I Create Birmingham: Paperworkers Local

   “Our diversity gives us different perspectives, and we encourage one another and teach each other.”

The nonprofit artists’ cooperative Paperworkers Local is dedicated to nurturing the making, exhibition, and appreciation of original fine art prints and works of art on and of paper. Its members work to build community among Birmingham’s printmakers, providing professional quality studio and exhibition space and workshops.

What inspired the founding members of Paperworkers Local to establish the cooperative in 2013? How has the group evolved with the addition of new members

Paperworkers Local is a vibrant group of artists who came together around a printmakers’ studio. We are young and old, black and white, comfortably retired and at the beginning of careers. Our artistic backgrounds range from advanced degreed artists who teach at the university level to workshop-taught. We are excited about the gifted young emerging artists who have joined us. Our diversity gives us different perspectives, and we encourage one another and teach each other. Our goals are to showcase and promote Alabama artists, especially in printmaking, and to increase visibility and participation in the arts across our community.

Michael Merry earned his MFA in Delaware and experienced printmakers cooperatives in Philadelphia. On returning home to Birmingham, he reconnected with Roger Jones and began working on establishing a co op. Mimi Boston took many workshops, as did Cathy Wright, and they both took a class at a printmakers co op in Kansas City. Mimi, Cathy, Michael and Roger all enjoyed the concept of a cooperative and wanted to see one established in Birmingham and so became founders of Paperworkers, along with others. Charles Buchanan had formed a printmaker’s group which met monthly and many of that group, including John DeMotte, Tenisha Hicks, Linda Merry, Joanne Fogle, Laci Resty, and Jill England became founders of Paperworkers Local as well. Most recently added are Enid Keyser, Haruyo Miyagawa, John Sims, Robin McDonald, and new UAB graduate Zachary A. Edison.

The group has grown to twenty-one artists, of whom eleven have been part of Paperworkers since the beginning in 2013. Four additional artists are Debra Riffe (linoleum block), Jane Marshall (reduction woodblock), Sarah Marshall (combination of print processes) and Richard Stockham (Moku Hanga-traditional Japanese woodblock). They have added depth of artistic experience to our group and have all taught classes for Paperworkers. Several of our members come from a background in photography, including Joi West, Robin McDonald and John DeMotte. John has expanded his photographic skills to include printmaking techniques. He has taught cyanotype workshops and photo-Intaglio workshops.

What are some of the benefits of operating as a cooperative? What are some of the challenges?

It is amazing what we have accomplished in four years. We have become a 501(c)(3) and received a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, for which we are deeply grateful.  We have three presses and a range of other equipment that it is hard for an individual to acquire or store.

We have taught numerous workshops and had many exhibits of both member and guest artists’ work. Our regular opening receptions have become a gathering place for artists and art lovers.

We have also reached out to our community. For example, we have taught book arts to Girl Scouts, printed with children at Avondale Movies in the Park, and taught an afterschool workshop at the Birmingham Public Library.

The cooperative works even better than envisioned. It is a group of supportive and dynamic creative people who have different strengths and expertise and who are always willing to help another member, whether it’s with a particular technical challenge or thinking through the best way to approach an entire project. The challenge is that we are 100% volunteer and have a limited budget. There are so many ideas that we would like to implement with more resources.

Paperworkers Local moved to a new space at 2717 Seventh Avenue South in May. What are your plans for the first year in your new home?

The new space is great for workshops. We are in the middle of a Moku Hanga workshop, and we have an etching workshop scheduled for July 19 & 26 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. We have a Book Arts for Children class scheduled on July 22. The new space also has good wall space for our exhibitions. Our next reception will be August 3 from 5:00 -7:00 pm featuring Mimi Boston’s prints. And our most ambitious event is a juried print show titled Ink Only.

Ink Only will be Paperworkers Local’s first-ever juried competition. Can you tell our readers about this new project?

Ink Only is our first juried show. Katie Baldwin is a Professor of Art at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and has agreed to select work for the show. Printmakers from the Southeast are encouraged to enter the show at youjudgeit.org/pwlinkonly. The application deadline is July 9, 2017. The exhibit is in partnership with the UAB Department of Art and Art History and will be located in their Project Space (Room 100) at 900 13th Street South. The opening reception is August 25 from 5:00 -7:00 pm. Ink Only is generously supported by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. This will be a wonderful opportunity for the community to see a wide range of artists’ work and a great opportunity for print artists to have their work seen. First Prize is $300 and a solo show at Paperworkers Local.

What resources or opportunities do you offer for someone who is new to printmaking and looking to learn more?

We offer workshops where people can learn the different processes. Our workshops are welcoming and fun. You do not need prior knowledge of printmaking; beginners are welcome. Once people are familiar with a process, they can become a member and continue to learn through working in the studio and interacting with other members. They can also take other classes. We also want to increase awareness among printmakers that our cooperative exists so that they can have access to the presses and other resources through membership.

Paperworkers Local is a wonderful organization and we welcome you to take a class, enter the juried show, or come to a reception.

Pictured Above: “Tranquility,” a six-color reduction woodblock by Mimi Boston
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mimi Boston