For her first interview in 2021, Lone Hansen spent time with Victoria Foster Harrison, an encaustic printmaker from Port Townsend. Hansen met Harrison when she first started out on Bainbridge Island. Harrison’s work was showcased by Hansen while she had her Art Soup gallery on Madrona Lane.
Here are excerpts from Lone Hansen’s extensive conversation with printmaker, Victoria Foster Harrison, who also conducts workshops at her Curly Girl Art Studio in Port Townsend. Some wording and order has been revised to provide further clarity.
Lone Hansen: How the pandemic affected you as artist?
Victoria Foster Harrison: Actually, it’s been great for me. One of the reasons is that I rejuvenate by having alone time. I need the social time but I rejuvenate by being an introvert. I love being with my students; I love the social time; I miss my kids terribly; I miss my friends terribly… but it’s been a great opportunity for me to explore and go deep with a lot of the ideas that I have. My mind is constantly coming up with new ideas. My friends and family constantly tell me, “You need to slow down.”
Hansen: How have you used those ideas?
Harrison: At first, I was hopeful that the lockdowns and stay at homes would end quickly, but I eventually figured out with everyone that it wasn’t going to happen quickly. I realized that live online classes were the way of the future. They were a current day [vehicle] for people to connect. I’ve been finding that taking classes and also teaching them in that type of format brings people together from all over the world. I had a class with two students from Australia and one from the UK. And I never would have been able to have those students in my studio. I took a lot of time working on unfinished projects. I started taking Zoom art classes –because I was interested and I also wanted to learn how they did Zoom. Some were demo only; some presentations and lectures; some interactive.
Hansen: Which classes most resonated?
Harrison: One of my favorite classes was with Lucie Duclos of the Winslow Art Center. The other was with David Owen Hastings of the Port Townsend School of the Arts. Very different formats but I had a great time with those classes because they stretched me in different ways. During this time, I allowed myself to learn different techniques that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the time to learn.
One class I took was drawing with quirky little birds – it was something new, different and fun. I was giggling at myself for doing something on the fun side.
Hansen: Are you still feeling inspired?
Harrison: For me the pandemic has been harder recently – because the longevity of it is tiresome. I have created a Covid-compliance studio where I only take four students. We have social distancing and I have really great air movement in my 1,000-foot studio, which was a gift from my mother. It’s been really refreshing to have people in my studio working.
Hansen: I’d like to hear about your teaching. You seem to really enjoy it.
Harrison: I really do enjoy it and I always learn something from my students. It’s a place of community. Most of my teaching is done through the Winslow Art Center. I also have classes in my studio since I’m a satellite campus for the Port Townsend School of the Arts.
Hansen: You’ve a long relationship with Winslow Art Center?
Harrison: Winslow Art Center was the first place I taught encaustic printmaking in 2013. So, I’ve reconnected with Martha Jordan. The Center is closed due to Covid but they give online live classes. I’m partnering with another teacher, Sharon Grader, from Edmonds. We’ll be teaching mark-making.
Hansen: What’s your favorite thing to teach?
Harrison: Encaustic printmaking. However, I am really enjoying this mark-making. It crosses many mediums. I use a hot box or a warmed pallet (some use a pancake griddle) – I’m designing a live class so people can do it at home. It’s taking chunks of colored bees wax and touching it to this warm 170-degree surface. The wax melts and I teach how to make all types of strokes — long, short, organic, straight, curling, tapping — using non-metal tools to make all kinds of marks. Paper absorbs the wax if you lift it up, and you have an original kind of print. I definitely push the limits — I add many layers and unique marks on the plate. The process is fast and fluid and it’s very freeing to me. There are quirks to it, but it’s a lesson in letting go and going with the flow. That’s been freeing as an artist.
Hansen: How is it freeing?
Harrison: There are artists who do it just to loosen themselves up. Whether they create professionally sold art or not. Many artists have a daily practice of creating a drawing a day to warm up. It’s a free-flowing, loose process and it’s endless… the amounts of techniques you can use with it. You can’t use acrylic paint on it but you can use water color, different kinds of ink.
Lone: When did you start being an artist?
Harrison: I think I was always interested as a child. I do have a degree in art from the California School of the Art in Long Beach. I definitely took breaks of sorts to have jobs to be able to support myself. When my family was young, I was an at-home mom. My husband traveled a lot so I [dealt] with the things that single moms handle and I also had moved away from my family so I didn’t have family around. I started doing crafts so I could do something creative — picture frames, drawings, or doing fun painting on a pumpkin. When my kids were a little older, I was able to work on it full time. When we lived on Bainbridge Island, I had a studio there and that’s how I got involved with Bainbridge Arts and Crafts (BAC) and Art Soup and that’s when we met.
Hansen: That’s when you felt like a professional artist?
Harrison: It felt good when I started selling. But another component was being part of organizations. I started out with the Northwest Watercolor Society, then I moved onto the Women Painters of Washington. I was juried into that group. And now I’ve got the Northwest Collage Society which meets in Shoreline. A wonderful group of people. I started getting into collage because of the cost printmaking. I love making paper with texture, mark-making and patterns and I incorporate them into my larger pieces that are collaged with photographs on ink-jet ready paper or rice paper and mark-making — those are the pieces I have at BAC right now.
Hansen: So, you’re at BAC, are you anywhere else?
Harrison: I’m technically with the Women Painters of Washington gallery in Seattle but I’ve been an inactive member recently. I also show with Northwind Gallery in Port Townsend. Also, the Grover Gallery with the Port Townsend School of the Arts. That’s my most recent gallery showing – March of this year.
Hansen: Have you sold anything?
Harrison: Yes! All three of those places. BAC, Northwind, and Rover.
Hansen: What do you see when you look back?
Harrison: How far? Joy, struggle, chaos, peace, but I would say mainly growth.
Hansen: Looking ahead, what do you see?
Harrison: There’s so much! I’m going to loosely quote a friend of mine. He is so happy to wake up each day and to know that each day is going to be different. Let’s embrace the differences that arrive on our doorsteps. I look forward to it with eagerness.
Hansen: What’s the best way to get a hold of you?
GALLERY of work
ABOUT LONE HANSEN. Lone is an artist who has owned several galleries in San Francisco, Seattle, and Bainbridge Island. She currently lives in Poulsbo where she is a member of the Poulsbo Arts League. During this pandemic and through her interactions with fellow artists, Lone has been creating art, gaining daily inspiration, cooking, and is taking care of dogs again. “I like this new normal,” she said. “It’s good for me – it is.” Lone has been “downsizing” her entire life – not just her studio, but her “whole life.” “It’s good to remember a life well lived,” she reflected. “Never boring, and it’s got me to where I am today.”