Bizzie Bee's Artist Interview: Michelle Pardini

Hello Bees,

Happy November! How is the school year coming along for you? The weather has been delightful and I hope you've been out exploring Hong Kong's beautiful neighbourhoods.

This month we have Michelle (Pardini Prints) sharing her art with us. She currently has an exhibition on at the Verandah Gallery titled PERSPECTIVE: macro · micro which you can catch until mid November.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm American by birth, but grew up in Hong Kong and consider it home. I work as a science teacher and have been teaching for about 15 years. I love spending time in nature, whether hiking through the hills of Hong Kong or tending my own garden, and I'm passionate about conservation and environmental protection.

How did you start making art/start your creative journey?

I have very little formal art training, but was drawn to the aesthetic of simple woodblock prints many years ago, and decided to try my hand at lino printing. It took me a while to get used to carving out the negative space and to carve the reflection of the image. Though I knew that I could use transfer techniques to get images more precisely as I wanted them, I found that I liked the surprise of drawing directly on the linoleum or rubber block, carving, and then seeing the printed image for the first time. Many times in print-making I find that the imperfections, or the unintentional slips of the carving tool, are the elements of the created art that I love the most. I love that there's always a certain unknown, or an element of letting go in print-making, until you do your first inking.

Why do you make art?

For me, pattern printing is almost a form of meditation, similar to creating a mandala. First the planning of the print: I try not to overthink it, but to let inspiration come. I usually sketch out a few ideas, and then draw directly onto the rubber block. After carving, I make a test print, and then sometimes make a few changes, usually in an effort to balance out the positive and negative space. Then I consider the color(s) of ink to use, and finally start printing the pattern. As someone who is usually easily distracted, this is an activity that can keep me focused (and not checking my phone!) for hours.

What is your workspace like?

I don't have a studio, and like most HKers, my flat is quite small. Most of my work is created on my very small coffee table! It gets cluttered very quickly, so if I'm trying to print an edition of lino prints, even finding space to let them dry is a challenge. I also have two cats who are very interested in everything I do, so keeping them out of the ink and away from the sharp tools is always interesting.

What is your favourite art form and why?

All kinds of relief prints! I first became fascinated by woodblock prints when I was living near Xi'an in the early 2000's and found the store of the artist Ding Jitang in the Muslim Market. It seemed like a mystery to me that a whole scene could be communicated through the carving of simple lines and shapes.

What inspires you and how do you keep your creative spark?

The nice thing about pattern printing is that the stamps are usually small and do not take too long to carve. If I feel like I've fallen into a rut, I try a design that is completely different and out of my comfort zone. I force myself to feature a different geometric or organic shape, or a different shape of stamp. If I don't like the end result, it's just a small piece of rubber. Moving on from this kind of "failure" is an important part of keeping creativity alive. When I was younger, I think I found it harder to keep going when I was dissatisfied with my work. But now I see it as part of the process and part of my growth as a person. I find inspiration in many places, but most often in nature. If I feel stuck, going on a hike, or examining the leaves on the plants in my garden, usually gives me an idea for something to try.

What are you reading right now?

Beatrix Potter: The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius

What do you collect?

Art from other artists who I admire (mainly prints!).

What is your dream project if there were no restrictions on time or money? What would you create?

I would love to write and create the art for a children's book. I won't share the topic that I've thought of, lest someone steals it!

Find more of Michelle's work here @pardiniprints.

Verandah Gallery located opposite H307, 3/F Blk B, PMQ 35 Aberdeen Street

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Bizzie Bee is a social enterprise initiative and primary funding partner of Lizzie Bee Foundation Ltd, a Hong Kong registered charity. Money raised from the sale of our products goes directly to arts projects for the underprivileged in our community.

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