My name is Yelena Bryksenkova, and I’m an illustrator and fine artist living and working in New Haven, Connecticut.
I opened my shop while I was still a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I was busy with schoolwork, so my shop was a small-scale operation that I ran on the side. Just before I graduated in 2010, I submitted my work to Design*Sponge and was featured in a post. This turned out to be a very timely move, and as orders began to trickle in, I started thinking about a more efficient method of printing. That summer, I purchased a refurbished, professional-quality Epson printer and started making my own prints, learning about shipping and customer service as I went along. I work as a full-time illustrator now, and I’m glad I started my shop all those years ago – quietly and without any rush – because it’s paying off now, like a plant I’ve been watering patiently for almost five years. Slowly and steadily, it has grown into a valuable counterpart to my freelance work.
I get a lot of questions about larger prints but, believe it or not, most of the prints I offer are already enlargements. I work very small and become completely engrossed in details. A lot of my inspiration comes from Eastern European folk art and 19th century painting, photography and literature, but also everyday life and all sorts of romantic notions and nostalgic recollections. People often find meaning or emotion in something I’ve painted; they send me little messages about a distant memory it stirred, how it reminds them of someone they love or something they’ve lost. I like to think of these as my silent, secret transmissions – my prints travel great distances all over the world and settle in the homes of those who pick up on them.
Over the years, I’ve streamlined my process of printing, packaging and shipping to make sure that prints reach my customers quickly, safely and packaged like presents, with bright tissue paper, washi tape and a handwritten note. I think thoughtful presentation is a very important method of communication as well; there’s a childlike joy that comes with unwrapping a pretty package, and nothing says “thank you” and “I care” quite like taking the time to put one together.
My shop is a direct line to people all over the world, which means everything to someone like me; I’m easily sent into a reverie at the sight of an international departures board at the airport. That I can contribute something to this world is a very heartwarming feeling. And although it comes with packaging and shipping conundrums, one of my goals for the future is to start offering larger prints. I’d also like to make some useful objects, like notebooks. As an avid collector of notebooks (I’ll use them eventually!), I have no qualms about bringing more into the world.
All photographs by Yelena Bryksenkova.