Meet the Artist (1.23.13)

January 23, 2013

Meet the Artist…

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Did you know that today is National Handwriting Day? It’s a day to celebrate the purity and power of putting pen to paper which is why we decided to feature one of our very talented handlettering artists.  Martha Ericson is truly inspired by the pure craft of lettering and what can be creatively achieved by hand. Here’s what she has to say:

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I was nearly thirty years old.  Everything I had done up to then boiled down to the realization that I was an artist who wanted to combine words and images. I remember the wonder I felt at being hired at a studio in Washington, D.C., and thinking,  “Wow, I really CAN do this.”

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

My position is Senior Lettering Designer in the Graphics Studio. I’ve been here for 12 years, but I have been a lettering artist for close to 30 years!

Could you tell us some more about your work?

I have always loved beautiful letterforms as well as words, poetry and music. For me, these things provide a clear framework to life. I have a degree in Comparative Literature, and I did a lot of training to learn classical forms of lettering, as well as graphic art and typography.  I’ve also been a letterpress printer.  So I guess you could say my work  is a creative blending of all these disciplines. I also feel I’m just starting to get back to my own work after taking time to raise my two kids.

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

For me, it usually starts with the words.   But I do love a good line, and I could keep myself working the rest of my life exploring the relationship between black and white.

What’s your favorite design ever created and why?

I have two pieces that I really like. One is a chalk lettering design done for a thank you card and the other is a continuous line drawing of a dog, I named Bella. Both pieces utilized more traditional tools, but also presented a fun challenge in “hand work”.

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Are there any famous artists or graphic designers who have influenced you?

First, I would have to say Japanese artist, Kiyoshi Saito–I have one of his woodblock prints that depicts a mountain village in the snow.  It is all in shades of black, white and grey and is a beautiful balance of shapes and contrasts.  Also, Ben Shahn, early Saul Steinberg, many childrens’ book illustrators of the 20th century, medieval and renaissance calligraphers, printers, illuminators and woodblock artists, plus calligraphers from the 2oth century like Sheila and Julian Waters, Carl Rohrs, Herman Zapf…I could go on and on.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

Craft is what inspires me. I’m definitely more interested in the amazing things people do by hand than in what is possible by computer, though there are some pretty amazing artists working exclusively in the digital world. At work, I’m motivated by new challenges. There’s always something: a new style, the chance to design a new typeface, learning new techniques on the computer, etc. As for my personal work, the issue is trying to get my mind to settle and not be overwhelmed by everything flying by my mind’s eye.

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Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I haven’t stopped to really think about that yet. I probably would like to do more relief prints, which are carvings from wood or linoleum that are inked and transferred to paper, as well as a children’s book and more new fonts…

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Take care of your eyesight and your health.  Keep the wonder and enjoy the privilege of being able to get lost in the act of creating things. Don’t be afraid and be open to everything.

What do you do for fun?

I read, dance, garden, cook, ride my bike, run.  Sleep.  🙂

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