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