Gwen Frostic Prints
5140 River Road
PO Box 300
Benzonia, MI 49616
My aim is to bring you the wind in the trees or the very first violet of spring, a bit of serenity that exists in this world. I hope after reading or hearing the news at the end of the day, you may feel that loveliness is still of this world. Man must live with nature and cannot separate himself from it . . . he is an integral part of the whole.
In a densely wooded area near the small town of Benzonia in northern Michigan, off the beaten path, lies a most unique shop. It is the print shop of naturalist, poet, philosopher, and artist, Gwen Frostic. The artist is no longer with us, but her spirit and work live on in this amazing structure, a place I was thrilled to visit this past July.
|The Heidelberg presses in the printing room|
Resting on a wildlife sanctuary, this building truly brings the outdoors in. A long, low roofline covered in prairie sod leads to an entrance of old wood and timbers with a door set into a wall of native stones. Inside are displays of Gwen's work along with wildlife carvings, a fountain, 12 Heidelberg printing presses, and a nature library. When Gwen was in her fifties, she moved to these woods to observe and sketch the native surroundings. She carved her designs into linoleum blocks that were used with the letter presses to create unique stationery. Today Gwen's nephew Bill still runs the presses which use her original blocks to print napkins, notepaper, placemats, books, and postcards.
|June behind the desk|
In late morning on a pleasantly warm and sunny day, just over an hour's drive from our cottage, I arrived at the Frostic studio to find it bustling with other visitors. From overheard conversations, I gathered that a visit to this place is a ritual yearly experience for area vacationers. This perception was verified when I met June, one of the staff members who was working behind a very active checkout desk. Although she is a new employee of the studio just this year, June says her parents had a summer cabin nearby when she was a child, and she has been coming to the Frostic shop all her life.
June informed me that I had, unfortunately, just missed seeing the presses in operation as Bill had gone out for lunch. No matter. There are plenty of other interesting things to see in this engaging place. I made my way to the library and descended a short set of stairs with a handrail made from a tree branch, to a serene space where paneling, log furniture, and natural elements all come together to create an inviting space for browsing or simply watching nature through a large window wall. Sitting in this nature library, I felt almost as though I was sitting outside amongst the forest plants and wildlife.
Stone walls and log support beams are prominent in other areas of the building where a variety of products created from Gwen's designs are on display. In addition to paper products, visitors will find glassware, blankets, tote bags, pillows, and throws all featuring Gwen's beautiful artwork of birds, flowers, trees, and woodland creatures. I love loons, so I was particularly drawn to items featuring Gwen's loon design. A while back, a friend gave me some dinner napkins featuring this design, and I came to the shop looking to replenish my dwindling supply. I found much more. A book of poetry and prints, a pillow, and a throw were quickly added to my napkin purchase.
|Kara wrapped my purchases.|
By the time I finally made my way through the line of customers at the checkout desk, June had been joined behind the desk by Kara who carefully wrapped my smaller purchases in brown paper using a wrapping method devised by Gwen herself--the finishing touch, a live evergreen sprig taped to the front of the package. Meanwhile, June placed my larger items in a shopping bag graced with Gwen's signature heron design.
Gwen Frostic was a remarkable woman. A polio survivor, she was told she would never walk, talk, or write, yet she was still carving new designs into her nineties. In 1986 she was inducted into the Michigan Woman's Hall of Fame. Gwen Frostic Prints is a special place that keeps the legacy of a special woman alive. If you find yourself in the Benzonia area, don't miss it.
Greet each day
with enthusiasm - -
- each task - at any level -
can be challenging to the
mind that makes it so . . .
- - - so have a little fun
all along the way . . . . . .