We first met the energetic and always-smiling Sophie Joubarne when UNIK printshop was our neighbour at Smart Design Mart in Montreal in November, 2012. We instantly fell in love with her work and came home with a half dozen prints and a couple of t-shirts with her beautiful nature-inspired images. Her signature work is her prints on wood veneer and solid wood blocks. UNIK printshop also prints work on contract, teaches screen printing classes in her studio and rents the studio to other artists. We're so excited to bring her work to the B&B community!
B&B: Nature features prominently in your work. Can you talk about your relationship with nature and why it comes up in your creations?
SJ: Nature is for sure my biggest inspiration I think…. I have worked in the Tree Planting industry (first as a planter, then foreman, then supervisor) for over a decade so I am used to spending long intense periods of time totally in sync with the nature. I was outside 24/7, eating, sleeping, working… So with all those hours out in the forest, I got to create my own imagery, which is sometimes realistic and other times totally not…
B&B: We love that you print nature-themed designs onto a natural material. When and how did you start printing on wood, and how does it factor into the work itself?
SJ: I'm not 100% sure when the idea of wood printing arrived, I probably saw some digital printing that was done on wood and thought that I could just use my printing process instead. I also remember looking at one specific block of wood one day, and it had beautiful knots on it (I love knots!) and the way that they were positioned on the wood reminded me of a person's face. Instantly I wanted to draw that image on it, and integrate the visual I had in mind with the beauty of wood… I think that it all started from there….
B&B: Would you say your business is ecologically conscious? What aspects of your business do you aim to make more eco-friendly, if at all?
SJ: I know that I still have work to do to be fully eco-friendly with my business. I sometimes find it hard to fully achieve that goal because of certain ink or chemicals that the screen printing process requires. But for now, some of the good things I do is for one; repurpose the wood samples that are no longer of use; and changed most of my reclaiming chemicals to bio products which has also been a good switch for my own health!
B&B: We'd love to hear the story of how your business came to be.
SJ: Hmmm, this could be a long story! Hahah! From the time that I tried screen printing I immediately fell in love with the process and its many applications - but at first I never really thought that I would end up doing this for a living. I come from a family of teachers, so I have never had an entrepreneur model… One day after a planting season, I was chatting with a french man living in northern BC (where I actually started my business) and he was telling me that the local t-shirt printing shop was for sale… Although I didn't end up buying it, I think that it put a spark in my mind, a spark about starting my own business and being my own boss. It was about 3 years later that I started UNIK Printshop, with the support of Community Future, in Smithers, BC. I moved back to Montreal the year after and I have been at my current studio location since 2012.
B&B: Are there any exciting things coming up for Unik printshop?
SJ: There are so many interesting things happening with the studio, sometimes i'm overwhelmed by how happy I am to have this job! Last Fall we got to add some awesome clients to our list (including the Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal) and we are continuing to print interesting contracts for old or new clients. The courses are also going really well. I am giving Intro classes to screen printing about 4 times a month and I still learn something new at every lesson. The studio rental is also getting more and more popular with new artists or entrepreneurs renting my space for their own projects or orders. Finally, we have a few small fairs coming up in March/April, and a few artists (including you guys!) and I recently signed up with Espace Pop to get a Pop Up shop in early august. This will for sure be a fun collaborative event so people should stay tuned for this one!