WSW was formed as a non-hierarchical artist collective, in a time (not unlike our own) in which the reasonable end result of a graduate degree in the arts would be a teaching position. But what if there were few opportunities for women in academia? What if your teachers were uninterested in your work? What if the path to success not only doesn't include you, but doesn't even imagine you? Rather than bend themselves to these limitations and find a place in his place, the co-founders of WSW ignored the rules and established their own veritable institution. For nearly forty-five years now, WSW has been serving women-identified artists through residencies, summer workshops, public art programming, teaching opportunities, and an artist-book pub-lishing program. With an unwavering dedication to the mission, resil-ience, and a stealthy entrepreneurial spirit, WSW has made an impres-sive mark in the contemporary history of print, paper, and book art. Below is an edited interview from three recorded sessions that took place in the spring of 2018 with WSW co-founders Ann Kalmbach and Tatana "Tana" Kellner, followed by my reflections on a selected WSW art-ist book project by Susan Mills that strongly mirrors the feminist values and spirit of Women's Studio Workshop. erin zona (ez): When you founded Women's Studio Workshop in 1974 did you model it on, or against, an existing institution? tatana kellner (tk): Against. ann kalmbach (ak): I wouldn't say on or against. In the very begin-ning, working together with Barbara (Loeff Burge), we created a situation that was completely outside any experiences that we had ever had before. An experience that I can't imagine existed else-where and so the thought was—what can we do to share this power of working together as women, as peers, and as equals? It didn't matter that we were younger and Barbara was older. It didn't matter that we were sort of students and sort of not. There was no hierarchy. It was empowering. There wasn't an institution that existed like that. Not one that we were aware of. Everyone was engaged and taking full responsibility. ez: Tana, you moved to Rosendale and met Barbara later after grad- uate school. Ann and Anita had already established a connection with Barbara. When you came to Rosendale, what was your experi- ence? tk: At the beginning, Barbara was always seen as the guide. We would brainstorm together. We would work on installation pieces as a collective but she was the adult and we were the juniors. Anita and Ann had a history and a certain way of working together, which I wasn't part of. It took me a while. ak: She was an outsider and a new American. tk: I emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the US in 1969. At the time, it was a communist country and I knew next to nothing about life in the USA. Everything was new, exciting, and unreal. I was a naive teenager. I didn't speak the language and there was a steep learn-ing curve. From 1969 to '74 I was in college at the University of Toledo in Ohio, followed immediately by graduate school at Roch-ester Institute of Technology. I hoped I'd get a college teaching job somewhere. There were almost no college teaching jobs offered to women, so the idea of starting our own place and living an alterna-tive life was something I wanted to embrace. ez: Do you have a personal experience of empowerment like what Ann describes? One where your intentions as an artist or the com- munity you wanted to live in became vivid and tangible. tk: For me, it was meeting Ann in graduate school. Someone who was actually interested in what I was doing as an artist. The idea of starting something new and creating our own community was exciting. Options like that didn't exist in Czechoslovakia. I was aware of historical precedents, such as Bauhaus, and a few other utopian communities. At this time (1974) other communities/or- ganizations were being founded and I did feel that we were a part of something larger. It was possible to start something on a shoe- string budget, and see what happens. I don't think we thought long range, we just were doing something which we felt was needed. In graduate school, I don't remember a single teacher taking any interest in what I was doing. They were preoccupied with their careers, or simply checked out. It was a rude awakening, and a fast way to mature. ak: When we were in graduate school, even when the teacher was there, people lined up to talk to Tana. She had excellent training, could direct students in their work from a technical standpoint, and was always right! ez: So, the studio was founded in 1974 and being run out of a home in central Rosendale. By 1979, the first paper studio was being built in the attic. What was the catalyst to build a paper studio? Also, why in the attic? tk: That was the only space left in the house! Etching was in the living room. Litho in the dining room. Silkscreen was in the basement. We made it work as best as we could. I spent much of my time teaching with a mop in my hand. ak: We put rope in the cracks and we caulked over it and then we put down linoleum and a lot of varnish. It drained into a hose that went down through the walls into the basement into a plastic garbage can that we had to manually sump pump out into the back yard. ez: What was your first paper project? ak: The project was called Bicentennial Minutes. In 1976, on TV, they would have all these little history featurettes called the Bicentennial Minutes and they would show you some cornball history thing like, you know, the cracking of the Liberty Bell. So, Tana wanted to make cast TVs with contemporary images printed on them. She wanted to cast them in handmade paper and that didn't work because she just kept burning up blenders. tk: The project failed, but it was the impetus to start handmade paper. ez: Tana, what was your personal interest in the CBS Bicentennial Minutes? tk: I was new to this country. I didn't study American history in school. From a European perspective, 200 years didn't seem like a long time. Watching the daily Bicentennial Minutes made me ques- tion my understanding of history. Whose history? Whose truth? Each society presents history from their point of view, without much, if any, consideration for the "other." In Czechoslovakia, I was taught that atheism and socialism/communism was the right path, not that I believed all of what was propagandized. There it was a complete inversion to the beliefs held by most Americans. History is written by the victors, it is subjective and easily subverted. The questioning of facts, "truth," and policy, in different permutations have informed my artistic practice throughout my career. ez: Why did you want to incorporate handmade paper for this proj- ect? Were there larger or conceptual implications that you imagined the material and casting process would provide the series of prints? tk: At the time, I worked strictly two dimensionally. While seeing the "Printmaking Biennial" at the Brooklyn Museum in 1976 (curated by Barry Walker) I was immediately attracted to the pieces printed on handmade paper. It was the first time I saw handmade paper and I was very intrigued by the way it looked. As funny and unsophisti-cated as it sounds now, I fell in love with the deckled edge. As I was developing the Bicentennial Minutes series, many of the artists in the biennial exhibition made paper with Douglass Howell who had a studio on Long Island. First, I tried to simply make hand-made paper from cut-up printmaking papers in the blender. After many failed attempts, I gave up on the idea of casting the TVs, but I was determined to find out how to make paper. It took us three years to secure funding from the NEA and hire a consultant to ad-vise us how to set up a papermaking studio. We contacted Douglass Howell; he suggested Alexandra Soteriou, who was not available, and this led us to Lynn Forgach. At the time Lynn established a pa-permaking studio in a loft on Mercer Street (in New York City) and was working with artists specializing in cast paper. ez: When you bought and were renovating the building on Binnewa- ter Lane (the current WSW location\]), paper was obviously a major focus at that point because you dedicated the entire ground floor of the expansion to it. ak: When we first got started it was about learning the technology and techniques, so we made lots and lots of paper, used various kinds of dyes, pigments, and fibers. After a year we had a lot of paper, so we decided to try to market it. We did an American Craft Council show and sold well. The next ten years we made paper prod- ucts—handmade paper sheets, stationery, blank books bound with decorative handmade paper, and even paper jewelry. At one point, we had two shifts making products. But then we began to realize that we had gone a bit off mission and focused on using our skills as papermakers to support resident artists. When we moved to Bin- newater from the house, suddenly we had a lot of space but not the funding to be able to support residencies. That took a few years and it was in those years that we supported WSW by selling the paper. We have always been conscious of having an income. Fund-ing was always a challenge, especially for a woman's art organiza-tion. NYSCA (New York State Council on the Arts) is a notable ex-ception supporting us continually from the concept forward. ez: Ann, I have heard you speak about the founding of WSW as a reaction to patriarchal society. Can you elaborate on the ways in which you see patriarchal rule in our lives and in the world that oth-ers may not see? ak: If you have never been in a culture that is an alternative then you are in the patriarchy. Every single thing that we do in our lives is controlled by the patriarchy. It's subtle, but it has been the way of the world for thousands of years. The idea that there could be another way of moving through time and space and conflict and relation-ships is worthy of consideration. I realized that WSW was operating in that sort of parallel world. Maybe the luxury of working together in a small town where folks generally either left us alone or were enthusiastic about having us around helped WSW because venturing out in the larger more urban world where things seemed whacky, as in "really that guy ac- tually imagines what he is saying is interesting," that mansplaining thing, or the kind of hierarchy that is so pervasive in the business world. A hierarchy that is exaggerated today by the huge pay gap between labor and management. WSW has always been a place of labor. Artmaking is work and of greater value than management. Since the patriarchy is really all about management and control, we flipped that. It's the core of what we did, and I believe why we have been successful. ez: I find it interesting to consider the self-empowerment an artist can have working with handmade paper in comparison to the larger implications of the founding of WSW. Admittedly, this is a romanti-cism, but if what is best for your work and your artistic practice does not already exist in the world, it can be an opportunity; a way in which you can generate total control. Through papermaking, one can opt out of patriarchal rule. Commercial paper is material culture, paper is capitalism, paper is policy. If the space, the material, the opportunity, and the discussion doesn't exist for you and your work, build it. An artist making paper is world building. Through the process, one can make the art and the world the art will exist upon and within. tk: It is very empowering making something as amazing as paper. It's about being in control and for that you need to acquire a certain amount of knowledge to get the result you think you're after as an artist. That's what we do at WSW: we give artists those tools and let them experiment and find their own voice. We're here to offer the technical know-how to realize their vision. When asked about a project that exemplifies the mission of Wom- en's Studio Workshop, I often turn to the artist book twentysix plants by Susan Mills. Published by WSW in 2013, twentysix plants is exactly as the title describes: twenty-six pages of paper, handmade from twenty-six everyday plants grown or foraged at the Women's Studio Workshop ArtFarm. The book was made to coincide with the fiftieth-anniversary of the publication of Ed Rus-cha's first artist book Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations. "Twentysix plants is the same book," says Mills, "except it is my book, a different person and a different time." Susan Mills studied conceptual art at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the late 1970s. At that time, the school held a large collection of artist books that students could check out and take home. Susan describes being drawn to Ruscha's book be-cause "The title states exactly what it is. I like the book as a road trip book. He drove, he took the photos from a motorcycle, in my mind at least, I don't know if he was on a motorcycle. He made his book from nothing." In 1962, Ed Ruscha drove between Los Angeles and his home-town of Oklahoma City photographing gasoline stations from the road. The act of collecting content for the book, roadside, implies liberty, autonomy, but also privilege with a pinch of bravado that can easily be romanticized. When asked why she wanted to make the book at WSW, Mills responded, "I really think it is a feminist book." Production in- cluded "a lot of labor, the exact opposite of breezing along the freeway and taking photographs." For twentysix plants, the actions of the artist and her dedi-cated team sowing seeds, foraging for plants, and growing a book sheet by sheet, is a self-empowered method of negotiating the American landscape, just like Ruscha's travel and even the founding of Women's Studio Workshop. "That's how I have been my whole life," says Mills, "having to make work out of my own backyard." The books are in collections worldwide, including nine insti- tutions that are repositories for all WSW publications—Indiana University, Bloomington; Rochester Institute of Technology; Uni- versity of Delaware; Vassar College; Virginia Commonwealth University; Yale University, University of Michigan, Library of Congress; and Bucknell University—integrating voice and vision of women artists into the cultural mainstream. Paper Sample: Women's Studio Workshop ArtFarm Kenaf Text by Chris Cutrone Kenaf was the first fiber I can remember having my hands on at Women's Studio Workshop when I arrived in 2004 as a studio in- tern. It was the first plant I started from seed and processed from start to finish. Kenaf withstands rocky soil and dry spells, and has remained a WSW favorite for experimentation over the years. This paper sample was made from 100-percent kenaf grown at the WSW ArtFarm. The kenaf was harvested in the fall of 2017 by Kingston City High School students participating in our Hands on Art Education Program through a course called Chemistry and Paper. In the class, they learn the papermaking process from seed to sheet, experimenting in a day-long workshop divided between har-vesting fiber up at the farm and working in the studio, beating fiber and pulling sheets. The kenaf was processed by Nicole Solis, a field-study student from SUNY New Paltz. She steamed the stalks and stripped the bark from the cores. Much of the time we like to leave the outer bark on, which results in a darker brown paper with a speckle-tone effect. This past year, we decided to split the stalks fifty- fifty, leaving the outer bark on one half and scraping the outer bark from the other. This resulted in a warmer pink color, seen in the sample here. Once stripped and scraped the kenaf was cooked, beaten, and pulled by studio intern Ashleigh Pillay. She cooked the kenaf for 3.5 hours with a soda-ash solution, left the fiber to soak in the pot overnight, and then rinsed it thoroughly. We then beat 1.25 pounds of fiber in a 2-pound Reina beater for 1 hour and 45 minutes total. The first hour was spent loading and lowering the roll; during the remaining time, we took the roll down to 2, and then to 0 for the final 5 minutes. We added internal sizing to the pulp, and used a 22 x 30-inch deckle box to form the sheets onto Pellon interfacing, and then pressed them on our vacuum table. We dried the sheets between blotters in a restraint dryer.