The Mind of the Maker: Lilah Friedland of Invisible Hand Press

Image of Lilah Friedland by Polina Malikin

Hi Lilah! In our estimation, Invisible Hand Press is a wonderland printing studio and practice in Tivoli, New York. What is it to you? 

Invisible Hand started as a belief in magik. What ever that may be. I made an associate between creation and magik, like twin flames. I was thinking a lot about what GOD might be, the tiny hands floating in the sky in renaissance paintings or the massive H.O.G (hand of god) that comes down to supposedly 'set things right.’ I have always thought of everyone as an artist, and in that way all hands being the ‘hand of the creator,’ and at some point during this mid-thirties-hand-obsession, I wrote a song called Invisible Hand, and recorded it with my dad, it's about how we are all stardust, and we can illuminate each other. Eventually, I discovered the The Arm in Brooklyn. I was getting an MFA in performance and I took a sharp left into letterpress and printmaking. Invisible Hand Press is the confluence of years and years making conceptual art and liminal performance with the practical application of a printing press. The combo works well. 

All Magik is Ours by Lilah Friedland

We learned the term "Practical Arts" from you, and it immediately resonated with us. Can you share what the practical arts are, and how they inform your practice? 

I worked as a Practical Arts teacher for grades 5-8 for two years, at a waldorf-ish school. The first known use of the word is from 1830, I just looked it up. The moniker really aligns with my feelings about everyone being an artist, or having that capability, plumbing can be a practical art. It also touches on the idea that even mundane objects of use can be beautiful, can be art. I think of practical arts as the meeting of beautiful and useful. 

A sense of discovery seems to be at the core of your work. How do you sustain curiosity? 

That is such a mind boggling question. I’m listening to a book called “Elastic” right now, about elastic thinking, and he’s talking about the inability of the rational brain to dissect how the flexible brain works. It's all the same brain. Kind of goes along with the idea that you don't know what you don’t know, not in an affirmative way, but more like there are unknowns that we don’t even have the knowledge to know we don’t know.

I have always been extremely curious, like maybe sometimes too curious. Is that real? Too curious? I don’t know if that’s real.

I do know curiosity pisses people off sometimes. I think it's attached to the pleasure gained when I make something I like, or solve a problem or a mystery. I was also raised in a hippy-counter culture, figure it out yourself, don’t trust the government, kind of way. I’m sure that contributes to my dedication to investigation, and the need to try new stuff. Apparently the attraction to new experiences has been tagged genetically. 

Invisible Hand Press is the confluence of years and years making conceptual art and liminal performance with the practical application of a printing press. The combo works well. 

You spend some time teaching children practical arts. What is something we could all learn from ten year olds when it comes to creating? 

In my experience, kids have an image of something they want to make in their head, and it's mostly their own idea, it might reference something they’ve seen, but it's their own interpretation, and they usually feel (sometimes with help) good about it when they finish. Kids are not very concerned with anyone other than their friends and family liking what they made, not how it compares to anything in the wider world. I don’t know if that’s called lack of ambition in adults. I do think there’s something to hold on to in the intimate space of being happy in small ways.

Image of prints by Lilah Friedland, taken by Em McCann Zauder

Your press is like another character in your shop. Can you share more about the materials and machines you work with? 

The press in the shop is a vandercook 219 proving press. Its a beautiful machine from the 40’s. It's big and heavy and mechanical and I love it. I have always loved machines, and this one really lends itself to admiration, so much happiness comes out of it. I also have a  set up for doing screen printing, and a small foil stamp, I have an old paper tape machine that “inspires joy". Sometimes I set up to do batik, or cast plaster, or roll incense, free motion quilting, spoon carving… I let myself investigate any kind of craft making that inspires me.  I work with paper, ink, cotton, silk, wool, plants, plaster, mud, clay. Natural stuff mostly. Sometimes I need florescent ink, that’s not natural, but its good.

What is a material or form that you're particularly excited about right now? 

I’ve been working on a small book for a long time. I’m excited to finish that and start another. I have a book series idea that I want to get into. And the silk, I’m forever in love with painting and working with silk, I’ve been playing with screen printing natural dyes on silk, making  strange dice out of clay…and my t-shirt empire...growing steadily. 

What is your favorite place to eat in the Hudson Valley right now? 

Hard to choose one, I love food. I love Zinnia’s in Craryville, Café con Leche, T Fresh, and Cinnamon in Rhinebeck, Morningbird and The Aviary in Kinderhook, Tivoli General started doing a night menu on the weekend with Wellfleet oysters, and sometimes for lunch, protein + caffeine = an affogato at Fortunes, you already know that.  A little south, and worth the drive, The Red Pepper Diner and Palace Dumpling. 

I do think there’s something to hold on to in the intimate space of being happy in small ways.

Where do you go in the Hudson Valley to learn, see, or do something new? 

The Kingston Maritime Museum has a really great teaching program, with boat building, wood working and sailing lessons, Upstate Films has amazing programming that often includes live performances, or an opportunity to meet the filmmakers or actors, or somebody doing something interesting, The Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard is always offering something you probably wouldn’t find elsewhere.  Bard CSS,  Kaatsbaan, Goodwork Institute, Eureka Mindspace, Megabrain… and you Quittner has been putting together awesome educational offerings, shout out to the Red hook town Historian, my press is in her old shop, Practical Arts forever.
Explore Lilah's Work: Cards, Prints
Hudson Valley Map cards by Lilah Friedland for Quittner, shot by Em McCann Zauder
Photo Credits: first image by Polina Malikin, second image by Lilah Friedland, subsequent images by Em McCann Zauder


Previous Article Next Article

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published