Dayna Walton hasn’t even graduated from Kendall College yet and she’s already leading workshops at local art hub Lions and Rabbits. She has more than 8,000 Instagram followers and her work is being sold online as Solstice Handmade. Between textile work, printmaking, illustration and graphic design, Walton is already making a name for herself in the West Michigan art and maker scene.
How did you get started at Kendall and what work are you currently doing outside of art school?
I grew up in Hudsonville and started taking classes at Kendall while in high school. That early exposure to professional arts let me know that this was for sure something I always wanted to do. I’ve always been driven by making things. In the beginning, it was all about the challenge of creating something that someone hadn’t seen before. Now, the need to make still drives me but it’s more about making to learn and teach others. I graduate from Kendall in the spring with a BFA in printmaking. I feel right on the brink of the safety of being a student, and the unsteadiness of life after school. Currently, I work at Lions and Rabbits, assisting with curating and planning classes and events.
How did you fall in love with printmaking?
I hadn’t any idea what printmaking was until my freshman summer at Kendall when I signed up for an Intro to Print class. I was hoping to learn how to screenprint as an alternative to hand painting T-shirts, which was my full-time Etsy venture at the time. We didn’t even touch etching (in the class), but I became completely enamored with the process of it.
What did you love about the process?
I loved that no mark was ever permanent — you could iterate an idea until you felt it reached its full potential. Something clicked for me. I couldn’t walk away from it. I also adore the tradition of it. There’s something satisfying about using simple chemistry and mindful planning to repeat the same processes that have been used for centuries. With printmaking comes the ability to make multiples, which allows me to make work that is affordable and accessible to most.
Where do you find inspiration?
Outside! There’s nothing more humbling than discovering something new to you that was there all along. Ideas work the same way. They’re hiding in plain sight just waiting to be strung together. Taking time to observe, visiting somewhere that feels less than comfortable can really get creativity flowing. Other times, it’s simpler, like Googling ’60s bedsheet patterns until the perfect color scheme is unearthed.
Why do you believe it’s important to have a diversity of artists, like yourself, in West Michigan?
Having a diversity of arts in West Michigan helps to keep traditional crafts and trade skills alive. It’s crazy to me that resources and techniques that used to be common knowledge — things like sewing, weaving, woodworking, natural dyeing and wellness — are dying out. We have conveniences in our lives today that separate us from tradition. I think extending this awareness could help the art scene grow in Grand Rapids.
Left: Pollinators. Middle: Dayna Walton. Right: Phantom-Limb Severed.
Does that stretch beyond art?
There’s a quote by Rebecca Burgess, ‘Somehow we, the human animal, have removed ourselves so completely from the land that we no longer recognize ourselves as a part and partner in its process.’ I feel it’s important as makers to be aware of the resources that we have and as consumers to be mindful of where things we consume come from.
On that same note, what’s your opinion on the art scene in Grand Rapids?
In my experience, the art scene in Grand Rapids is close-knit and supportive, but I hope to see it grow more integrated in other parts of the community. It sometimes feels like there’s a whole lot of great work being made but nobody is watching. I plan to remain in Grand Rapids for a few years after graduation. There are still a lot of great connections here to be made. I love a lot of the artists here, like Hannah Berry (owner of Lions and Rabbits), a role model of creating the life you want for yourself while maintaining a marriage and family.
Who is one of your biggest inspirations in printmaking?
The way the printmaker Gwen Frostic used the attention of her artwork to make something good really makes me excited about art as a career. Even after her passing, her woodblocks are still printed as celebrations of the natural world and (her shop) continues to employ people to print them. They also use that to fund art programs that keep traditions like printmaking breathing. What a dream!
Find Walton’s art at solsticehandmade.com.