We had the good fortune of connecting with Johanna Mueller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Johanna, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I was always a creative kid, drawing, painting, beading, and doing other crafts, but I quickly learned to capitalize on my talents. I used to paint rocks with extremely detailed designs and then started painting other found objects like bottle and cans, and soda can tabs as necklace charms. Instead of lemonade, I set up a retail stand of my painted goods in front of the house. It wasn’t long until I needed a bank account. I was lucky to grow up in Denver where the Young American’s Bank had just opened in Cherry Creek. They also had a “Young Entrepreneurs” fest where one could sign up to have a table and sell their wares or services. I learned the definition of “Entrepreneur” early on and the allure never left.
I’ve had a few creative jobs while employed by others, but always kept coming back to making artwork for myself. As a printmaker, I also started to accumulate printing presses, and when I met my husband, also an artist, we each had one. Together, we started gathering materials as they came our way in hopes of one day opening our studio to the public. Our dreams came true in 2018 when we were able to purchase a warehouse in Downtown Greeley, inside the Greeley Creative District to house our studio.
Today, Wonderhand Studios is home to all our printing press (7 of them!) and we offer open print hours to the public, as well as instruction in all types of printmaking, and offer 24hr studio access to “members” and have 3 private studio rentals inside the warehouse, one devoted to my own art practice.
Pursuing a creative career as a creative entrepreneur has been so rewarding, but it wasn’t without many false starts, financial acrobatics, hard work and relying on networking and friends.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am an artist, entrepreneur and printmaker! As a printmaker – I make prints, which means that I create a matrix (or block) by carving it with engraving tools to create an image. My process in the “relief print” family, where two surfaces exist, one lower (what has been carved) and one higher (which takes the ink) – much like a rubber stamp. But my engravings are created on a plastic material similar to PVC which is very dense so it retains minuscule details. Because the material is so dense, it requires more pressure than, say a rubber stamp which is soft and can be printed by pressure from the hand. Mine require more pressure to transfer the image to paper, so I run them through my printing press.
My biggest challenge as an artist is constant education of my audience, since the word “print” has come to mean a computer scan of an image which can be reproduced at any size. These prints, sometimes called “giclees” are hard to compete with. Collectors and print enthusiasts know the difference, but the general public is still learning.
Since I use my printing press only half the time I am creating (otherwise I’m drawing, carving, making collages etc), I knew I wanted to be able to share these special machines with other artists. Wonderhand Studios serves as my own studio, and the sense of community is growing as printmakers are finding us and gathering to print in our space. It’s been lovely to create a studio artist community that serves my own needs, and the needs of others.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Greeley is a hidden gem, off the i-25 Highway by 35 miles or so, it has some interesting history. “Go west, young man, go west” was said by Horace Greeley, the cities namesake. We are lucky to live and work near downtown historic Greeley, where charming walking streets boast restaurants, bars and retail.
Our favorite date night start with walking to downtown historic Greeley, where it is easy to find a great dog friendly patio to relax. If it’s Friday in summertime, you might be lucky enough to catch Friday Fest, where live music comes from an outdoor stage and streets are blocked off for dancing and fun for the whole family. If not, you might head to the Kress, the local movie house with 2 screens, and a lovely bar menu which allows for a drink and appetizer during the movie! Post film, the outdoor rooftop patio at Luna’s will transport you to relax mode.
We often entertain our friends with kids, and the local favorite by far is the Model Railroad Museum, where trains of all kinds wind though miniature worlds. Kids are tasked with a list of objects to find, something that keeps them busy for a good 2 hours! (And I still love going as an adult!)
But for the adults… Greeley has recently been on fire with the number of distilleries and breweries opening up. Colorado is known for it’s wonderful tasting water, and so makes excellent spirits and brews. Friends from Denver and beyond make pilgrimages to Greeley to taste the latest release from Weldwerks, a brewery that has been winning awards for years – my favorite is the Key Lime Pie Berliner, but the award winner is Medianoche, a rich dark barrel aged brew. The good thing for us is the Weldwerks is just a block away from Wonderhand Studios! Other breweries are popping up overnight it seems, but Wiley Roots, Green Earth, and Brix Tavern are a few favorites.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutouts! I’m a believer in telling people you are thankful for them, because everyone needs to hear they are needed and appreciated. I would like to thank my mentor, EC Cunningham, my printmaking professor in college at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He made me fall in love with printmaking, and had much to do with why I am an artist today. A year after I graduated from grad school he asked me if I wanted to come back and teach for a semester, and I declined because I had an internship with Hatch Show Print in Nashville and a residency at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass. He said he was proud of me and it was the last thing he ever said to me, he died 6 months later. I wish I could have thanked him more, so every opportunity I have to tell someone I truly appreciate them, I will!
Big shoutout to our friends who helped us move all our heavy equipment – it takes a village! One of our print members, Katie, even gifted me a bumper sticker that says “I collect heavy machinery!”
And we (my husband and I) wouldn’t be the humans that we are without our families. We are privileged and we know it, and will try to give back to those that didn’t have the support we did.
And last but not least, shoutout to the book “The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. This was the first of many books that I read that normalized the life I wanted to live, one in which I could work hard, but still have the freedom I craved for creativity.
Other: Personal: www.johannamuellerprints.com Insta @johannamuellerprints
Studio image (with no people) Credit : Johanna Mueller Studio image (with People): Catherine Mueller Personal image: Stanley Scott