Art of papermaking proves to be a draw in Mexico

Martha’s Vineyard papermaker Sandy Bernat finds inspiration abroad.

A maquette by Terry Ann Tomlinson that uses an overbeaten bleached abaca (banana leaf fiber) formed over an armature. — Photo by Valerie Sonnenthal

West Tisbury paper artist and Seastone Studio owner Sandy Bernat recently treated herself to a month in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She rented a home in Centro so she could walk everywhere and immerse herself in the history and life of the cobblestoned town, founded 500-plus years ago and situated on a mountainside. When Ms. Bernat travels, she makes a point of learning about the local art scene, its artisans, and of course the hand papermakers. During the third week of her trip she found an ad in the weekly local newspaper for contemporary paper artist Terry Ann Tomlinson. Rather than wait another week until the next open studio/gallery time, she called and made an appointment for later that day.

Ms. Tomlinson’s gallery of handmade paper art was only two blocks from where Ms. Bernat was staying. Once inside the ancient wood door of the self-designed home, built on an empty lot and created to function as a gallery/studio, Ms. Bernat was overcome not only by the tranquil open-air water garden, but by a sculptural wall piece of vertical paper spheres. Ms. Tomlinson offered to turn on the sculpture so Ms. Bernat could see its true function as a wall fountain.

Ms. Tomlinson first discovered handmade paper when visiting San Miguel de Allende in 2002, and promptly enrolled in a papermaking class at the local Bellas Artes Cultural Center during her stay. Up until this time, sculpture had been her medium. When Ms. Tomlinson returned home to Woodstock, N.Y., she continued her studies at the Women’s Studio Workshop with Melissa Jay Craig, an artist that Ms. Bernat once brought to the Island to teach a workshop at her studio, and someone whose work she included at the last paper show she curated at Featherstone Center for the Arts.

Ms. Bernat wound her way through Ms. Tomlinson’s work and gallery discussing technique, fiber sources, and all matters papermaking. It was an inspiring and wonderful visit. Should you find yourself in San Miguel de Allende, be sure to stop by the Tomlinson Gallery/Studio and learn more about artist Terry Ann Tomlinson, or visit