Artist Profile: Timme Lu

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I went to school for visual communication and design, learned about letterpress printing there, and started focusing on materials and bookbinding. Then I was lucky enough to find a job in Portland, at a greeting card shop as their primary printer. Through that company I met Caitlin, the Studio Manager at the IPRC at the time. She was really warm and welcoming, and invited me to be a letterpress steward. I’ve been living in Portland for about three years now, printing, and, you know, slowly figuring it out.

What mediums do you work in?
Mostly paper, printing, ink, and I’ll sometimes draw and do digital stuff like graphic design.

What generally is your work about?
Lines and form. Kind of perspective but in a more alternate-reality type of way, and trying to create 3-D out of 2-D materials. I think the easiest way to put it is just simple things.

Where do you get inspiration?
Is it a cliché to say just everything? [laughs] A lot of it is just observing people, the landscape, how things move, because I feel like a lot of my work is related to shapes and lines and just seeing how everything is placed together.

Nature appears often in your work. Why do you return to that motif?
I think nature just because it’s so prevalent in Portland, and it’s so easy to access. I feel like I’ve never met anyone who has gone into nature and been like “this sucks”, you know? And look at a mountain or a waterfall, that happened naturally and you can’t really re-create that kind of beauty, but you can try with whatever medium you’re using. It’s just like adding onto the beauty that already exists. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

What draws you to combine writing and visuals?
It’s just as simple as expression. Because I started off doing graphic design and I was really interested in symbolism and iconography and typesetting and design, and I realized I can produce all these things myself and write and create and also hand bind it all into one. So it just feels more complete every time. I feel like I’ve taken a part of myself and created this 3D form, like “here it is”. It’s more selfish. It just feels good.

Is there a piece of work you see as a turning point in your art?
This book called I Miss. The book itself is fairly simple, just some writing and then some etchings… I actually haven’t really talked about this piece. I made it in Chicago, and it’s just about missing Portland, because that’s sort of where I grew up, and it’s about the relationship between childhood and my connection to it today. It was like an internal study for myself, and it helped me create this linear, geometric style that I’ve been using a lot now, which is actually something that I’m kind of getting tired of. But you know, maybe I’ll have another revelation of sorts that will help me change my style.

Is there a project that you’re working on right now?
Yeah, I’m trying to create a scroll print just using letterpress rules. It’s supposed to be a gift for my parents. It’s about their first date together on a mountain, so I’m creating a mountainscape with rules.

How would you like to see the IPRC grow?
It would be cool to get different printing presses. And expand classes to be able to get into more advanced levels so that we can show people that are interested other ways to utilize printing methods. Because there’s so much in contemporary letterpress printing that’s about using the press in different ways, and that could plant a seed for bigger ideas for other people in the community.

If you could collaborate on a project with an artist living or dead, who would you most want to work with?
I’ve always been a fan of Jen Farrell from Starshaped press, she’s located in Chicago. I just think she’s leading the charge in metal and wood typesetting, and just using it as an artform. It’d be pretty cool to work with her.

What do you do when you have a creative block?
Bike. Just kinda bike around town. And sit and sketch and doodle. Just try to filter out the things that aren’t necessarily going to come to a fully realized project.

Timme Lu is a printer who studied visual communication and design at the Art Institute of Chicago. He has volunteered at the IPRC for almost 3 years, as a letterpress steward, giving workshops, and assisting printers during open studio. Timme has designed various album covers, greeting cards, and art books, all of which can be found on his website, Instagram: timmezlu

All images are used by permission of the artist. Interview by Ella Stewart.