Episode #120: Melanie Mowinski

Paper Talk
Helen Hiebert Studio
Episode #120: Melanie Mowinski

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Melanie Mowinski likes paper, but she loves what goes ON paper. Paper becomes a vessel on which she prints, collages, draws, constructs, and more. Mowinski draws inspiration from the landscape of her Berkshire Hills home and residencies and travels to places like Iceland, Morocco, Tasmania, Venice, and most recently, from along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She began her daily creative practice over 20 years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer – what began as a way to document the “toughest job she would ever love,” evolved into one of the most important parts of her artistic practice. Her letterpress prints and artist books are in numerous collections, including the Tate Modern, Oberlin College, and the Clark Art Institute. She’s taught workshops at Wells Book Arts Center, Williams College, and other art centers around the world. She holds master degrees from Yale University and The University of the Arts. Mowinski is a Professor of Art at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams, MA and is the founder and director of PRESS: Letterpress as a Public Art Project.

We had a lively conversation that began with talking about the daily practice that Mowinski developed long ago when she was in the Peace Corps. her Visual Diaries, which document each day in a tiny square. She continues to have multiple daily practices.


We talked about some of her letterpress projects, including The 50 Card Project, a collection of limited-edition letterpress cards printed every week from Inauguration Day to the end of 2017. This project was directly inspired by the statement liberty and justice for all.

We also discussed her Paper Words project. Begun in 2005, Paper Words call attention to trees, and inspire pause, reflection and consideration of these beings. The chosen words focused on the positive aspects of trees as a reminder of how important they are for our survival. In 2016, Mowinski expanded this project through a collaboration with poet Holly Wren Spaulding, making some of her haiku-like poems into words that guide a walker along a path.

Mowinski makes artist’s books. Marking Time is a woven accordion book with a custom-made enclosure, made with handmade paper from cotton baby diapers. Right before her 50th birthday, Mowinski’s mother gave her the cotton diapers she used on her as a baby. Bright white, heavily bleached cotton. Perfect for papermaking. As she cut each diaper into tiny squares, she considered the hours of labor her mother spent washing and cleaning them to maintain their whiteness.

Mowinski’s daily practice formed the foundation of her book Collage Your Life, published by Storey Publishing in 2022.


Melanie Mowinski’s recommendations:


Visit Melanie Mowinski’s website to learn more about her work, and you can find her on Instagram too.


Music featuring excerpts of Makin’ Paper folk song by Peter Thomas. Listen to the full song and find out about other paper and book arts folk songs.

Gary A. Hanson did the sound editing for this episode. He practices and refines his skills in audio production while making his own podcast I’ll Have a Beer and Talk, a show about tech news, culture, weird animal stories and of course, beer. Gary is also the Deckle in Pulp & Deckle, a Portland-based community hand papermaking studio.


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