Plant Study: Hoya Obovata

Family:Asclepiadaceae (ass-kle-pee-ad-AY-see-ee) 

Genus:Hoya (HOY-a) 

Species:obovata (ob-oh-VAY-tuh)

Last Fall I introduced a series of blog posts that I'm planning to share here - as I study and draw botanicals for my prints, I thought it would be fun to share some information about my favorites. First up today - the Hoya Obovata. I've started to see this plant show up in more photos here and there and wanted to know more about it. 

Why I love it: This Hoya has the most beautiful dark green leaves. They are round and just a bit speckled. It's a fairly fast growing plant and does well confined in containers - I especially love it as a hanging plant. After 2-3 years, the plant may begin to flower (see below) with sweet smelling blooms that look like tiny pink stars. 

All Hoyas are semi-succulent with thick, waxy leaves - and are sometimes known as "waxplant" or "waxflower". If you are close to my age, your mother or grandmother most likely had a Hoya in her house as you were growing up! They were very popular in the 70s.
 

What it likes: All Hoyas like bright light, but this plant is also tolerant of medium light. Hoyas also like to be misted occasionally - the humidity is similar to the native, warm, tropical environments where Hoyas are found. (Don't mist during flowering.)

What it dislikes: Over-watering; the big leaves of this plant hold a lot of water. Wait until the soil is nearly dry between waterings. Also dislikes (direct) sunny windowsills and dark corners.

Fun facts:  

  • Hoya carnosa (a related plant) has been shown in recent studies at the University of Georgia to be an excellent remover of pollutants in the indoor environment.
  • Hoyas are easy to propagate, and are commonly sold as cuttings, either rooted or unrooted.
  • The name “Hoya” honors Thomas Hoy, gardener to the Duke of Northumberland.

The hanging plant (top right) in my Window No. 1 Linocut print is inspired by the Hoya Obovata. It's a favorite! I'd love to know - do you grow any Hoyas in your home? 


Linocut Printmaking 101 :: My Process

printmakingprocess.jpg

If you were to ask ten different linocut printmakers to share their process with you, each one would give you a slightly different answer. In this post, I'll be sharing my process. The downside of being self-taught is that I don't know every technique, but the upside is that I have no rules to follow. My linocut printmaking is a departure from the classic form. I don't leave many lines (marks) around the edges of my prints, my subject matter and way of drawing don't fit in with most other printmakers, and I use soft lino for my blocks. 

When I began sharing more of my work on Instagram about a year ago, I started using the hashtag #seedrawprint because it describes the overall process by which I create my work. 

See

grape hyacinth

My work always begins by noticing. My mother who was an art teacher always said that artists are people who see - they look, notice, capture. I love to spend time outdoors and so my inspiration often comes from the flowers in my own yard, or the trees along the path where I walk, and yes, sometimes from the nature-inspired people I follow on instagram. 

Draw

notes and sketches
pencil drawings by samantha hirst

The next step in my work is to draw what I see. I most often make tiny, sketchy notes and lists of things that I am planning to draw. And then I will research and sketch a particular botanical specimen or related idea - sometimes working from a photograph I've taken and other times taking a looser approach to a subject. I use two approaches when I've finalized a drawing, before I transfer the design to my block for carving. If a drawing has thick, sketchy lines, I'll use a charcoal pencil to trace over a finished drawing. And if a drawing is more delicate I'll use tracing paper and a drawing pencil to trace. These tracings are then transferred to my lino block (I'll go over this step in more detail in a future post.).

Print

lino blocks by samantha hirst

The final step in my process is to carve the lino block and print. I use a soft material for my blocks; when I first began printmaking, I was printing on fabrics, and this soft material allowed me to carve large prints, and easily lay them down onto the fabric when printing. I've grown accustomed to this style of carving now and have continued using the same material for my prints on paper. I follow a typical relief printing approach: using ink, a brayer, a baren and printmaking paper to print by hand. I'll go through the detailed process of using a lino block to print in a future post!

linocut printmaking in progress by samantha hirst

My favorite part of the printmaking process is pulling a final print, seeing what I first noticed in nature come to life as a print on paper. Let me know if you have any questions about my printmaking process - I'm looking forward to sharing more detail next week! 

final linocut prints by samantha hirst

The Shop is Open!

What a fun day! I've been talking about opening a shop of my original linocut prints for nearly four years. The beginning is always the hardest - finalizing prints, photographing them, setting up a website. I owe my family a huge THANK YOU for putting up with me (believing in me) while I've been getting things ready here. I'm excited to share my first collection with you and am looking forward to creating new work now that things are up and running. 

I'd love to hear what you think about the first collection of prints. I'm also curious to know if there are any forgotten flowers or plants that you would love to see as a print. Let me know in the comments here, or tag a photo of a flower or plant you love on Instagram with #seedrawprint and I'll take a look! 

Next week on the blog I'll be sharing my printmaking process: See. Draw. Print. And in the weeks that follow I will go through each of those stages in more detail. Have a lovely day friends! 

Linocut Printmaking 101: My Story

linocut printmaking 101 my story

Growing up I never considered myself an artist. But looking back now I see that I was surrounded by makers and was one myself. My mother is an artist, a painter, and also spent hours making handmade dolls and other crafty things. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and entered her crocheted afghans in the county fair for years. I even remember my grandfather, who was a lovable but ornery bear of a man, once sitting and making a giant latch hook of a native american chief. I spent my free time doing cross stitch, latch hook, and baking. When I took art in high school and college, my teachers told me that I should be an art major, but I thought nothing of it. I was a math and science geek! Numbers, spreadsheets and todo lists were a few of my favorite things. 

vegetable garden

In 2007, I had two small children at home, a part-time (numbers) job, and kept myself busy with projects - painting rooms in the house, gardening, baking and sometimes doing a bit of an art project. I first noticed the art of block printing when I saw the gorgeous wallpaper designs of Galbraith and Paul in a magazine. I picked up a beginner set of carving tools and lino and made cards for my family. I found that carving lino blocks in the evenings after my kids were tucked into bed was a great way to relax; the work of carving things away is almost meditative. I soon began to print more than I could keep and began to sell my work.

linocut printed goods by samantha hirst

My first collection of items for sale was small and simple: tea towels, Inky (a sachet for stinky sock drawers), rice pillows for sore muscles. The prints I carved were inspired by the flowers and plants in my yard, and the items I made were things I wanted and could use at home. The sparks of ideas I had were just enough to get my work featured on some big-name blogs - Design*Sponge, Sfgirlbybay, Swiss Miss, back in the days when a simple email and not-too-terrible photos were enough to get noticed on the internet. Over time I grew my collection, and sold my work at Renegade craft fair, which led to wholesale orders from small boutiques around the country, and I got busy!

hand printed growth chart by samantha hirst

When I created a simple, modern growth chart, I had no idea how many of them I would end up sewing and it still puts a giant smile on my face to think of the kids growing up around the world keeping track of their years with my work. By 2013 I had calluses on my hands from all of the places where my sewing scissors touched them, and I'd become much more a seamstress than a printmaker. It was time for me to slow down. I decided to refocus on the art of printmaking, and since then have been developing my skills as a linocut printmaker.

maidenhair fern linocut print by samantha hirst

My work now is inspired by the things I see - mostly botanicals, but also the occasional everyday object. I am a self-taught printmaker which brings with it a certain amount of freedom from expectations. My linocuts tend to be more modern and clean than other work I see, with my inspiration coming from line drawing and illustration, rather than historical printmaking. The process of trying new ideas, failing, and then trying again can be long but is ultimately rewarding (and fun!). Beginning or ending my days carving a lino block or testing a new block with ink and paper is a calm, slow space in my day, and I'm excited to share that process with you. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing much more about my specific printmaking process. Whether you are curious about my work, or are interested in learning more so that you can make your own prints, I will be glad to see you here! 

Plant Study

For two years in college, I was a science major. And while I loved nearly every single class I took in the sciences, there was one that nearly put me to sleep each week during class: Botany. Please don't be offended dear botanists! I find it funny that now, many (wow - so many!) years later, it is botanicals that most often inspire my artwork. I've decided to revisit the science of Botany here on my blog - spending a bit of time studying each plant that I draw. Botanist + Artist

This should be fun! 

P.S. - I am starting to pull final prints from my new linocut print collection and will be adding them to the shop soon. Follow me on instagram to find out when my shop opens!

Stand Out Quietly

samantha hirst favicon

I was recently updating my website with new fonts, colors, etc. and as I was putting things together I created the favicon you see above, which is made from my initials (obviously). The only little hiccup is that my initials spell shhhh (be quiet).

I tried out a few other ideas and kept coming back to the use of my initials; the simplicity of this choice appealed to me. And then I remembered one of my favorite pieces of press, from my days as Inklore:

she stands out in the best way... she stands out quietly... you can see the time, heart, and thoughtfulness sam puts into each and every one of her inklore pieces (Mrs. French, Bliss)

I loved this idea of standing out quietly then, and I still do. My work, like the natural or useful items that inspire it, is meant to be quiet... peaceful, calm, still. Yes. And so, if you want to remember me and my work as being quiet, that is just fine with me.

PS - another post I shared last year about Quiet

(Im)Perfection

branches linocut test print by samantha hirst

Lately I've been doing lots of test prints - testing out inks and papers, blocks old and new, taking time with registration (or not), and making prints without a plan. 

These test prints are all interesting in their way, showing me what works well and what doesn't; proving out some ideas and tossing others away. Some are beautiful, others less so, but what they all have in common are imperfections - small places where the block picks up ink that wasn't intended, areas where the ink wasn't transferred to the paper, strange registrations, etc. And yet, I like these. I'm finding beauty in these imperfections.

The branches print above is from a drawing of real branches from a tree in our old backyard, and when I first printed it, I wanted to redraw it - make the branches fill in the empty spaces, or make things just ever so more perfect. And then I remembered this quote about Wabi-Sabi which I recently saved from Darling:

"Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional." (Leonard Koren in Wabi-Sabit for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers)

And so I will leave this print as it is - trusting that the small imperfections I see are the very things that make it beautiful. 

Scribbles

Hello there! I've been taking time in the evenings to sketch and test out some new ideas. The cactus print above is from a quick sketch of an idea; I quite like this one, and want to pull a real print to see what it looks like in a frame. As I was carving this one, my daughter asked if she could try carving a block. Of course! She drew the phone you see - I told her there were some bits that would be tricky for a first block, but she is fearless as an artist and went for it. Pretty fantastic for a first print I think! 

The floral block on the right is from the spark of an idea I've had to carve linocut tiles. We'll see - I'm on the fence about this one, but it's fun to play with the idea. 

When I walk in the morning, I like to listen to podcasts and this week I listened to a Pencil vs Pixel podcast with Marc Johns. I'm a fan of Marc's work, and the podcast is definitely worth a listen! A few favorite lines from Marc:

I love the organic quality of a good line and I'm kind of obsessed with good lines. 
Scribbles. I love a really good scribble, you know?
Whether it’s my kid or Jackson Pollock, there’s something beautiful about that and you can’t replicate that. I think everybody has a beautiful scribble. 

Yes, here's to beautiful scribbles! I'll be scribbling away on Instagram this week - I'd love to see your beautiful scribbles too.