Thursday, July 12, 2007

mLee ... Massachusetts, USA

Artist: Marissa L. Swinghammer
Business: mLee
Web site:
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

What do you create?
I create one of a kind woodblock prints. Lately I have been using every bit of them even the failures by pressing those into one of a kind buttons, magnets and pocket mirrors! I'm rather tickled that even when a piece doesn't work as a whole I am able to make something pretty from it in the end.

Where and when do you do your creative work?
Whenever I feel like it. I do this full time on my own schedule.

Do you have another "day job"?
I'm lucky enough that I have been able to focus on my art for close to two years now. Before that I had odd jobs around Boston but I just couldn't get serious about anything other than art. Now that I am about to have a baby, having a job already at home seems even more ideal.

Where and what did you study?
I studied printmaking at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. Other than the first two years I didn't enjoy my time there very much and came out of school with a major creative block. This block didn't lift until I took a woodblock printing class (something I barely tried in undergrad) at Mass Art here in Boston during the summer of 2005. It changed everything for me.

Where do you find inspiration?
Nature and just looking around me with open eyes, sketchbook in hand. I tend to pull color combinations from all over and use them in my pieces. Color is very important to me.

What motivates you?
The desire to not be miserable. And if I am not making art for an extended period of time I am quite miserable.

When did you start doing this?
I started doing art when I was just a little thing, but I didn't find the right outlet for it until 2005 when I fell head over heels with woodblock printmaking and a relaxed style of making these prints.

Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
My parents had a lot of books and I liked sifting through them randomly before I could even read. I remember picking out a Matisse book and copying the pieces using my crayons and presenting them to my mother.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?
After struggling for a number of years after college I realized that working for "the man" was not for me.

How did you choose the name for your business?
Even though my last name is Swinghammer I don't sign my work with that name. It is my married name, there is already and artist with that last name (a cousin of my husband) and I like how mLee looks as a signature. Short and sweet. My middle name is Lee and I am quite attached to that middle name.

What do you love most about creating your work?
The rush I get after I finish a piece and am pleased. But I love every aspect of it except for tearing paper to size for printing and clean up.

What's the most fascinating place you've been?
I'm pretty boring when it comes to traveling and haven't really been to any places that I would call fascinating. What comes to mind is an island in upper Maine that I went to last Memorial Day. It was so cut off and beautiful and I had never seen stars like that before.

A book you love:
has been at the top of that list for a few years now.

What is the most interesting thing about you?
Nothing had more of an impact on my life than my mother's long-running battle with cancer that ended with her death ten years ago. Even though she died eventually she went down fighting and she is my hero. When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was just a baby, they gave her six months to live. She lived nearly twenty years.

What achievement are you most proud of?
I'm pretty proud of my art and what I accomplished last year in a very short period of time. As soon as I got serious about getting my work out there in a way that works for me everything seemed to fall into place. I'm proud to be able to say that I have hundreds of pieces of my art hanging all over the world.

What advice would you give women starting their own business?
Have a good support system. Having a supportive and encouraging husband, boyfriend or just some very good friends means so much when doing something like this. I have both a supportive husband and some wonderful friends that encourage me all the time.

What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
I am my biggest challenge. Sometimes nothing seems to satisfy me. This is a very unpredictable world and that certainly takes getting used to.

What do you love to do in your free time?
I read a lot and enjoy taking my greyhound on walks around town.

What are you working on right now?
Making a baby. I'm eight months pregnant and I have to say that it has slowed down my art pretty significantly. First I was sick and now I am just tired and hot. Gone are the days where I print five to six hours non-stop, starting and finishing thirty pieces in one session.

What do you hope to achieve next?
I really need to clean my studio so I can print. I'd like to be able to find a way to work art into my life after the baby comes. I'm taking things as they come.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful work. Being a mom changes everything but it doesn't change the creative side. You'll just need it more to find the time to your art. Best of luck.

  2. I bought one of MLee's prints last month from her store on and absolutely love it. I live in Bangkok, Thailand and the colors on her print reminded me so much of Thailand and my life here. Will be a wonderful memory tool if I ever leave here :-)

    Sorry the baby's making you feel so miserable but it'll definitely be worth it soon :-)

    Keep up the beautiful work!

  3. I love her artwork. It is an inspiration that this can be done as a full time job. I like to hear stories like this. I would love to just be a printmaker, have a studio at home and just create!

  4. Breathtaking! I wish I could make art like this!