Friday, October 1, 2010

Featured Crafters: Ursula Minervini and Jon Poliszuk {Pellinore Press}

What led you to pursue design?

Ursula & Jon: We are always working toward earning a living creating art of some sort. With Pellinore Press, all aspects of production and distribution are under our control, which we find satisfying. This also impels us to hold ourselves to a higher standard of quality. We feel more a part of the world and our community by producing art that is made by hand but is still affordable.

What materials do you prefer and why?

Ursula & Jon: Our printing press is a 1957 Vandercook 15-21. We do letterpress printing from handset type and our own woodcuts.

The restrictions of working with the limited number of fonts in our collection of lead type, and the relative slowness of setting type by hand push us to be more attentive to our typesetting and design work.

One of our favorite woods to carve and print is cherry, for its crisp detail and the tactile pleasure in carving it. For larger prints we use shina plywood.

What is your process like?

Ursula: Working as a printmaker combines creativity, technical problem solving, and slow, careful, delightfully tedious craftsmanship. Some of our prints, such as the Exquisite Corpse Postcards and Exquisite Landscapes are created collaboratively. At other times we share the studio but work on independent projects.

Jon: I usually have a pretty clear idea of what I want any given piece to be. From there I’ll hone it with sketches until I feel comfortable enough to draw directly on the block. Since woodcuts tend to be very graphic, pencil is difficult to translate into carving, so I’ll use a brush and ink to finalize the image. When carving the block, I try to preserve the lively feel of the brush strokes.

What do you hope to achieve with your work (professionally and personally)?

Ursula: Professionally, we hope to continue selling our work directly through venues such as craft fairs and Etsy, as well as growing the number of independent retailers carrying our work. We hope Pellinore Press will develop a reputation for taking on unusual and challenging custom printing assignments.

Personally, it’s important to maintain the balance between work that is commercially viable and having the freedom to take artistic risks.

Jon: I hope to utilize the benefits and original purpose of printing (multiple copies produced fairly quickly and easily) to support causes I care about, by creating posters and the like.

What advice do you have for other aspiring designers?

Ursula: Write lots of to-do lists. I tend to feel better about working and to be more productive when I have a set schedule and know what my goals are.

Jon: Make sure your to-do lists are reasonable in terms of the time available, or it can be discouraging.

Do you consider yourselves independent artists?

Ursula & Jon: Not particularly. We’re working outside of today’s commercial mainstream, but at the same time our work has very traditional roots and draws on ideas and processes that are much older than we are.

Tell us some little tidbit about you that most people don't know.

Ursula: I abhor ladybugs.

Jon: I spend far too much time tinkering with my bicycle.

To read more about Pellinore, visit their website at or Etsy shop at

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