June 25, 2008

Inleaf Design

Artist: Lotta Helleberg
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Web site:
Inleaf Design 
Blog: Inleaf

What do you create?
I make hand printed linen objects, using a technique called leaf printing, where real leaves and other plant materials are used as printing plates. The ink is brushed onto the back of the leaves, which are then pressed onto fabric. The final prints are made into pillows, wall hangings, quilts, bags, table linens, and sachets.

How did you come up with your business name?
Since leaves are such an integral part of my work, I knew they had to be incorporated in business name. I also think inleaf represents freshness that I hope that my art evoke.

When and why did you decide to start your business?
I was a successful graphic designer with a long career, when I started to look for another creative outlet a few years back. I stumbled upon an article about leaf printing and after some experimenting I was hooked. I loved the intricate prints, the details of the leaves, and slight variations in the impressions. Inleaf was founded in 2003 and my business as well as my art has grown and evolved ever since.

Where do you get your inspiration for your projects?
My inspiration comes from nature itself, the texture of a plant in the garden, the shape of an old twig, or the colors of seashells. I also love patterns and repetitions found in various places such as modern architecture, vintage wallpapers, and old quilts.

Which of the tools you use is your favorite?
The leaves are my favorite tools. I love searching for them, collecting and cleaning them, applying the ink and the whole printing process. I never know exactly how it will turn out.

What keeps you motivated?
The relationships that I have developed with my customers and my constant desire to test and learn new things.

How do you get the word out about your work?
Marketing is my weakness; I am not good at self-promotion. I have a mailing list that I use to announce new work and events, and my blog is a great way to promote my art, processes, and inspirations. But I know this is an area where I need help and improvement.

What is your main goal for the next 6-12 months?
I want to focus more on larger pieces such as wall hangings and quilts and I would like to find gallery representation for my work. I am also looking for a textile/print manufacturer, preferable in the US, where I can produce my collection of home goods and accessories on a larger scale.

What advice would you give to someone starting a creative business?
Be patient and don’t expect financial triumph right away. Strive for high quality in everything you do, from the execution of your work, to photography, labeling and packaging. If you are passionate about what you do it will shine through, and success will follow.

What part of your business gives you the most satisfaction?
The printing part of my work is always fascinating and satisfying. I also love putting the finishing touches on the pieces. Like ironing of a perfectly stuffed pillow, bundling up the sachets with linen string, and finding the right branch to hang a wall piece from.

What’s the most important thing you’d like people to know/understand about your work?
Everything is hands on and done in my studio – designing, dyeing the fabrics, mixing the inks, the printing, assembling the pieces, the stitching, labeling, and packaging. I am always trying to be environmentally conscious. I only use natural, organic, or vintage fabrics. My inks and dyes are water-soluble and non-toxic and the pillows are available with super-soft organic wool inserts as an alternative to down. My supplies and materials are mostly of domestic origin, and everything from fabric scraps to packaging is reused or recycled whenever possible.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned while running your business?
To realize that perfection is not always attainable or even desirable, that it is ok to say no, and that it is impossible to do it all. Having said that, these are still three things I struggle with the most, so I can’t say for sure that I have learned from these lessons.

If you had the time, what new craft/medium would you like to learn or use?
I would like to learn how to dye with natural pigments, and experiment more with screen and block printing. It would also be fun to try something totally new, like pottery.

What's your definition of a perfect day?
Wake up early with coffee and toast. Spend 2 hours in the garden before the rest of the house wakes up and then take a family walk with the dogs by the river. I would spend the afternoon in the studio just tinkering – testing new stitches, plotting a new wall piece, sifting through my stash of vintage cotton – without a deadline or any must dos. The day would end with a delicious outdoor dinner with my husband and two boys, accompanied by chilled wine and evening bird song… These kinds of days don’t come around that often. Life is just too busy most of the time. Bur it is always something to strive for…

Thank you Lotta!


Dariela said...

Excellent work! I've never seen this before, thanks for these interviews, they are great!!

creativeapples said...

WOW! Thank you for featuring this interview with Lotta and introducing her and her amazing work!!!!

Cicada Studio said...

I've been a fan of Lotta's since I first spied her on Etsy. This interview was very informative and I'm happy to know her and understand her work better.

Border Reiver said...

I've just stumbled across your site, ultimately via Lotta's posting on another site and the interviews, and although you're "across the pond" very impressed with your ideas and interviews. I'll be back to have a look again at the world of Crafts. Best wishes BR

Julia said...

Lotta is an exceptional artist! I love her nature-driven work, they are truly inspirational!

Beautiful interview, you picked some of my favorites of hers :)

jeannine said...

Lotta does amazing work! Her craft is perfect and her style is serene and beautiful. Very inspiring!

Jenni said...

This is an amazing artist. Yhanks for sharing. Also, just found this site from Poppytalk and wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this! What a wonderful way to introduce artists to a wider audience. I also really enjoy reading about how artists find inspirations and learn to live as full-time artists. I'm on my way there too!

Bee Designs said...

Wow i've just found your blog, it is beautiful and has some incredible things featured, these printed fabrics are adorable.

Jesse said...

Lovely interview. Thanks for introducing me to a new printer - I can't believe the detail in these prints!

PoorSailor said...

I love this fabric prints. Such a great artist! and such a great blogg.

Sew Bettie said...

I've never heard of leaf printing. What lovely results Lotta gets!

Catherine said...

I can't believe I haven't seen her work before - just beautiful. I love how she has some brighter color with her botanicals too.

kindling said...

I love the simplicity if this work - the way she has taken what is so perfect nad amazing in nature nd added her own spark and twist. Truly inspiring.

ebullientdreamz said...

Hey...just stumbled upon your blog, and glad that I did..these printed fabrics look gorgeous, I just loved the designs featured...oh and the blue handbag and blue cushion covers were lovely...even the story behind the processing and the technique was mind blowing...keep up the good work...its people like you who make our homes aesthetic and pleasing to look at !

Jessica Acosta said...

These are gorgeous!

Minnie said...

I just found your blog, and all of the interviews are awesome! The leaf printing Lotta has done caught my eye. So, I decided to leave a comment. Shannon's work was also very interesting.

karrie said...

I am enchanted with the work displayed here. What wonderful, creative, beautiful pieces.
Karrie Welch

Meibi said...

look great

Gidget said...

WOW! This website is beautiful. Who takes your pictures?

Also- do you have any suggestions for a new crafter on what project to start off with?

CJ said...

This is an old Japanese process (can't remember the name of it in Japanese.) I call it "nature printing." When my high school biology teacher Robert Little (now deceased) retired, he visited Japan and started to make nature prints on paper. Eventually, he was the only American (up to that time) admitted to the special society for nature printers in Japan. One can use anything, it doesn't have to be plant materials. He even used fish bones.

Robert Little published a book called "Nature Printing" ---not sure if it is still available.

When I do this, instead of brushing ink onto the leaves, I roll ink on a glass sheet with a roller used for relief printing, I place a leaf on top of the rolled ink, then I roll more ink on top of it. I place the inky leaf on one piece of paper, then put another sheet of paper on top. I then use a clean roller to transfer the ink, thus I end up with 2 prints. One will be the top of the leaf and one the bottom, which is more interesting with the veins. On some plants, it doesn't matter ---both look equally good. And of course, one print will be a mirror image of the other. I do compositions with several leaves or plants. I particularly like the effect with Queen Ann's Lace, but almost anything that is fairly flat works ---and it works best with fresh plants because they are pliable and not brittle.

I also use different kinds of paper such as parchment or rice paper. I have not printed on fabric, but that is, of course, another option.

I will probably post an image of one of my nature prints within a few days on my Pro Artz blog.


those leaf towels look great

Hannah Nunn said...

i love Lottas work and blog. I just found my way here through her blog. What an amzing site you have. I love hearing peoples stories. thankyou