Published May 8, 2017

Every now and then, we take a moment to highlight one of our many talented VABC member artists with a short feature on this blog. Today, we’re shining that spotlight on Laura Pharis, Chair of the Studio Art Department at Sweet Briar College, skilled wood engraver, and VABC instructor, among many other things. Keep reading to get to know more about Laura, then CLICK HERE to find out how you can register for her upcoming class in beginning wood engraving!

VABC: What was your first experience with wood engraving and what prompted you to pursue it with such dedication?

Laura Pharis: I was at the Central School of Art & Design in London, and a friend said “You should go over the road and work with Blair.” That was Blair Hughes-Stanton, who was well over 70 at the time, still teaching wood engraving, which I had never heard of.

VABC: What’s your favorite part of teaching classes in this skill set?

LP: I love the “come closer” quality that wood engraving has, and seeing the artist/students realize how much they can get into this small space; the power of limits.

VABC: What encouragement do you give to aspiring artists who are considering taking a class?

LP: When I show them the process and some of the results possible, the student/artist are champing at the bit. I don’t have to encourage them. I’m just the enabler.

VABC: How long have you been associated with the VABC, and what’s your favorite aspect of the organization?

LP: I think I have been involved since 2013 or 2014. This is going to sound like a Miss America answer but it is sincere, so here goes: I love the hands-on printmaking and bookmaking processes, and the facilities are outstanding, but most of all the people who work there—their intelligence, the quality of their work, and their collegiality.

VABC: How do you describe your own work?

LP: I’m obsessed by the love of process, whatever I’m working on. My work comes from stories, memory, and dreams of alternate or interior worlds. I’ve been called a Pre-Raphaelite, a surrealist, and a “magic realist.” Game on ! I accept all these labels.

VABC: What’s next?

LP: I have several things going on at the same time. Just finished a small edition of etchings to participate in the animal print exchange of my etching class that just finished at Sweet Briar. I have a wood engraving and another etching on my work table, plus a doll (a gallery director says I should call them small figurative sculptures). The next show I have on my docket is a one-person show in two years.

To learn more about the upcoming wood engraving class that Laura will teach at the VABC this month, click here.


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