Artist Success: Printmakers Talk Business

Melissa Holden and Marilyn Syme are printmakers who use very different methods to create art. We asked about the unique nature of their technique, how they explain the value of their work, and how they market and sell.


Selection of works by printmaker Melissa Holden. See her interview at

Selection of works by printmaker Melissa Holden


Melissa Holden

I create abstract block prints and screen printed illustrations. I approach my block prints like a screen printer, so the work highlights a graphic crispness, but also the natural texture of a hand pulled block print. My method is to cut out and carve individual pieces of gumuban.  Each shape carries a different color to create all the layers of the final piece. I think my approach to block printing is unique as well, because I mix all my own colors so I can achieve subtlety and depth in the colors. My method for screen printing my illustrations is pretty standard, but the content, perspective, and play with contrast are a little unexpected.

In order to convey the value of my prints, I stress that my work is made and printed by hand from start to finish including the colors I use. I do sell reproductions of my handmade pieces and this is made clear to the customer in description and price point.

I do most of my marketing through social media like Instagram and Facebook. I also send out a newsletter and participate in local crafts fairs that have large turnouts. I try to get my work into shops and shows that embrace a similar aesthetic.


Selection of works by printmaker Marilyn Syme. See her interview at

Selection of works by printmaker Marilyn Symes

Marilyn Syme

When printmaking I use a “white line woodcut” technique. A single wood block is used for white line woodcuts with V cuts (cutting twice at a 45 degree angle) around each color area for color separation. The white line woodcut is relatively new, started in 1915 by seven artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts. To separate colors in the traditional multi block woodcut, which is thousands of years old, each color is printed with an individual block.

Any artist using the white line woodcut finds it a labor of love. Each printing of a single white line print requires the wood block to be hand painted using a brush. The traditional method uses a roller to apply inks which is much faster. The result is a unique piece of artwork when transferred to the paper. Due to the labor intensive nature of the technique, the editions are small. Most editions are 15 or less.

The majority of my work is sold in galleries.

My most recent project of a “wordless book” narrated with my white line woodcuts was shown in the Washington County Museum of Fine Art in Hagerstown, Maryland. Visitors experienced the illustrated journey by walking passed the framed pages. My video of the book was projected on the wall for another approach to sharing the artwork.

Selling at the oldest farmer’s market in Vermont is a great way to connect personally with customers. The time is minimal at 9-1 on Saturdays. It takes me back to the art and craft show days. The only catch is that I have to bake pies to get a permanent space there.

My major direction for 2017 is to increase sales on the internet and use social media to introduce my work to more people.



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