Summer intern Meghan McNealy harvesting ArtFarm grown iris for papermaking.

Summer intern Meghan McNealy harvesting iris leaves grown for papermaking on the ArtFarm.

In 1979 Women’s Studio Workshop was one of the first organizations to offer access for all artists to work in our hand papermaking studio. For ten years WSW operated a production mill, using traditional western papermaking fibers. In 1990 the emphasis began to shift to working with locally grown material and by 1996 a collaboration between WSW and a nearby Community Supported Agriculture project was established. This was the beginning of ArtFarm.

With the help of AmeriCorps volunteers, we grew plants known to produce papermaking fibers, as well as experimental plants for new paper types or to combine with and enhance the qualities of traditionally-used fibers. We planted native and gathered invasive species and tested the material for their strength, coloring capacities, and print worthiness.

In an effort to encourage artists to work with these materials, WSW invited fluxus artist Alison Knowles, sculptor Talya Baharal, and printmaker Ken Gray to residencies focused on experimenting with ArtFarm fibers. The work resulted in a traveling exhibition, From Seed to Sheet.

Today, ArtFarm is managed by WSW’s Studio Manager and volunteers. The entire process, from planting to processing, has become integral to our education programs, Summer Arts Institute and Hands-On Art.