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Cincinnati, OH, 45227

Ohio Explored's mission is simply to awaken people to the beauty of Ohio.

Ink+Craft

Ohio Made

Ink+Craft

Kate Bresnan Messa

Ink+Craft creates colorful, contemporary linocut prints and illustrations inspired by folk art, nature, and the landscapes of the Midwest. We interviewed owners Matthew and Ariana Broerman to learn more about their local business in Loveland, Ohio.

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Tell us about your business.

We are Ink+Craft, artists Matthew and Ariana Broerman, creating modern art and illustrations inspired by nature and the Midwest. Matt grew up on a farm in northern Ohio with his parents and three siblings; Ariana is the daughter of immigrant parents and grew up near Dayton with her parents and brother.

We met in college as students of the University of Cincinnati's design program (DAAP). After graduating in 2003, we worked as designers in and around Cincinnati until we started Ink+Craft in 2017. We now live in Loveland with our two daughters, but we really consider ourselves from Ohio more than any one town.

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What drew you to your craft?

A desire to create. Art, printmaking, gardening, sewing -- it is so satisfying to make something from nothing and work to nurture it until it becomes great. Printmaking specifically lets us create designs in the bold, graphic style we like. There are lots of ways to manipulate the outcome of a design: how we carve a block, how the colors overlap, or what type of paper we use can all affect how a print turns out. There’s a human touch that’s apparent in each print, and no two are the same.

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What is your favorite thing you have ever made?

We’re pretty hard critics of our own work, so our favorite things are always the most recent. When we look back at old work, we think about all the new skills and techniques that we’ve learned that would make the art so much better. We guess that means we’re improving.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Matt: I grew up on a farm and I was always out in nature playing with my siblings. When I couldn’t play outside, I’d spend my time inside drawing. My grandmother would give me long reams of connected dot-matrix paper that she got from work, and I would draw these never-ending landscapes of dinosaurs, volcanoes, and jungles, creating my own little world. I didn’t specifically set out to become an artist until recently, but the seeds were there from early on.

Ariana: As a kid, I loved making art and jewelry. I would dream up a necklace design and spend all my allowance on beads, thread, and books that showed different beading and knotting techniques. I remember riding home on the school bus, eager to get home to keep working on my new project. I loved the process of making something as much as the end result.

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What is your creative process?

First we need to get inspired, and that usually comes from nature. We live in an area where woodpeckers, foxes, hawks, and deer are right outside our windows. We’re fascinated by the forms and fluidity of nature. How an animal can choose to be strong and bold, or how they can disappear into the background. Nature is a system where everything works together in harmony. We try and capture that in our work, taking inspiration from what we see. We do a lot of sketches, most of which are terrible. But then we hit on an idea, or a way of capturing a scene that is powerful, elegant, and full of personality. That’s what we’re chasing, and it’s pretty elusive. By they time we’re ready to print, we have a good idea of what the final will look like. We’re self-taught printmakers, and we’re still learning the nuances of the linocut printing process. Where do you add texture? How do colors interact? Every print is different, which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Printmaking will definitely test your nerves.

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What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Take the opportunities that come your way. If you don’t know how to do something, learn. If you fail, try again. Don’t worry so much about the path you’re supposed to take. Oh, and wear sunscreen.

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Why is it important to support local artists & makers?

Support the things you love. When you buy from an independent maker, your money gives them the opportunity to continue creating the things you love. Artists put a lot of effort into all the details of their work, and it feels great when that’s appreciated.

Why do you love doing what you do?

Freedom. We’re grateful to work together and live this lifestyle. Being artists and running our own business takes a lot of time, but we’ve always felt that you have to put in the time to get a good result in anything you do. We’re showing our daughters that you can build the life you want through hard work and creativity. It’s not just “talent” that makes you successful. Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration… right?

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What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?

Just start! Even if it’s only in the evenings or on weekends, take steps forward every day. Look at what else is out there, and work to distinguish yourself and your craft. Also, it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s hard work, and it requires sacrifice, but we think it’s worth it.

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What is your favorite thing about exploring Ohio?

Ohio is our home, and we’re both lifelong residents. We’ve lived on rural farmland, in big cities, and now in suburban Loveland, a great town with small independent shops, restaurants, and parks. We love the variety that Ohio has, and the intimate communities nestled all over. One thing we’ve consistently heard from people who have moved to Ohio is how genuine and kind people here are. It’s a wonderful place to raise kids and start your own new (ad)venture.

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