Andrea Mae Miller is a fine art printmaker by trade, selling her limited edition prints in galleries around New Zealand. Her Felt shop, Peter’s Thumb, is an opportunity for Andrea to use her designs in a more informal and playful context, creating objects that are both functional and beautiful.
What do you make?
I’m just experimenting with my printing press and used woodblock plates. Printing on linen and paper, making a variety of products from napkins and pillowcases, to cards and wedding invitations.
How did you get into your craft?
I guess like most crafters I am a lifelong craft addict! I’ve been a maker for as long as I can remember, and still find myself fidgety if I try to do something like watch TV without keeping my hands busy. Printmaking drew me in slowly, I love the way all these little steps build up to create the final picture.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Printmaking.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
For my printmaking practice I use a combination of bamboo etching and woodblock prints. The nice thing about woodblock is that unlike the bamboo etching plates, which disintegrate as you use them, the woodblock plates can be used again and again. I often find that by putting the plates into different combinations when I play around with the napkins, I end up inspiring new works.
Where does the name of your Felt shop come from?
The name St. Peter’s Thumb Print Studio confuses lots of people. It comes from the spot on the side of a John Dory, which is referred to in some places as St. Peter’s Thumb Print. I used the image of the John Dory as a recurring motif in lots of my early work. And of course as a printmaker you avoid thumb/finger prints at all costs!
Describe your workspace:
It is a very small little sleep-out behind my house that is dominated by my very old etching press. It is a completely chaotic mess, I manage to see my actual desk surface about once a month! I have a collection of natural objects lining the window sills, skulls, bones and shells. It always smells a little like turps.
If I am in the middle of printing an edition, every spare space will be taken up with drying work, so the napkins etc for my Felt shop often find their way into the house when I run out of room up there! The printing process can be quite repetitive when you’re editioning, so I listen to audio books while I work, anything from Agatha Christie to popular science books.
What inspires you?
I think art and science have a relationship in that you are constantly curious and observing the world around you. I always take my camera with me on walks, nature can suprise you with the perfect pattern/silhouette/composition, just when you’re not prepared. I usually have a stack of library books in my studio, anything from biology textbooks to books about other artists.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
William Morris is quoted as saying… “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This sums up the philosophy behind my felt shop perfectly. And if you can have usefulness and beauty in one object…
Recommend an album:
I love the Mamaku Project, their first album, Karekare, is perfect for those lazy summer afternoons, beanbags and beers out in the garden!
What are you reading?
I’ve just picked up Justin Paton’s How to Look at a Painting. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it!
A favourite quote:
“I must confess I love my press, for when I print, I know no stint of joy.” – Edwin Roffe 1861
Do you have any pets?
Umm… our neighbour’s cat kind of has us as his pets! He’s very determined that he lives at our house, so we get to hang out with him without actually being pet owners! It’s generally pretty cool, except when he decides to bring rats inside in the middle of the night and play with them under our bed!
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Totara tree green
Inspired by the challenge of a “disposable-free” kitchen, Andrea and her husband Nick (handsomely sporting a stylish shag napkin above) use Andrea’s real linen napkins – you can see more of these in her Felt shop, Peter’s Thumb, and the limited edition prints that inspire them at www.AndreaMaeMiller.co.nz.