5 Questions with Melissa Holden

BAY AREA artist Melissa Holden is currently exhibiting her prints at Foxy Loxy.

Holden’s work uses rounded figures, bold colors and thin lines to create clean, minimalist prints. She sells illustrations and block prints under Melissa Holden Art.

We spoke with Holden last week.

click to enlarge 5 Questions with Melissa Holden
Sunrise Nap

1.How did you first get into printmaking?

I just always was really into art. I was an art major in college and it wasn’t my first introduction to printmaking—I did a tiny bit of block printing in high school—but it was the first time I had access to bigger, more intense equipment. I ended up loving it. That was my focus in college. Because I didn’t have access to the equipment [after college], I didn’t do it for quite some time, and then I picked it up again. I had twins, and when they started going to preschool a little longer I did it again.

I was a teacher before I had my kids, and I did get back into printmaking with my middle school kids a few times. We did screen printing and block printing, and they liked it.

2.How did you arrive at your style?

There are so many different types of printmaking. Certain ones, it depends on your image, but if you’re doing like a three- or four-color block print, you really do have to know how those layers will come together. If it’s recognizable imagery, and you want it to have a certain look, you have to be able to think ahead and backwards. Screen printing is a little different—you don’t have to think backwards.

3.Tell me about your process.

I like creating an image, almost like a piece of writing. I edit out everything I possibly can and have that intriguing beauty. It’s sort of how I like to work, and I like what it looks like. It just has this bold, clean look I personally like.

4.How did you get started with your business?

I started it kind of by accident. When my kids were at school a little longer, I was able to do something else besides taking care of them. I started printmaking for fun—it was a release for me. A friend wanted to buy something, and I was like, “Maybe I should turn this into something.” I started listening to podcasts and read some books and talked to some people I knew who were makers and doing that as a career. I gave it a go and it works great for my life because it’s so flexible. It’s a pretty small operation. It’s gone up and down depending on the rest of my life. It’s really fun and I really enjoy it because I get to be creative. I’d never really sold my work, so it’s interesting. It gives me the right outlet.

5.How do you decide what to make to sell and what to make for fun?

When I started, I did not have the illustrations, I had block prints. But I said I wanted to open up to that line because I probably wanted to that. I wanted to incorporate some screen printing. I found that people like that. I know at this point what will sell. When I’m making pieces and making what I want to make, I’m able to say, “That doesn’t quite fit in.” Sometimes I don’t know and I just try it out. But at this point, I’ve done it enough times now that I know what people will latch onto. In that sense, I sort of know what to follow through with for the business, but I’m making what I want.

I find it’s more about, if I think I’m excited about something, somebody else is going to be excited about it, too. I sort of try to stick with that and go with my gut.