As students, former printmaking majors Sally Toms and Kaitlyn Aki Holloway collaborated on many art projects, both on and off campus. They created prints for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, designed a linocut broadside for poet and Sweet Briar alumna C.M. Burroughs ’04 and spent their last semester working on a Kickstarter project for the Virginia Arts of the Book Center.
After graduating in May 2013, the two friends went their separate ways — Toms returned home to Northern Virginia to prepare for grad school; Holloway moved to Orlando to work in the Disney College Program’s entertainment costuming department.
Despite the distance, the two promised each other to continue making art together. So, when they were asked to design the cover of this magazine, there was only one answer.
“We saw this commission as our perfect opportunity and immediately began collaborating over the phone,” Toms says. “We knew we wanted to combine our efforts in a way that would celebrate our individual artistic strengths — Katie’s characteristic figurative work and my floral motifs and heraldic compositions.”
While all preliminary sketches were composed over the phone and via text message conversations, Toms’ and Holloway’s ideas mirrored each other.
“We decided to create a linocut featuring a female figure drawn by Katie into the design of a dove of peace and sweet briar roses, which I had drawn,” Toms says.
“We wanted the figure to be classic, striking and represent feminine strength and freedom while avoiding submissive or hypersexualized portrayals. The figure’s direct gaze with her hair tied back and forward-facing pose were meant to assert her strength while celebrating her femininity.
“We also designed a wing-like shawl, reminiscent of Isis’ outstretched wings, that would both represent her freedom and mimic the iconography of the dove of peace, while also giving her the timeless air of a mythological figure.”
Holloway sent the figure drawing to Toms, who then traced it onto a linoleum block, along with her own design. After carving it out, she hand-printed the resulting linocut onto translucent Japanese Unryu paper, whose long swirling fibers complement the design.
The final result is on the cover of this issue.
Toms and Holloway say they plan to expand this project into a series exploring feminist themes, maintaining their ties as both friends and artists.