YEP. She does it all, and she does it extremely well. Meet Shepherd U Alum, Photographer, Bookmaker, Artist, Designer, and Founder of Quill & Arrow Press (formerly Ragamuffin Press), Beth Schaible. Not only is she mega-talented, but she is also generous.
She’s offering YEP a set of letterpress cards from her shop. Simply, tell us what you like most about Beth’s work with a comment at the end of this interview, and on September 15, 2011, YEP will select one winner at random. Luckies.
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HC: Tell us all about yourself, Beth.
BS: I am primarily a letterpress printer and bookbinder currently living in Winchester, VA. I make a line of production and custom letterpress work and custom books, in addition to fine art prints and paintings.
I am originally from Winchester, spent my college years in Shepherdstown, WV, lived for a brief stint in Washington D.C.—working at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center—and then, for the past three years, have been living in Penland, NC, at the Penland School of Crafts (www.penland.org). Penland is a traditional craft school in the Blue Ridge Mountains, about forty miles north of Asheville, that offers classes in fourteen studios…they offer everything from blacksmithing and pottery to glass blowing and printmaking. I spent two years there as a core fellow, which is basically a cross between being a resident artist and a student. I stayed at Penland a third year to work for the school in the printmaking, bookmaking, drawing, and textiles studios.
In December, I moved back to Winchester to help care for my mother, who has been ill. Since my return, I’ve purchased a 1952 Vandercook Proofing Press, and am in the process of restoring it for my studio.
HC: What are your biggest inspirations?
BS: There are so many inspirations in both my work and life, and they seem to be constantly changing and growing. Some constant inspirations include: folklore, literature, heirlooms, relics, rain, mountains, plants, small towns, vintage maps, coffee hour, decay, calligraphy, and the beautiful things my friends make. I am also completely inspired by people who live creative lives and share their talents with their communities.
HC: I too went to Shepherd. Tell us what you love about your time there. What professors were your biggest mentors?
BS: I really love and value my time at Shepherd University—the town and community still inform the work I make today. I have a B.F.A. with a concentration in graphic design from Shepherd and there were two professors that really inspired me during my time there. The first is Kristin Kaineg—my graphic design professor, who helped give me a lot of confidence to step away from the computer and use my hand in my designs. I also took several drawing, printmaking, and other classes from the lovely Rhonda Smith, who had a way of pushing me to explore a problem from every angle and take my work to the next level. She was also really straightforward when she thought I wasn’t giving my all and it made me work harder.
I also love Shepherdstown because it’s tucked away in such a beautiful part of the East Coast and the rivers, mountains, and valleys of this area have a way of making me feel right at home. I had an amazing group of friends who loved to go for adventures and discover new places.
HC: Tell us what you love about Winchester.
BS: I’m not sure yet to be honest—it’s been eight years since I lived here and I’m quite a bit out of the loop. I like its accessibility to places like Shepherdstown, Frederick, D.C., and Charlottesville, but I’m still on the lookout for what is going on here creatively.
HC: Any fun projects going on that you’d like to tell us about?
BS: The 1952 Vandercook No. 4 proofing press! I’m in the process of returning it to working order, which has been a really fun and challenging undertaking. This letterpress weighs roughly 1,100 pounds and moving it was no easy task.
Once it is in printing order I have a whole series of new stationary to print. Wedding season is also in full swing so I’ll be printing some custom wedding invitation suites.
HC: Can you explain the approach to your photography?
BS:My photography exists mainly to document the things that inspire and influence my artwork. In general, I’m a curious person and want to notice, capture, and remember things as they appear from day to day. I never leave home without my camera because there always seems to be something I’m moseying by that captures my attention, and I can’t wait to record it. I’m constantly looking back at my library of photographs to look for color and texture combinations to use in my work.
HC: You use a lot of layering and texture in your work. What informs your choices? What inspires them?
BS: A lot of my work is based solely upon layering color and texture. I love surfaces that you can tell have a history—layers of paint and posters, dirt and grime. I don’t like things that are pristine and modern, but prefer a rugged decaying look. This is especially apparent in my paintings, collages, and books.
HC: Where do all the characters in your work come from?
BS: Most of the paintings you see on my website are from a series titled: “I dreamed things were different.” The characters are inspired by strange family trees, the circus, myths, fables, folklore, friends, and more. They are displayed together in groups and become a family of misfits. I love painting because it gives me a chance to step back from making production work, slow down, and make one-of-a-kind pieces that inevitably seem to show up in my print work.
HC: Where did you learn about bookmaking and where did the passion to make books come from?
BS: I’ve been making books since I was in middle school, believe it or not. I would collect piles of images and then bind them all together for safekeeping. In college I taught myself a few book structures so that I could make my own sketch books and those same structures became helpful in graphic design projects. Later, I started teaching bookbinding courses at Pyramid Atlantic and learned a lot through that experience.
HC: What is your earliest memory of creating art?
BS: When I think about going to school as a little kid, the things I remember all seem to revolve around art projects that went on in the classroom. In first grade, I remember we would write and illustrate a lot of story books, and bind them together using rings or brads…that really stuck with me. My mom and I did a lot of drawing and coloring together; we had a lot of fun being messy.
HC: Ultimately, how would you describe your work and philosophy?
BS: My biggest work philosophy is to love what you do. I feel so lucky to be able to work with my hands in a creative way every day and that makes it really easy to show up ready to work in the studio…even when it means late nights and picky clients. I try really hard to only put work into the world that I’m proud of. There are so many products out there that look similar and have little lasting impact. I think it is important to find and trust your voice and realize that doing things differently will set you apart. I think artists have the opportunity to enhance, change, beautify, and stir up our communities in ways that are necessary and vital.
HC: What kind of projects and creative goodness do you see in your future, short-term and long-term?
BS: Well I’m in the process of starting my own letterpress business and looking for the perfect studio, which I am really excited about! I will be printing custom work—everything from business cards to wedding invitations to posters and beyond. I’m also planning to expand my line of stationary and handmade books. In the long term, I want to offer workshops to the community in both bookbinding and letterpress printing.
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And YEP will let you know when those workshops are available!
Visit Beth’s site or blog for more stunning photos, printwork, sculpture, design, books, and paintings. You can buy her work on her etsy site and you can find her photo contributions in the YEP Flickr Photo Pool (have you submitted yet?). Be sure to contact her if you are looking for unique invitations, posters, business cards, or other exceptional items.
Win some goodies: Tell us what you like most about Beth’s work with a comment, and on September 15, 2011, YEP will select someone at random to win a set of letterpress cards from Beth’s shop, Quill & Arrow Press.