Artist at Work: Dana Tanamachi-Williams
The gorgeous sun prints above were made by an artist we've admired for a long time-- graphic designer and letterer Dana Tanamachi-Williams. Dana has created beautiful hand lettering for Time, O Magazine, Nike, and more, so we were thrilled when she agreed to share one of her latest techniques-- typographic sun printing-- at terrain. She'll be joining us in stores this month (8/23 at Styer's and 8/9 in Westport), for a pair of sun printing workshops. Read on to learn more about where she finds inspiration, and what you can look forward to at her upcoming events.
terrain: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got started as a designer?
Dana: I’m originally from Texas, but have lived in Brooklyn for the last six years. I studied Graphic Design in college, and my first job after graduation was designing Broadway show posters at an agency in Manhattan. It was the best first job I could’ve imagined, as I was able to learn so much about type history, plus draw a lot of type by hand. After that, I worked under a legendary designer, Louise Fili, for two years, which greatly shaped my interests and personal aesthetic. In 2012, I launched my own boutique studio, Tanamachi Studio, which specializes in hand-lettering and custom typography for brands big and small.
terrain: Where do you find artistic inspiration?
Dana: I find that most of my inspiration comes from Japanese prints and patterns, vintage or rare book covers, and wood type specimens or posters.
terrain: What is your favorite medium to work with?
Dana: Recently, I’ve gotten back in to watercoloring. I took a couple of classes in college, but hadn’t really touched it again until a year ago. It’s been incredibly therapeutic and I try to do about three small paintings a week.
terrain: What project are you most proud of?
Dana: I’m most proud of a personal project, Flourish, that I created last summer. It was a life-giving and purposeful step away from the kind of work I had become known for. Flourish was my biggest installation to date, and I feel that I truly put my heart and soul into it. It feels more me than anything I’ve ever made. To loop back to the question posed, I’d say the Oprah and TIME covers are a close second!
terrain: Do you have any advice for folks who'd like to master the art of hand lettering?
Dana: If you’re young, I’d encourage you to go to college for design and take your typography classes seriously. There’s no replacement for learning the fundamentals from someone who has been practicing and teaching for years. The repetition and discipline of school will really drill the rules into you. Once you know the rules, you can break them all you want! If you’re not-so-young, or not-so-able to go back to college, I’d recommend a continuing education class at a nearby university. I wouldn’t rely on tutorial websites or books to teach you everything you need to know.
terrain: How do your hand lettering techniques translate into sun printing?
Dana: I use a lot of floral motifs and patterns paired with typography in my work. Creating typographic sun prints is really just another way to make beautiful compositions that mix the two!
terrain: Tell us a bit about your upcoming workshop at terrain-- what will you be teaching us?
Dana: I’m excited about these two workshops because I think they’re a little different than the typical sun print workshops—and when you add in the typographic element, anything is possible! Of course, we’ll be foraging a bit for some of the natural elements, but there will be an opportunity to design a composition for each sun print using our own lettering or hand-drawn elements. I led this workshop last year at a design retreat, and we had the best time! It’s definitely a workshop for designers and non-designers alike, and there’s no “wrong” way to do anything. Participants can create a sun print with a simple letter (monogram), or design a whole quote or phrase—and of course we’ll incorporate some of the beautiful leaves and blossoms just like traditional sun prints. We’ll start off with some smaller practice prints, and move into larger compositions that will look great framed or displayed in one’s home or studio.
terrain: Is there an element of the workshop you’re most excited about?
Dana: I’m most excited to see what everyone comes up with, honestly. I’ll provide some basic inspiration and examples, but I love seeing people’s personalities come through in their prints. No two are ever alike!