Monday, December 27, 2010

Eye on Nature

This season introduced me to an unfamiliar and excellent source of notebooks, scratch pads, cards and calendars. Compared to my friend and cousin, Carolyne, I am a mere novice in this line of goods, and once again she has turned my eyes to a ‘new’ store and artist, Gwen Frostic of Presscraft Papers in Benzonia, Michigan. Until Christmas morning I had never heard of her, the company or the location. My loss, for sure.

Gwen Frostic was born in Sandusky, Michigan in 1906. Until her death in 2001 she shared through her art, books and lectures a very particular and enchanting view of the universe. So impressive were her work and ideas, that in 1978 Michigan’s Governor declared May 23 ‘Gwen Frostic Day,’ and in 1986 the artist was inducted into the Michigan Woman’s Hall of Fame.

Frostic left university at age twenty-one, continuing without a pause her work in metal and plastic arts. The war years brought on a shortage of metal, so she shifted to carving on linoleum woodblocks. She sketched flowers, birds, grasses, trees and dozens of woodland animals and insects, refined the sketches and later cut them into linoleum woodblocks. The result was woodblock prints expressing in marvelous simplicity the Frostic perspective on the beauty and serenity of nature. These prints were applied to calendars, notebooks, cards and books. Thus was Presscraft Papers born.

A poem by the artist offers some insight into her view of the natural world:

Let’s just wander here and there

like leaves floating in the autumn air

and look at common little things

stones on the beach

flowers turning into berries…

From the wind we’ll catch a bit

of that wondrous feeling that comes

not from seeing

but from being part of nature…

The artist’s home and studio, as well as press, are all situated in a wildlife sanctuary in northern Michigan and include a shop built of natural materials designed to bring the outdoors inside. One room with a large fireplace and natural fountain offers a view of the twelve Heidelberg presses printing the artist’s designs onto cards, notebooks and calendars.

A part of my Christmas blessing this year was a Gwen Frostic calendar and a notebook. Completely new to me and I sat for a long time turning the pages of each. At first I worried that the paper in the notebook might not be fountain pen friendly, but that proved a needless concern; four different pens, four different inks all turned out a beautiful match with the paper. An effort to find out anything specific about the paper used by Presscraft for their cards and notebooks came to nothing unfortunately.

Should the time come when stationery goods feel like the right gift, turn your search to that corner of Michigan where one native artist found a woodland universe to illustrate in woodblock prints.

See it all here.


  1. Beautiful. Thank you and a special thank you to your cousin!

  2. Thank you for letting us know about this charming shop. They now are running a 35%-off sale and include a free calendar with every purchase.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America