Embracing Uncertainty

Artist in Residence: Natalie Hinahara – guest blogger by Haptic Studio and Residency inaugural creative, Natlie Hinahara

What a joy it was to be the first guinea pig of the Haptic Studio and Residency! If you’re reading this, you may know that the Haptic Studio and Residency (HSR) space is below Cathi Schwalbe’s home in Lincoln Square, Chicago. It includes small and cozy living quarters, kitchen, bathroom, and a large studio space with a variety of work surfaces and tools. If you want to know more about the amenities and offerings, you can read her previous blog post about it here.

I am lucky to have had Cathi’s supportive presence in my life from the very beginning. She was friends with my parents before I existed, so she has been some combination of auntie, mentor, friend, and inspiration to me for as long as I can remember. 

In the spring of 2022, I was approaching a time of transition in my life. I was about to shift into being a fully self-employed artist and was feeling the pull to move away from the lovely, little town of Viroqua, WI where I had been living for 4 years. I knew I wanted to take advantage of this transition to travel, spend time with loved ones, connect with other artists, and explore making art in new ways. It quickly fell into place to spend three weeks at HSR as the first stop on my meandering tour around the U.S. 

My intentions for my time there were to:

  • Put pencil, pen, ink, or paint on paper every day.
  • Follow whatever threads excite and interest me, whether or not I think it is “good art”.
  • Begin projects without knowing where they are going. 
  • Hold this time and space as exploration for myself with no pressure to share or post about what I’m making while I’m there.
  • Soak in as much music, dance, and art from around me as possible.

I came up with these agreements to myself because I had noticed that most of my art-making time and energy had shifted over the past few years to commissioned projects, design work, or making prints with the expectation that they would be framed, displayed, and sold. While I am very grateful to have commissioned work and outlets (galleries and events) where I am confident I can sell my work, I had started to feel uninspired and somewhat stifled by the predictability and the pressure to make something people would like and buy.

So, I showed up to HSR with some printmaking supplies, gouache, paper, and no plan at all for what I would make there. My first week reminded me a little of when I was in high school, staying up late doodling and drawing just for the pure joy and excitement of making something new. I started playing with the intersection of printmaking and pattern, making little blocks that could fit together and be arranged to create landscapes or tell different stories. The first block I made was a little coneflower that could be repeated like an interlocking tile. After seeing the result of that one block printed as a pattern I knew I had to make more. I made a bunch of new blocks in the same shape (bee balm, clover, goldenrod, grasses, clouds, and geese) so I could play and build different prairie scenes with them. 

Coneflower repeat

Pattern planning


For my first experiment with the blocks, I wanted to create a set of prints that shared the same general layout but arranging the blocks in different ways. I planned some of the arrangements ahead of time and let intuition guide the rest. I prepared 10 sheets of paper with little pencil dots as guides for placement, and then began inking and printing, one block/color at a time. It took a full day to print them all because it took 170 impressions to make the entire set of prints. I’ll share some photos below but you can also watch a video of the process on my instagram @nataliehinahara.


Prairie tile series

Prairie tile print

In the middle of my time at HSR I took a little trip to Ohio for the Mid America Print Conference.  I could write a whole post just about that weekend, but I’ll just say that it was perfect timing to get to reconnect with old printmaking friends, make some new ones, and soak in a whole lot of inspiration.

When I returned from the conference I had about a week left at HSR and I was excited to continue playing with pattern but with a new shape. I had lots of doodles in my sketchbook of falling raindrops so I made some new blocks in the shape of a raindrop but with various textures carved into them. I printed these in a similar method as the prairie series and ended up with a set of five unique prints. They felt a little too clean and perfect so I decided to sketch and doodle on top of them, first with pencil and then adding gouache to some. Quilt patterns have always been intriguing to me, and I often doodle them without thinking. It felt meditative to lay these subconscious designs (passed down to me by generations of quilters in my family) on top of the prints.


Sketchbook and raindrops


Raindrop series


I left HSR with a box of prints, a mountain of ideas for future projects, and a deepened resolve to make time within my regular art practice for play, exploration, and embracing the unknown. Thank you Cathi and Haptic Studios for the time, space, and encouragement to play!