Student artist Monica Madeiros, whose mediums include sign painting, photography, letterpress, printing and drawing, has an infectious laugh and no patience for what she calls, “conceptual mumbo jumbo.”
A senior in the studio art department at Mills, Madeiros is working on her thesis, a combination of photography and letterpress work. She owns and operates a small print shop in Port Costa where she prints business cards, post cards and greeting cards.
How did you get started printing?
I grew up around presses. My mom is a paper and gift designer, and she bought a platen press after coveting my aunt’s letterpress studio. One of my earliest memories is watching my dad push my mom’s press into our garage on galvanized pipes. I didn’t know it then, but I would use the same method to move all of my future presses.
I started getting serious about printing when I was a teenager. I’d always been creative and artistic, and in high school I naturally assumed to role of poster and sign maker. I pursued any endeavor that involved making some kind of sign. It didn’t take long for me to turn to my mom’s press and start tinkering, and from that point, it was all over.
What is it about printing that you enjoy?
I’ve always had an affinity for old, slow processes and anything that involves using my hands. … Letterpress is such a tangible craft. And while I have a lot of appreciation for printers who use elaborate digital designs and print with the new photo polymer (plastic) plates, nothing beats hand set metal and wood type to me.
How does sign painting inform the artwork you do?
I think all of the work I do references letterforms in some way. … I have always had an interest in letterforms, and if I drew anything at all, it was ornate letters. I was a self-described “hand letterer.”… I’ve been doing a lot of drawing lately, drawings that have to do with memories from my childhood. I didn’t realize until I stepped back and looked at them, that a lot of my memories are associated with signs and letters and words. And really, I only started drawing images recently, but I learned to draw letters long ago, and have been doing so my entire life.
Do photography and printmaking overlap for you?
They have begun to overlap slightly in my pursuit of the senior thesis exhibition. I think more often than not, it’s my photographic eye that informs the printing. I love photography; it’s always been one of my passions. … Like many things in my life, it is a tool in my very large tool box, and I am grateful to have it.
What is your thesis about?
My thesis focuses on ephemera and memory. Specifically, it deals with my upbringing in the small historic town of Port Costa. I utilize my personal archive of photographs, newspapers, notes, etc, to tell not only my story, but the story of my community.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I plan to continue to grow my little business, build my house, grow my garden … and hopefully become more and more self-reliant. I’m not much of an activist, nor am I a politician, but I work everyday to become more sustainable, live more off my land, reuse more and consume less. I’d like to have a ranch someday, hopefully with a barn full of letterpress equipment.
What inspires you?
If I’m working in my studio, there is definitely music playing. And if for some reason I can’t have music, well, then I don’t work.