAIR.
She also has a Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LETTERPRESSANDSUCH.