Sarah McDermott at Women’s Studio Workshop

sarah mcder

Corcoran College of Art + Design Instructor Sarah McDermott

As incoming and current students, we are always focusing on the classwork at hand. As we near graduation, we begin to ponder what we will do after we complete our program. We are often told to apply for residencies and fellowships because they offer recent graduates an opportunity to apply their newly learned skills and to further develop them. Additionally, it is a time to network and share with other artists, students, and the community.

I asked MA Art and the Book instructor, Sarah McDermott about her experience as a resident artist at the Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) in Rosendale, New York.  As an Arts-in-Education resident, Sarah created her most recent work entitled, Channel and Flow. As part of her residency requirement, she also taught screen printing classes to school children two times per week.

I asked her a few questions via email about her experience. She was kind enough to offer her insight and share some images.

How long ago did you apply for the residency?
SD: I applied in fall of 2012, there’s a pretty big lag for the particular residency I did (the Arts-in-Education Artists’ Book Residency Grant at Women’s Studio Workshop).
How long was the residency from start to finish?
SD: The residency was officially 10 weeks, but I got a two week extension so I was there for 3 months.
Did you prepare for it before you went? To what extent?
SD: I had the basic idea and beginning sketches done before I arrived, but much of the creative work- all of the drawing, text, and layout- I did at WSW.
Can you describe the atmosphere while at WSW?
SD: The atmosphere at WSW was thoroughly positive and supportive, with an undercurrent of productive urgency, and a palpable feeling of commitment to artists, feminist principles, and the importance of the arts in general.
Did you have assistants as you worked?
SD: There were two studio interns who helped a lot with printing and binding, and a studio manager who was immensely helpful in pretty much every way.
This is not the first residency that you have participated in, right? How many others have you done? Where?
SD: I have done residencies at Pyramid Atlantic and the Center for Book Arts in NYC.
What, if anything, set WSW apart from other residencies?
SD: WSW is the only residency I have done where I traveled away from my home to be there, and since it was funded I could suspend my work/job activities. It was a much more fully immersive experience.
What are the benefits of participating in a residency program?
1. Feeling validated and encouraged in the often challenging path we have chosen as artists.
2. Being given a dedicated chunk of time to create a new book, which is a lot of work and difficult to pull off with a lot of life distractions around.
3. Being in a new community of artists, making new friends, new professional contacts, and being able to mentor younger artists, such as interns (and learning from them as well).

Can you describe your project? And what techniques you utilized to complete it?
SD: Channel and Flow documents an attempt to follow a stream on its path through a dense suburban neighborhood. It uses the structure of the book’s page turns and foldouts to represent how the stream has been contained and fragmented by the built environment. Bound in a modified long-stitch format. Letterpress printed and screenprinted with hand-made paper covers. Edition of 50.

Cutting milkweed for making paper (photo Liz Cunningham)


Milkweed sheets drying (photo by Sarah McDermott)


Binding process w/ interns Emily Ritter, Liz Cunningham, and studio manager Chris Petrone (photo Jenn Bratovich)


Folded textblocks (photo by Sarah McDermott)


Spread from the Channel and Flow (photo by Sarah McDermott)

Sarah McDermott holds an MFA in Book Arts from University of Alabama. For additional information about Sarah and to see more of her work, please visit her website: The Kidney Press.

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