Graphic designer, Jessica Hische, once said, “I think a good way to figure out your passions is to look at what you do when you’re procrastinating from everything else.” My name is Dana, and when I procrastinate, I seek to make beautiful things with my hands for family and friends.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, my life began under the roof of a Dutch father and a Canadian mother. Dad’s curious spirit and adventurous life provided me with a love for travel, an appreciation for the unconventional, and the nerve to follow my own path. Mom stamped my DNA with her passion for aesthetic beauty, an eye for detail, and her love for the decorative arts. My parents married young and separated by the time I was seven. The experience gifted me with years of angsty emotions from which creative material is born. I’m the youngest of four with something to prove.
In my teens I fell in love with Alphonse Mucha’s art poster, The Moon (1902), hanging on a friend’s apartment wall. Mucha was a Czech born illustrator, graphic artist, and decorative stage painter who rose to critical acclaim in Paris during the early 1900s. His distinct Art Nouveau style inspired me to board a bus bound for western Canada in pursuit of an art degree and mastery in his craft. The Moon hangs on my wall today, over three decades after it was gifted it to me. Its artistic influence has yet to loosen its grip.
As an undergrad studying graphic arts from Alberta College of Art & Design, I was accepted to study illustration in Scotland for a year. A favourite memory was when a group of us traveled through the Scottish Highlands. We were on a mission to sketch the landscape and sleep among the hills; wearing kilts and all for some – which was awesome. That was the first time I’d camped without the worry of being eaten by a bear.
Unlike our printmaking studios back home, their studios were outfitted with ancient, ornate hand-presses straight out of Mucha’s art and craft era. I wanted to stop time, stay longer, maybe forever, and learn more. A quarter of a century would pass before I’d have the opportunity to play with the likes of those cast-iron beauties again.
I’d been dragging around a small collection of letterpress wood type since the beginning of my graphic design career, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I tried letterpress printing for the first time. I was instantly smitten and became the proud custodian of a 19th century Chandler and Price pilot press the following year. Since then, I’ve slowly converted my small studio in the attic into a letterpress studio. I’ve named the press Alphonsie, after my aesthetic hero, whom I coincidentally found in a town called Paris.