Meet the printmaker: mariemaakt on taking your passion public

PRRRT. Freshly printed: mariemaakt’s cat lady linocut

Jessica Loriaux, aka mariemaakt, is a Dutch-American linocut printmaker based in Utrecht.

Until recently, Jessica was a full-time researcher with a focus on climate change… and a closet creative. But a number of changes and realisations over the last couple of years have led her to completely overhaul her career.

I met with her to talk about how mariemaakt came into being, the trials and tribulations of running a small creative business, and snaffle some pro linocut printing tips.

Jessica/mariemaakt in linocut action
Jessica/mariemaakt printing her cat lady

Have you always been creative?

“I’ve always been really into making my own stuff. My mum was always very creative when I was growing up – I would come home from school with my friends and she’d have a whole creative afternoon planned.

I started out mostly sewing. When I was about 10 years-old I made a really big quilt for my bed that I still use today. Then, when I was a teenager I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer and I made my own clothes. I was always into drawing and painting as well.  So in high school I joined the academieklas, which is like an extra-curricular art class for kids who are considering going to art school.

But, in the end, I was a bit too scared to apply. I decided that it was too big a risk to go to art school, and maybe turn this thing I really liked into something I needed to do. At least that’s what I told myself… But I think also I was scared of rejection. I kept doing things on the side though, like painting, and making whatever I need myself – curtains or fun stuff, like bags – useful things”.

conker in its casing, linocut by mariemaakt
mariemaakt’s beechnut linocut

What did you do instead?

“I went into research, which I also really love. And I think there’s a lot of overlap. I’m driven by figuring out how to do things, designing solutions to problems. You get to design your own research, and when you’re being creative you get to design what you make.  

But more recently I really started missing being creative. I kind of felt like I was losing part of who I was, focusing too much on research and being a mom, and not doing anything other than those two things. It was about a year and a half ago that a plan started to form in my head to force myself to be more creative – and it involved going public with my creativity…

I came up with the name mariemaakt because Marie is my middle name, and I like to make stuff (it translates as ‘Marie makes’). When I started out I didn’t really feel like I had to focus just on lino printing, and this name kept things open. I thought maybe I’d also do some digital design work – I’d already made a few PHD book covers and other things like that”.

So when did you get into linocut printing?

“I’d started doing linocut when I was pregnant with my first daughter, so about five years ago. But when I quit my job last year I really dove into it and I still haven’t emerged because I love it so much.

I’d already noticed how cool linocut was before, and how fun it is to have to think in reverse. You have to be technical about it and put in some extra thinking power when it comes to using layers, how to do it, what’s going to show, what isn’t, and which colours can you use on top of each other. I know I’ve made colour-related mistakes plenty of times!”

A couple of mariemaakt’s lovely nature-inspired linocut prints (and a particularly colourful recorder)

What inspires your prints?

“I really like shapes and deep colours especially that you can find in nature. But also I enjoy observing my girls and trying to see what they’re doing and then take away from that. And people-wise, there are so many, but they include:

What have you been doing to help mariemaakt grow as a business?

“The first thing I did was join Instagram. And I talked to a lot of creatives in my network and tried to follow accounts that inspire me. I like to share what’s going on in my mind, and behind the scenes – I think Instagram is more fun that way. It also helps you to get to know somebody better – the face behind the work. I started getting lots of positive feedback and things just started to grow, which gave me an enormous boost, both in terms of self-confidence and inspiration. So that’s helped me a lot.

I also promote mariemaakt by doing market stalls and being at events like Creative Life (where I’ll be at the end of March running lots of linocut workshops!).

My prints are for sale in my Etsy shop, and also in two stores now; De Familie Fabriek in Culemborg, and Utrecht’s Winkel vol Winkeltjes.

Has mariemaakt given you back that creativity you were craving?

“Yes absolutely. Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re really busy with work or when the kids are sick to find the time, but I try to find a balance and give myself some slack when there just isn’t time. I work four days a week and then I’m home with my kids one day a week. So most of the things that I do for mariemaakt are done in the evenings when the kids are in bed.

My favourite part is watching something grow that I’ve had in my mind, and then it becomes a real thing. But apart from the process itself, my favorite part is interacting with other people and not just making something for myself but hearing that somebody else is seeing my work in somebody else’s living room. I think that’s amazing. It’s happened two times now, and I love that!”

And finally, can you share some of your top tips that you’ve learnt from your first few years lino printing?

  1. Always carve your letters back-to-front!
  2. And when you’re designing, generally keep in mind that what you’re drawing is going to come out as a mirror image.
  3. To help you visualise what your print’s going to look like before you actually start carving, black out the areas on your lino that you’re going to keep.
  4. Try Pfeil (Swiss company) cutting and gouging tools. These are the best.
  5. Check out Gerstaecker, a German web shop great for other supplies.

Learn to linocut with Jessica this October during two Saturday morning sessions (12 and 19 Oct). Find out more and reserve your place.

Check out Jessica’s work on her website, on Etsy, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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