Photo by Kayla Frioult
When you think about your favourite piece of tech, chances are it’s lightweight, high-speed, and small enough to always be wondering where you left it. That’s not the case for Daria Hirny. Her tech of choice? A three-thousand-pound, antique printing press. And it’s got three friends! In addition to her Heidelberg Windmill press, she has a Chandler & Price Platen from 1910, an Oswego paper cutter from the early 1900s, and a Challenge paper cutter from 1970. Good thing she also owns Homework Letterpress Studio, where she brings cards to life with hand-mixed inks, thick cotton paper, and a passion 500 years in the making. This week’s “I Am YEG Arts” story belongs to Daria Hirny.
Tell us about your connection to Edmonton and how it’s influenced your path.
I grew up in Edmonton as a first generation Canadian. My parents chose Edmonton out of all the other cities in Canada because of a few family connections, but generally they were on their own. To me it was all I ever knew, and I was able to build some really amazing friendships throughout grade school and University. As I age, I always find new ways to love this city and find inspiration. Edmonton is home, and it has given me the comfort and connection to share the things that make me happy.
How did you learn about printmaking, and why did it resonate with you?
When I was in my second year of my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I had an opportunity to take a printmaking class. It was all new to me. I didn’t know there were so many different styles of printmaking, I didn’t know that the University of Alberta had a world-class printmaking facility, and I didn’t know that I would be learning from some of the best people imaginable. I loved that there were so many different techniques to learn and that you could put your own spin on it once you learned how to use the machines and materials properly. It has a perfect blend of clean and messy, technical and exploratory, delicate and physical. There’s just nothing else like it.
What made you settle on letterpress?
I ended up settling on letterpress because I was interested in finding a career where I could straddle the line of art and graphic design. Throughout the history of letterpress, it has been used for all sorts of graphic design projects—posters, fliers, invitations, greeting cards, and anything that needed to be reproduced quickly with many copies before computers were invented. Because I wanted to make art that could be accessible to a wide variety of people, I realized that printing greeting cards on a printing press could be just the answer I was looking for.
What from your everyday fuels your creativity?
I love watching the seasons change, seeing the bugs come out, and listening to the birds sing. I love having a nap in a hammock and feeling the sun on my face. Calm moments outside fuel my creativity and help me gain a fresh perspective on life.
Cards become such keepsakes in people’s lives. Do you hold onto them? Can you tell us about one?
When I was a kid, I used to keep every card I was given. Now I try to keep the ones that will bring me joy or surprise me when I reread them later in life. To be honest, I don’t remember any imagery on the cards I was gifted, but I do remember the messages inside. The ones that are the most important to me are the ones that show honesty and vulnerability. These are the messages that are usually too hard to say out loud to someone but can be written in a card and be reread over and over.
Who’s someone inspiring you right now?
Someone who is inspiring me right now is Meg Gleason, of Moglea. She uses the greeting card form to play with her own style by using letterpress and paint techniques that are truly one of a kind. She has a way of not letting the greeting card limit her in what she can do and instead uses it as a vehicle to share her art with the world. I find this incredibly inspiring.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process and your least favourite?
Seeing my designs come to life in letterpress is definitely my favourite part of the creative process. With all letterpress projects though, there is usually a lot of prep work. This is probably my least favourite part because there is a lot to do, it can be overwhelming, and it usually involves things like measuring, which can easily go wrong.
The printing press is one of the most important inventions of all time. What does it mean to you to be part of print culture?
One of the reasons I love letterpress is because of its long history and its beautifully designed machines. I feel empowered to use these machines as a woman in a city where there aren’t very many letterpress printers. Because of the culture behind letterpress, there is a strong online community of letterpress printers who I have learned a lot from.
What are you currently working on or hoping to explore next?
Currently I am working on a new catalogue of greeting cards for Summer 2022.
You visit Edmonton 20 years from now. What do you hope has changed? What do you hope has stayed the same?
Twenty years from now, I hope to see more printmakers, more people trying letterpress, and more people being bold with their creativity. I also hope that the maker community is still as friendly and supportive as it is now.
Want more YEG Arts Stories? Follow yegarts on tumblr, where they will be sharing them here all year and on social media using the hashtag #IamYegArts.
Click here to learn more about Daria Hirny and Homework Letterpress, and bring one home one of her cards or prints on your next visit to TIX on the Square!
About Daria Hirny
Daria Hirny runs a letterpress printing company called Homework Letterpress Studio. Daria loves to bird watch, hike, and when she can, take a good two-hour nap. Each card is inspired by Canadian nature, vintage illustrations, and antique machines. The printing process has always interested Daria since she learned printmaking back in University. She settled on the letterpress process because of its printing speed, quality, and amazing engineering.