| Isabelle Allen
Every year we take great pleasure in seeking out amazing artists and designers to collaborate with on our Calendar Collections, this year we were insanely excited to work with talented woodcut artist, Misha Harrison.
As lovers of a puzzle here at Bespoke Letterpress, when we came across Misha's incredible work where every handcrafted piece of the artwork has been sketched out onto the wood, cut, painted and finished to fit perfectly into place like a giant intricate puzzle we reached out to see if she would be interested in translating her wood cut artworks to paper with us immediately.
We took a moment with Misha to explore her inspiration, the nitty-gritty of her creation process and her career to date, we hope you enjoy taking a peek behind the scenes of Misha's intricate works!
So nice to meet you Misha! Can you tell us a little about where you live and a little about yourself?
Hello, everyone! I'm Misha Harrison, a 33-year-old woman currently residing and working from my home studio in Wollongong, NSW.
Approximately 15 months ago, I made the decision to quit my job and pursue my art full time, and I haven't looked back since!
Creativity has always been an integral part of my life. I’ve been practicing art for as long as I can remember.
I'm a high-energy individual, with no chill. I always seem to be operating at maximum speed and am often dubbed by my family and friends as a bit of a ‘boof head’ or ‘hurricane’ haha.
I have a deep passion for animals, nature, and all forms of art and creativity. I love spending time with my family and friends as well as keeping fit and healthy.
Can you tell us about your artistic journey and how you became interested in creating woodcut artworks?
My artistic journey has been quite a long one! I've always had a creative spirit and a deep curiosity about how things are made and function. This passion for building and exploring started early in my life, with a particular fascination for power tools. As a young child I used to shadow my dad, observing and learning as he worked on various projects around the house. I would frequently be seen up a tree with my tool belt on building cubbies and other contraptions.
After completing high school, I decided to pursue my passion for art more formally. I enrolled in a Diploma of Fine Art at TAFE and later continued my education by earning a Bachelor of Creative Arts Honours degree at university. Following my university years, I went through a period of experimentation, exploring various artistic mediums to find my niche.
During my time in university, my focus was primarily on sculpture and installation art. I used recycled materials to create large installations that conveyed important messages about the environment. However, I soon realised that making a sustainable living through installation art wasn't straightforward.
For my major work at university I was awarded a residency at Hazelhurst Art Gallery, where I had the opportunity to live on-site. This residency proved to be a turning point in my artistic journey. It was during this period that I began working with woodcuts. I started with an abstract painting on a piece of plywood, eventually cutting it up and reassembling it in a new way. This marked the beginning of my woodcut adventure.
As I continued to explore this medium, the materials themselves revealed new possibilities. Fast forward four years, and I now create intricate still-life artworks that far exceed what I initially thought was achievable when I first embarked on this path.
Your art is so unique and incredible. What drew you to this particular medium, and what do you find most captivating about it?
Thank you so much!
I'm really drawn to the idea of plywood as this everyday, easily accessible building material that has this incredible potential to be turned into something truly beautiful. Working with it can be quite a challenge; the more intricate the cuts, the more delicate and brittle the material becomes. Each of my pieces becomes a puzzle of problem-solving, keeping me on my toes and constantly engaged in creative thinking.
Your collaboration with Bespoke Letterpress for the 2024 Calendar Collection sounds exciting. Could you share the inspiration behind this partnership and how it came about?
I'm absolutely over the moon about collaborating with Bespoke Letterpress! I had actually been following the last artist you collaborated with, and I remember thinking to myself how incredible it would be to work with you guys. Strangely enough, just two days later, I received a message from you about a collaboration opportunity. Talk about serendipity!
Our inspiration for this partnership was to create four artworks that harmonise with Bespoke's brand. We aimed to give each piece a distinct vibe while still ensuring they came together as a cohesive series. There was a lot of back-and-forth communication about what we wanted to achieve. I'm absolutely thrilled with the results of our collaboration! It's been a fantastic journey.
Can you describe the creative process behind your contributions to the Bespoke Letterpress 2024 Calendar Collection? What themes or concepts did you explore?
All my artworks, including those created in collaboration with Bespoke Letterpress, delve into a diverse array of themes. The core of my artistic expression revolves around reimagining the concept of still life through a unique lens. While traditional still life is often expressed through painting, my art melds elements of painting, sculpture, and textile practices. My creative process is a celebration of the handmade.
In a world where mass production and ready-made goods dominate, my process stands as a contrast. It's a labor-intensive journey, with each piece demanding a significant investment of time and effort from start to finish.
My art also serves as a junction between fine art and craft. The incorporation of embroidery into my work introduces bursts of colour and texture while simultaneously paying homage to feminist ideals. Throughout history, textiles and embroidery have often been unjustly categorised as "women's work." By juxtaposing this traditional ‘craft’ with the craftsmanship of wood, I'm bringing together and exploring notions of masculinity and femininity within the realms of art, society, and history.
Woodcut art is such a labor-intensive technique. Could you walk us through the steps involved in creating one of your woodcut artworks?
The process of creating each artwork begins with sketching the initial design onto a piece of primed plywood. From there, I meticulously cut out every piece of the design and arrange them on a backing board. Then, the real crafting work begins, as I build up each individual piece, carving out intricate details, drilling holes for the embroidery, painting and stitching. In addition to working on the main subject, I spend countless hours cutting and carving the background tiles from thicker plywood. Each tile requires priming, painting, and carefully affixing it to the background.
Your artworks often incorporate nature and still life. How do you choose your subjects, and what message or emotions do you aim to convey through your work?
Nature has always been my ultimate muse. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been captivated by the wonders of the natural world. To me, Mother Nature is the ultimate artist! Through my art, my goal is to capture the colours, patterns, and textures that nature produces and reinterpret them in a fresh, creative way. I'm a stickler for detail, so I invest a lot of time into carving or stitching intricate patterns and details into the flowers and other elements of my still life compositions.
I choose my subjects by what is on hand in my house. I will sometimes change the pattern on a bowl or vase to something that will better fit the vibe of the work.
What drew you to working with Bespoke Letterpress? How did you find the collaborative process?
I've been absolutely blown away by what can be achieved through our collaboration. It's been an eye-opening experience, showing the potential when creative minds come together. I work alone all day everyday so having an external, fresh pair of eyes on my work was quite refreshing and challenged me to really push myself. Having a company like Bespoke being so enthusiastic about my work and discovering innovative ways to transform it into various products has been just amazing. I've basically been bursting with excitement all year, eagerly waiting for the launch!
Are there specific techniques or tools you find indispensable when working on woodcut artworks? Any tips for aspiring woodcut artists?
In my woodworking practice, there are a few things I can't do without. First off, I need a workspace, customised workbench which I have angled to save my neck and back.
When it comes to safety, I never compromise. I consider high-quality personal protective gear, especially a dust mask, an absolute must.
The main tools I can't work without are: Jigsaw, router, drill and nail gun. I also make my own backing boards with my drop saw.
For anyone looking to get into woodworking, my advice is simple: take care of yourself. Invest in the right safety gear and use it every time. And when you're using new tools, take it slow and keep a close eye on those fingers! Beyond that, just enjoy the journey and let your creative spirit take you wherever it leads.
Looking ahead, what future projects or artistic endeavours are you excited about, and how do you see your woodcut art evolving in the years to come?
I'm currently in the final stretch, getting everything ready for my upcoming solo exhibition at Sydney Road Gallery, which is set to run from October 12th to the 29th. I'm really excited! If you happen to be in Sydney during that time, please do drop by for the opening. I'd absolutely love to meet you all in person. Keep an eye on my social media channels for more details about the opening night in the upcoming weeks.
Aside from my solo exhibition, I'm also really looking forward to dedicating some time to work on a few personal projects that I've been eager to tackle for a while now.
I've always been amazed by the unexpected opportunities that can just pop up, so I'm keeping myself open and my energy receptive to any new collaborations or opportunities that may come my way in the new year!
You can see more of Misha's work and shop her incredible collection on her website here.