Artist of the Month: Leni Fried October 10 2014

It's been a while since we last interviewed an Artist of the Month, as we had a busy summer gearing up for shows, like this one. We have also been working on this shop, which is very exciting. Alas, no excuses, and we have a very special interview with Ms. Leni Fried, who we have visited before, in her inspiring studio in beautiful western Massachusetts in the Berkshires. Leni is a printmaker, and has been teaching mostly monoprint and collograph for over 3o years. She has elevated our questions into a conversation all of her own. We let her have free reign as she had much to share and much to say:

Mission Statement

Art has no one mission statement as what drives me for producing a piece of art is always in flux. After our government's violent response to the terrorists events of September 11, 2001, I was so upset, I could not make any art for 3 months. My artwork became intensely political once I emerged. The piece below is called, 'The people say no to war propaganda'.
lenifried,statue of liberty,9.11,print
When I saw our governments response to Hurricane Katrina I began a series of linocuts. The one below is called 'The Faces of Katrina.'
and this one 'Abandoned'.
I was amazed to discover that the artwork of many of my artist friends did not seem to be affected by current events. For me art is a barometer of our time and has the potential to create powerful changes.


My favorite artists have varied tremendously throughout my life depending on what subject matter and technique I am working with in my own work. When I lived in the city I was very attracted to Romare Bearden's work. The flatness of his imagery and stark use of color and of course the power and poetry in his work still moves me tremendously. You probably can see by looking at this detail of his famous piece called 'The Block' how he influenced the cityscapes I was doing at the time.
Most of the greatest artists are the ones who are not in museums. Museums recycle the same artists in a continuous loop.
Of the famous artists I have been influenced by the Matisse cutouts, Hundertwasser, Paul Klee, Munch and others. Less famous ones, such as Bread and Puppet theater, my friend Helio, Bob Blackburn, Mary Teichman, Sarah Sears and many more I've met along the way will probably never be celebrated in the more public sense. They have inspired me the most.
artist in holyoke, Leni Fried, prinmaking
'Artist in Holyoke by Leni Fried' Right now I am in love with Asian art. I never expected to do landscapes and in my 30's I often mocked landscapes in terms of having very little to say. Placid exercises in realism... But now I have been doing a series of tree prints especially winter imagery. This work is influenced by Hokusai and other great Japanese printmakers. Here is one of the winter tree prints called 'Skyward'.
As far as papers go I have always loved paper which is one of the reasons I love printmaking. I buy paper from all sources. What I love most about Paper Connection is that Lauren shares my love of paper as well. I am working on a series of scrolls which are imported from Beijing. They are blank and I print on the thinner papers from Paper Connection and adhere them to the scrolls. Almost any thin paper you (Paper Connection) carries will work for this. My favorites are in the HK series, that are very smooth and some that have a browner tone. I use lightweight Kozo (#M-0207-2) for my classes because it is inexpensive and prints consistently.
scroll, leni fried,print, kozo, kouzo, A scroll by Leni Fried, printed on Kozo (PCI code number M-0202).
Paper Connection's papers are useful for hand printing because they are thin and the surface is very sensitive.

New Work

Here's a peek at the new series using vintage Japanese red kozo paper. These chickadee prints are made using one plate made from mylar. The mylar is double thickness and linear elements are added using a stencil burner that melts and abrades the surface. There is a rainbow roll with oil based inks on the background. The chickadee is inked with black like an etching and then the rest of the colors are handpainted. They are monoprints because of the hand painting and that the positioning on the plexi background plate will vary from one print to the next. The other chickadee prints are done similarly. Some are mounted in the Chinese wall scrolls and the thin Japanese paper is from Paper Connection. Learn more here.
Leni Fried printing on red Kozo, Paper Connection International Two chickadees on red Kozo
Chickadees on thin Kozo from Paper Connection International Chickadees on lightweight Kozo.

Painting But Not On Paper

Besides printmaking, I have done quite a few bicycle paint jobs throughout my life. They are hand painted and quite complex. This one involves anodizing titanium and is a memorial to my customer's golden retriever! So here's a picture of one of the bikes even though this is not paper related. This was a client from Hawaii. Anela means angel. Kauai is the island he lives on."

Where To Find Leni

These and other prints can be found on Leni's Etsy shop! She also conducts workshops, which are very one on one. Monoprint, collograph, and some hand printing techniques are taught. She will start a class anytime with 4 people. Leni is also having two open studios this Fall season. Her studio is also open by appointment. Here are some other community events she is participating in: The Bagshare Project Arts & Industry Open Studios, in Florence, MA, November 8th & 9th, 2014 Her studio i Check out her calendar here.
studio6 Leni's studio
To catch up with Leni and all her works, please visit her following websites: Thanks, Leni, for sharing all your insight into your art, and your support of real fine art paper!

Mokuhanga Back in the Limelight. A paper vendor's view. October 07 2014

What is "mokuhanga"? The Japanese woodblock print or mokuhanga, is a precise, multi-step printmaking technique, using water-based pigments applied with brushes, not rollers. The latter may give you some of idea of how mokuhanga differs from the western woodcut print. The paper (usually washi) is moistened, laid on block and a baren is used to rub back side of paper. This multiple-colored block print form became popular during the Edo period (1603-1867). Many of the old techniques are still followed. What has mostly changed is the growing awareness and broad spectrum of artists who are adopting their individual styles and at the same time, spreading the word about the unique process of mokuhanga.
baren, mokuhanga, printmaking Barens and Brushes
Special veneer woodblocks Special veneer woodblocks
At the beginning of my career involving Japanese arts and crafts, I was privileged to curate a collection of "ukiyo-e" prints. The term ukiyo-e translates as Images of the Floating World. The masters of ukiyo-e laid down the base and framework for contemporary woodblock prints.
Here HOKUSAI's The Great Wave off Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty–Six Views of Mount Fuji) is shown printed on various washi with sizing and without; a research chart presented by Awagami Factory at Tokyo University for the Arts using Japanese paper from different parts of Japan and different sizing recipes. I thought this was a brilliant depiction of how different papers yield different results for the same print.
Hokusai, wave, ukiyo-e,taganoura Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa
KUNIYOSHI's prints of anthropomorphized animals, show just how colorful and how may colors applied in these mokuhanga from 150 or years ago.
Kuniyoshi, animals Kuniyoshi's One Hundred Horrible Stories
I learned a few important facts about mokuhanga, even in just preparing for our booth for the 2nd International Mokuhanga Conference, (now the 2nd one), hosted by Tokyo University for the Arts, September 10-14, 2014.
Paper Connection, mokuhanga, washi, printmaking Our booth
I learned what type of paper is in demand in the West, where mokuhanga seems to be more popular than it is in Japan and that the papers used primarily by artists in the West are much thicker than what the ukiyo-e artists used. Paper Connection created this special swatch portfolio just for the conference. We included 11 different papers, with a few surprise papers made from alternative fibers, and with unusual sizing.
mokuhanga papers, sized kouzo, kozo, Paper Connection's Mokuhanga Swatch Portfolio
What a joy it was to meet so many talented printmakers from all over the globe and learn from them directly; discussing their criteria for papers for their artwork. Saw some old friends like Larry Pinto, Marjorie Tomchuk, Michael Durgin and met some lovely new friends like Mia O, Carla Salem, and Claire Cuccio. As within any discipline of art, the desired paper and its use, is as unique as the individual using it. From the paper seller's view, Paper Connection welcomes any and all queries, as this only helps us become better at what we do. In addition to the IMC 's mission; to reinstate the integrity of mokuhanga; in effect, bring it back to the limelight, MI-LAB Art Residency Program forged by Ms. Keiko Kadota has provided a place for artists from all parts of the world to collaborate and learn about mokuhanga in depth. I had the pleasure of meeting and also hearing a talk by Elspeth Lamb, author of Papermaking for Printmakers, and who is on the Board of Glasgow Print Studio.
The Pool, by Elspeth Lamb The Pool, by Elspeth Lamb
I strive to incorporate informative material before starting a new creative project, even before buying new papers for Paper Connection. For example, I learned about Mr. Akira Kurosaki use of hanji: Korean mulberry paper for his prints, thanks to mokuhanga expert April Vollmer's interesting article on the process in Art In Print:
April is currently working on her soon-to-be published book, called the Japanese Woodblock Workshop. Please peruse through a few of the prints I saw during the conference. Printmaker, Ms. Yoonmi Nam, who teaches at the University of Kansas, wrote an excellent summary of the conference and posted it in Printeresting. Click links to read and see her super photos of the art and the artists at the conference.
mokuhanga, shoji miyamoto
mokuhanga, woodblock print, woodcut