This issue’s paper sample reflects a collaboration between Penland School of Craft in North Carolina and the Pyramid Atlantic Center in the Washington, DC suburb of Hyattsville, Maryland—two institutions with long histories of educating and promoting hand papermaking and printmaking.
In the Winter and Spring of 2020, before the onset of the COVID-19 shutdowns, I was granted access to the Penland papermaking studios by Studio Operations Manager Amanda Simons, to produce the paper samples there. This new facility is one of the most well-equipped studios I have ever encountered and I was fortunate to have been invited to the previous Fall Concentration to teach an eight-week course, Monoprints on Handmade Paper.
It was such a joy to make the paper for this project at Penland’s papermaking studio; so well organized and kept in such pristine condition under the direction of their current studio coordinator Sarah Rose Lejeune. I invited a group of papermakers from the Western Carolina University School of Art & Design graduate program as well as artists in the Penland area to participate in the paper production for the print. This included MFA grads Sara Method and Perry Houlditch, and papermaker Karen Hardy. (Both Sarah Rose and Karen’s work are featured in the Extra Pulp exchange portfolio that Sammi McLean and Ingrid Schindall cover in their article in this issue.)
Using the deckle-box pouring method, we produced nearly eighty 16 x 20-inch sheets of paper with black rag from Twinrocker Papermaking. Production went smoothly thanks to Sarah Rose’s assistance. I calendered the paper to assure a smooth surface to print on. Soon after, Penland had to close its Spring Intensive due to the virus, and students and instructors departed and the studios were closed down. This happened to so many such institutions around the country, including Pyramid Atlantic where we were scheduled to print the black paper we made at Penland. For several months, the project’s future laid in limbo. In the meantime, I worked on the print imagery to reflect the fact that this was a collaboration between the two studios in two different locations. Jenny McPherson and Krista Schmidt, librarians at the Hunter Library Special Collections at Western Carolina University, helped me find detailed USGS topographic maps of Spruce Pine, North Carolina (for Penland) and Hyattsville, Maryland (for Pyramid Atlantic). I overlaid the two maps, with the help of WCU MFA grad Eli Blasko, to create a combined film of these two areas, which I used to make a silkscreen.
By early July, Pyramid Atlantic Director Kate Taylor and Artistic Director Gretchen Schermerhorn gave us the green light to print in their studio with a number of safety restrictions in place including the fact that we would not be able to occupy the same studio while printing! To comply with this rule, we set up a table between two studios at Pyramid. Gretchen screenprinted and laid down the wet print on the table and exited the room. I took the wet print into the next room and flocked it with ground rubber dust which I obtained from Guerra Pigment and Paint in New York City. The photos at right show us masked and working away! Unfortunately, our “COVID-safe relay system” resulted in some technical issues. On some of the sheets, the ink dried too much before I could apply the flocking. Before cutting the samples, I brushed off the loose flocking. Alas, many of the paper samples do not have the original rich texture that I had hoped for, but I was very happy with the results overall given the challenging circumstances presented by the pandemic.
This was a wonderful collaboration, bringing paper and print together, and a testament to these two institutions: Penland having just observed its ninetieth anniversary last year, and Pyramid Atlantic marking its fortieth anniversary this coming year. Both have demonstrated a long-time commitment to artists and makers throughout this country and abroad. I invite you to find out more about their histories and programs (www.penland.org and www.pyramidatlanticartcenter.org) and to join me in celebrating their resilience, tenacity and futures.