The following is a series of questions I answered for the book Print/Maker from Uppercase Magazine. Though only an edit could make it into the book, I loved filling out these questions and it made me think about my process and the why behind my work. I hope you enjoy reading!

 
 

Who are you? What is your story in a paragraph or two?

I’m a textile and surface pattern designer based in the lovely Pacific Northwest US. My recent work has been focused on prints for apparel and fabric yardage, using a variety of handmade and digital techniques. I license collections under my name as well as sell prints and graphics and provide design services through my studio, OROZCO. My studio is focused on prints for the active and outdoor lifestyle product markets while my personal work is geared towards the bolted fabric and kids markets. I also teach regular workshops in block printing for textiles through a variety of local schools, retreat centers and private groups. Occasionally I also do workshops in floral motif design, co-host drawing nights, and take part in any other variety of community creative events! I’ve had a shop on Etsy for the past 9 years, though its identity and my efforts have ebbed and flowed as I’ve shifted from original artwork and start-to-finish hand-made products to more of a focus on licensing and selling of designs. 

I’m hugely influenced by nature and the outdoors, from the animals in my backyard, to exotic plants and birds I see while traveling, to a deep love of the sea. Most of my prints, whether straight conversationals or more abstract material explorations, usually start from direct or documented observations of nature. I am really focused on environmentalism and sustainable practices both in my work and my lifestyle. Surface pattern design has given me a unique venue to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and be part of a rising tide of change in an industry that historically has done a lot of environmental damage. While I love making bright and fun prints that are full of whimsy, my underlying message is about honoring and protecting the amazing animals, plants and waters of this earth.


What led you to printmaking or making/selling things that employ printing in one way or another?

In college I studied fine art and tried every technique available. I loved making monoprints and photogravures, but then I learned screen printing and that approach really struck a chord. However, at that time I was in love with painting so I focused on that for my thesis. I was also doing a lot of sewing clothes for myself and my friends - weird experimental skirts and punk accessories. After college I moved to Seattle. I did a lot of painting and also started doing more and more drawings and illustrations as well as sewing and zine making. I was super involved in the punk and DIY scene in Seattle and very proud of making everything myself. Screen printing and copy machines and hand-made books were a huge part of that. I joined an art collective and worked at the art museum. I screen-printed a lot of my own clothing and gifts but didn’t consider selling that work as I was focused on showing paintings and drawings in galleries and open studios. A number of years later Etsy came along and I started selling my work on it. In particular, I had an ongoing series of character pieces about a rabbit and a skeleton in a relationship. These started to get really popular and people would often write to me to ask if I could re-create drawings that had already sold. I realized I would need to start making prints of them. 

Around this time I decided to go to graduate school for graphic design. I had a lot of random jobs to pay the bills and decided I needed to get more serious about how to make a creative-based livelihood happen. I was also thinking a lot about environmentalism and food justice. I struggled with how to address those concerns through my art, which was very personal, but thought that with graphic design I’d be able to say more to a broader audience. I went to MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) because they had a stated interest in sustainability and a design for social change as part of their program. I loved my experience there and took advantage of the design program’s position within an art school to take as many classes that involved making as I could. They had a great printmaking facility for the print department that we were able to use for screen printing and letterpress. I started reproducing my rabbit and skeleton drawings first as screen prints and then as letter press pieces to sell on Esty. 

Throughout grad school I was still constantly sewing, mostly as a form of stress relief. I love textiles and always wanted to be involved with them, but hadn’t quite found the right route. I had never heard the term “surface pattern design.” At some point during my graduate thesis - a sustainable building project - I realized I was spending more time sewing and printing than on my thesis and thought that maybe I should just follow that feeling and shift my project. 

I decided to take my existing Etsy shop and turn it into a full small business with a focus on hand printed and sewn home goods and letterpress cards that would live both online as well as through craft fairs and local shops. MICA had also just launched an MFA program in Illustration. I took an illustration class and it literally changed everything - one of our assignments was in surface pattern design and it was a huge lightbulb moment. Like ‘This! This is what I want to be doing, I just didn’t know what it was called or how one got work in it.’ I leveled up my thesis from just making random prints to designing two complete pattern collections and using the Fibers department’s digital fabric printer (also an amazing discovery!) to produce yardage of the patterns and then sew them into sample garments. I flushed out the branding for my studio, Hammer & Fox, and designed look books of the collections and garments and a website. 

After graduating I moved back to the Pacific Northwest. But I had a lack of confidence in myself as a designer and didn’t think I was really ready to run my own business. So I got a job as an in-house designer at Nike in their Young Athletes department doing graphics for children’s apparel and shoes. While most of my work was logo and spot graphic based, I learned a lot about large scale manufacturing and worked closely both with production teams as well as the in-house print design team. I gained great insight into how prints are used by brands, changing scale, color and even the repeat to fit their needs. I also began to understand all the printing techniques from screen to holograph to heat sensitive ink as well as seasonal designing and collection planning. I loved designing for the kids market and learned a lot about that while there. 

After a couple years, however, I started to feel the pull do something else. When an opportunity to be a designer at a book publisher opened up, I decided to take that and delve into print media. I learned a lot more about how much goes into putting together a book and also honed my typesetting, editing eye and prepress skills. But I really missed patterns and textiles and hand-making. I began to make a plan for starting my own business again, but with a lot more knowledge and confidence. During this planning phase I actually got laid off from the publishing house. It was about six months earlier than I was planning to launch my business and I didn’t totally feel ready, but I decided to dive in. Oregon has an amazing thing called the Self Employment Assistance program, which one is eligible for if they are on unemployment. I learned about it within a couple weeks of losing my job and was able to use those resources to help launch my current studio. It is the culmination of all the years of various forms of art and design making, jobs and passions. Finally, I found a way to fuse my art making, design, voice, and love of textiles into one field! Now I use all the different mediums I love to make my prints - drawing, painting, block printing, cyanotype, digital illustration - with the goal that the end product is not the art itself but what it is printed onto. 

A year an a half ago I was asked to teach a block printing workshop at a local studio school. This rekindled my love of this simple and slow form of printing. I began to teach more and more frequently and develop samples to show students. Showing others helped me refine and really think about my own technique, and brought me back to directly hand-making textiles again. Now I am at a really nice balance of hand printing for my small run products, and digital files for licensing and selling.


If you outsource manufacturing, how does print technology assist you in creating your products? How do you develop relationships with reliable print partners?

Because I do very small runs of my own product to sell, I mostly do hand printing or get digitally printed textiles from Spoonflower. But I’ve been considering trying out the direct to consumer, made-on-demand approach. Because of the increasing availability of digital textile printing and drop shipping, it is starting to be easier for small companies to do limited run product without a lot of waste. While I love sewing for myself or for samples, actually manufacturing products is another story! 

Earlier this year I found a local company in Portland called KinStitch, run by two women, that does digital textile printing. Being able to walk to their studio and talk with them has been great. They also do grouping, so small companies like me can group together on orders and print our things in larger runs. They want to also apply that to manufacturing as well, where if I have an order of 20 pillows and so do 4 other companies, they can go to a local sewing studio and do a bulk order for 100 pillows. The idea of collaboration over competition is really exciting to me. {Note: I sadly just learned that KinStitch will be closing their studio so I will no longer be working with them} 

Community is so important, both in everyday life but also within one’s industry. I’m very lucky to live in a city that is full of, and hugely supportive of, makers. There are a huge amount of classes and skill sharing events, panels, and open studio nights. I’m a bit of a homebody and sometimes it’s hard to motivate myself to go out to these events but every time I do, I end up meeting amazing people who often serendipitously do just what I’m looking for at that moment. And those personal relationships make stronger products because you are both excited about the product and working together. 

Sometimes what you need isn’t found locally and you need to find a printer or manufacturer somewhere else. It’s really important for the working relationship to have some face to face time. I find that when you have an online relationship it’s really easy to misinterpret an email or order when it’s a faceless thing. But as soon as you meet, or even video chat, the work gets better. And you make friends! Even years after leaving Nike I still regularly stay in touch with the ladies from my Hong Kong product group. After meeting them, it no longer felt like I was placing an order or sending something off into the ether and it would come back to me. It was collaborative and we were all equally proud of the pieces we made, despite our different roles in that process. 

Above all - kindness! Kindness makes every professional relationship so much easier.


What other processes do you employ to create or finish your products?

I use a lot of mediums to create my final prints. Some will be very simple - I will carve a block, print it directly on fabric, and make something out of that fabric. Or, I will print a few versions of it on paper, and then scan those prints and digitally create a repeat file. Other times I will put it through a lot of layers of change. I might make a carved block, then print it, then use the Adobe Capture app’s pattern tool to kaleidoscope it into a different shape. Then from that I might paint a version of what that pattern looks like, then mess with it in Photoshop filters until it is something completely different. Then I might color separate that new piece for screen printing. I love the idea that a block print can end up as a screen print or digital print. I still paint a lot, though I moved away from oil paint into gouache and watercolors at a much smaller scale. I love the vibrant colors of gouache, even if I don’t end up keeping those colors once it is digital. Sometimes I will make a block print on paper, and then use pencils or markers to embellish it and add in other elements and then scan that new work. I might go outside with some cyanotype paper and make abstract prints from leaves, gravel, and other things I find on the ground. Then I cut up the paper and make it into new shapes, where the printed elements make up the textures. Or, some days I just draw on my iPad and those drawings go right into a final pattern!


What makes your work/products unique or recognizable?

Sometimes I feel like my styles are very different per medium, but over time as I build a body of work, it all ends up cohesive. It is definitely characterized by an obvious hand, full of imperfections and wobblyness. I love having a sense of humor and a bit of the weird or cheeky in my character-driven work, or sometimes unexpected honesty that is heartfelt and a little sad. My work for kids is almost always bright and cheery, with cute or quirky characters, often animals. A sense of play and vibrancy is really important to me. My work for activewear and fashion is less character-driven but equally colorful and bold. Even when I try to do a neutral palette I will often throw a splash of a bright contrast color in. Sometimes I look at trends and sometimes I don’t - I more follow what I’m inspired or excited by, and that is often the work people are most drawn to. That excitement shows through in the work.


How is this endeavor impactful on you, your customers or society?

At the creation level I’ve tried to figure out how best to combine my enthusiasm and excitement about the world and its beauty with my worries and fears about environmental loss and degradation. Often I will choose an issue that I feel is very pressing, such as ocean pollution, and do a set of prints based on that issue. Rather than be overtly political, they will be celebratory. For example, it may be a collection of prints about sea birds and the prints will be bright and cheery, but the underlying message is ocean clean up and advocacy and how ocean plastic is harming sea birds. My hope is that rather than being told what to do or believe, people can see in my work something beautiful that helps them care more about the planet and deepen their connection to it. 

At the client level I don’t just want to cast a wide net and sell/license my prints to anyone, but rather, specifically target and reach out to brands and companies that are actively working to produce thoughtful, low-impact products. Being a part of an industry putting more stuff into the world is a delicate thing and its very important for me to know that the way those things were produced was both ethical and sustainable. 

At a local level, teaching printing classes has helped me build my local community and has both made me a better printer and helped me realized the joy of mentorship. Reinforcing the empowerment one gets from creating something all themselves rather than just buying it is also deeply satisfying.


How else do you share your love of print with others?

In addition to teaching, making cards and gifts for friends and family is always greatly appreciated! I also love geeking out over art books with my friends and colleagues! Social media, especially Instagram has been a great way to share what I'm excited about with my peers.


What is your workspace or studio setup? Where is it located? What sort of equipment or features does it have that help (or hinder) your creative process?

I just returned to having a home studio in the spare room, which overlooks our backyard and garden. I have two desks that I made from salvaged doors that I use for sewing and art making, and just got a new white standing desk for computer, planning, and the “office” type stuff. I. I like to be able to have separate work spaces rather than having to move things around all the time. I recently had an office space closer to downtown, which was great for a while because it felt more like “going to work” when I was there. However, I love having everything all in one place. So much of my creative process is influenced by feeling connected to nature so being close to the garden again is important. I have two tall bookcases full of design and art books, magazines, catalogues, and big bins of fabrics. I also have several tall foam boards for pinning inspiration and ideas. Two printers and a scanner are under the desks, and cute cups full of various markers and pens and gouache paints are on a shelf. A pull-out rolling cart has print making tools and blocks. A big closet hides the rest of my supplies and other craft projects. I have a lot of small objects on the window sills and shelves that have nostalgic value and make me feel at ease. Photos of my grandmas and great grandma (who my studio is named after) and of my parents are nestled amongst the various objects as a reminder of who I am and the support of my family. 

This room has also been the yoga and workout and the “everything else” room of the house so I’m trying to clear out more space to have the right energy to be more productive. It’s really a little too small, and I hate clutter in my workspace, but it’s what is available right now. In the summer, the covered back deck is great for making larger paintings, prints, and messy work (the squirrels like to leave a lot of nut shells on my work though!). Working from home can be a double edged sword - much more relaxing, but not always as productive. I feel more inspired by my environment but can also be more distracted. My little cat is also very needy so when I’m at home she interrupts a lot! I’m trying to learn to take advantage of these interruptions as stretch and snack breaks. While being at home is great for my personal work, it feels less professional for my design studio because there isn’t a designated space to meet with clients anymore. I’m still searching for the right balance!


What is your favourite part of the process of making / printing / publishing?

I love seeing my artwork on a product in a photograph! There is something magical about a beautiful photograph of someone wearing something I made, especially if it’s a cute kid, or of a table setting with my product on it. It has a life then, it has a story. I’ve always been a terrible sucker for photographic marketing! But that is the moment when it is ‘’real’’ to me.


What is your favourite ink colour, tool or piece of equipment and why?

One of my favorite tools for working is actually photography. I am constantly taking photographs of all the things I see during my day that inspire me. Oftentimes, if I’m on the way somewhere and don’t have time to draw a motif, taking a photo is a great way to remember an idea for later. I also love pulling colors from photos, or being able to make more detailed work for things like botanical motifs where if I were pulling from memory, everything would end up looking the same! 

I love so many different colors! Bright coral is one of my favorite to work with though. It pops so well against grays but also looks great with mint and other pastels, or as a contrast to navy or purple. It crosses so many palettes well and is so cheery!


What are the necessary qualities and features of a successful business?

Having a very clear identity for your business is really key to making it. I’ve struggled hard with this over the years! Choosing one direction or medium or identity is so difficult, especially for creatives. I only recently made a definitive decision about how to focus what my business does. 

Choosing something you love for your business seems obvious but is so important. Following what you think you should be doing rather than what you want often means losing the heart of it. Customers can really sense when your heart isn’t in your work. People want you to succeed when they see how invested in it you are. 

A personal connection or voice within your work is important. This is where social media has proven invaluable for many creatives. Customers like buying from people or brands they connect with on a personal level, whether that is as an equal or aspirational, or because there is trust in the what and why behind your business. Having a strong story, being professional but transparent, and being consistent are crucial. 

Also, being kind! Being kind helps everything.


How do you make your creative business sustainable?

Trying to grow too fast ends up killing a lot of businesses, even when they have a really good product. I have seen this happen many times to companies I’ve worked for or have known. I have so much excitement and ambition for my business and often want to try to do everything for it at once. But I have had to recognize that to really create a business that will sustain itself over time, for me, has to be a slow build. That might mean doing one big thing per year, like a trade show or a publication, and the rest of the year taking small actions to build a strong foundation such as starting an email list, attending local industry events, having a lot of conversations, and just continuing to make new work and refine my business’ story. There is definitely an urgency when you work for yourself that everything must happen now to be able to make a living. Accepting that it is okay to go at my own pace and not rush to follow whatever is new has been hard but necessary.


What keeps you inspired and motivated?

I travel a lot and always feel the most alive and inspired while traveling. Every place has such a different story, color palette, feel of the air, sounds, wildlife and personality. The work I make in each place I go is different and I love never knowing what I will encounter or be surprised by. Often times I won’t realize the story until I return home and sort through all the photos I’ve taken. Other times it is so vivid and obvious I get absorbed by it and produce a lot of work in the moment. 

I’ve lived in a lot of places as well, that are all quite different from each other. Each has been home in its own way and still inspires me. I was born in Florida and although we moved away when I was quite young, I first felt the ocean as a baby and I’ve always been drawn to the shifting colors and patterns of light on water and also bright saturated colors and heat. I lived in Florida again briefly in my late 20s and was able to more clearly pull from that light and heat, the shapes of palms and other tropical plants and the sounds they make when they rustle. I adore alligator motifs, though don’t trust a real one! 

My childhood until I left for college was spent in the rolling hills of southern Iowa. There’s a lushness to Iowa that I think of often. In the summer the air is heady with the smell of sweet grass and the sounds of prairie birds, cicadas, crickets, frogs and the wind. The prairie has a wildness that is understated but so lovely. I still have a lot of family there and try to return at least once a year. I create some of my best work in these times of retreat and observation. 

In addition, I studied abroad in Provence, France and the light there is so unique as well. And the wind and cicadas are even more intense! The school I went to was amazing, tucked in a small hillside medieval village. I also fell in love. It was such an inspiring period in my young creative life, and I left there feeling like a real artist, as oppose to just a student. Often, if I’m feeling creatively blocked, I can pull out photos of that place and inspiration will come back. 

Most of my adult life has been spent in the Pacific Northwest, and this is now where I feel the most at home. The access to nature here is incredible. Within an hour or two you can be on a huge mountain, or at the wild Pacific Ocean, or in a rainforest. There are so many gorgeous peaceful places just outside the city. I moved here at a time in my life where I wanted to absorb everything and now I connect so much with the land, history and wildlife here. 

I often also look to my heritage and family history for inspiration, pulling from the folk motifs and stories of those cultures - Mexico, Norway, France and Scotland - as well as my family’s lore. 

I’m also inspired by love, both positive and sad. When I’m in love I create so much new work because I’m excited to be alive and share my wonderment of the world with a new person. I’m so in love with the earth and its beauty all the time as well. And so heartbroken when I see pollution, harm to animals, or the effects of climate change, or the way our food system has greatly damaged the earth and our own health. That pain often motivates me to try really hard to have a voice, to educate, to advocate and to try to be a part of changing those things. And personal heartbreak often leads me to creating some of my most beautiful and deeper art pieces or writings. 

Most days I take a long walk around my neighborhood, sometimes for exercise, but other times just to listen to the sounds of day-to-day life and to look at the flowers and cute houses, or rainy sidewalks and bright mosses, depending on the time of year. I also read books on all subjects, both fiction and non, and am constantly looking through all sorts of magazines and other print media. I could look at books and magazines ALL DAY. I get so much inspiration from different images, color palettes, and stories. 

The evolution of one's work is always so fascinating! I love never knowing what I might be making in a few years. Always learning new techniques and taking classes creates some of the most unexpected turns in my work.


What has been the best mistake you’ve ever made and why?

I decided to take on a lot of financial debt in order to pursue my creative dreams and it has been challenging in a lot of ways. I took out full loans for graduate school, used credit cards for my thesis project and again to get myself to my first trade show. Each time felt very irresponsible and risky, but I really believed in myself and my work and that over time I would pull myself out of that debt and also be creatively satisfied. I am nowhere near paying off any of that debt and it adds a lot of stress to my day to day hustle and sometimes makes me question everything and wonder if going to school was a mistake in the first place. But I never would have made it to the point of owning a business and doing what I love if I hadn't taken that risk, and that feeling of empowerment and confidence in myself has been absolutely worth it.


What are you working on right now?

I just returned from a month straight of travel! I was in France, Italy, Vashon Island (in Washington’s Puget Sound), Southern California, and then camping up in the mountains in Oregon. I plan to spend the next few months sorting through all the photos, journals and inspiration I gathered on these trips to make some new collections for licensing. For OROZCO I am planning several photo shoots with local creative women who are also active in outdoor activities such as rock climbing and running. They will be wearing sample garments in OROZCO prints. These photos will go on my studio website as well as in the newsletters and social media posts for this summer and fall. I am also writing the curriculum for a four day Block Printing for Textiles workshop I am teaching at Plum Nelli, a beautiful farm stay and artist retreat center on the Puget Sound.


What do you hope to be doing 5 years from now?

In five years I want OROZCO to have grown to a small team of awesome lady makers and designers that is known in the active and outdoor markets as a reliable source for prints and graphics for sustainable brands. I want my personal licensed collections to be in fabric stores that my friends and family can go in and buy for their own sewing projects. I also hope to have bought a house on the Puget Sound where I can have my studio, which will be a separate building in my yard. There I can look out at the sea while I sip tea and make new work everyday!