Love of Books Leads to a Career in Printmaking

Kathleen Piercefield in her home studio with a print on the press.

Picture a tiny toddler, entering a library for the first time. Her eyes widen, she exclaims in delight and awe, “Oh!! All those books!” That was me, in my mom’s account of my first visit to our local library. I must have been very small because I don’t  remember it – but I do remember that during my childhood, bedtimes were always accompanied by the reading of a story, and my parents both did their best to infuse me with their own love of reading. They certainly succeeded! I was an only child and books were my lifeline — they provided companions and adventures, and stretched the dimensions of my little room to encompass the world.

I grew up in a small town on the south side of Chicago, and the things that interested me were reading, drawing, music and nature (which in that semi-urban environment, I never could get enough of.) As I grew up, drawing moved to the front of the list, and in college – at Murray State University in western Kentucky – my major was studio arts. Family circumstances sent me back to Chicago, and then my art education was interrupted again when I met a northern Kentucky boy who was also at Murray — a biology student with a love of nature and the outdoors that matched mine. We fell in love, married, and shortly after his graduation we moved to Grant County, where we raised three sons and a daughter. For many years I was a full-time mom, but when my youngest son was in high school, I finally went back to school myself, this time at NKU. In the process of completing a BFA, I changed my focus from studio arts to printmaking, and that has been the foundation of my art practice ever since. My basement studio houses a small etching press, and I’m also a member of Tiger Lily Press, a printmaking group based in Cincinnati. I exhibit with them and occasionally teach classes in their print studio.

What drew me to printmaking is something parallel to the aesthetic appeal I find in books. A book is a gateway into thought and information, but it’s also a physical object with weight and texture, surface qualities, subtle aromas. Holding a book and turning its pages engages all the senses. Printmaking does that too, as I carve or etch a matrix, mix inks, handle paper, and apply pressure to produce an image. It’s an art form that requires attention to detail, but also lots of openness to the unexpected – paper and ink meeting under the pressure of a press can make for all kinds of surprises.

My path to BCPL began way back in that small town library south of Chicago, because that was where I had my first real job. I worked as a page from age 15 until I graduated from high school. Later I worked in the library at Murray State, and at De Paul University in downtown Chicago, where I held a full time job in their periodicals library for about two years. In 2009 I decided it would be good to have a part time job supplementing my art income. I put in an application at BCPL, and though I didn’t get the first job I applied for, some weeks later I got a call from Human Resources about another opening. In January 2010 I started as a page at Main. I was thrilled to be working in a library again! When a position opened at the Walton branch a few months later, I jumped at the opportunity, and once I had met the staff there I knew I had found my home. I‘ve been a Circulation Assistant at Walton since June of 2010. In addition to the usual circ-desk duties, one of my special jobs is arranging our monthly reading – genre displays and scheduling the exhibits featured in our wall case. (So…if you have a collection of interesting things or know of a local artist who would like to show their work, please give me a shout. I’m always looking for new displays!) I also serve as the go-to bug catcher at the Walton branch; I am fascinated with (and usually not scared of) insects and other creepy crawlies, and happy to escort misplaced critters back outside if they happen to come in.

Spare time? No, I don’t have any to spare — there are always more things I want to do than there are hours in the day! Personal Bible study and helping others to learn about the Bible claim a significant amount of my time. Aside from that – and making art, and reading – I long for more opportunities to travel, learn, and just take time to observe the living things around me.

What do I love about BCPL? More than anything, I treasure the good relations that I enjoy with my co-workers. I have enormous respect for their skills and talents, and continually learn from them. I also appreciate the interactions we have with our patrons and the ties we form with many of them. Each day has challenges, but for me the greatest reward comes when someone’s face lights up because we’ve connected them with exactly what they need at that moment – whether it’s a great book, digital media, information they need for a school project, or assistance in navigating the internet. It’s a real privilege to work on BCPL’s team and to be part of a library system that offers so much to its community.

One thought on “Love of Books Leads to a Career in Printmaking

  1. Hello Kathleen! It was good to see this article about you and what you’re doing these days. Do you recall the time, so four years ago, when you came to my house in Williamstown and gave me a few private lessons in watercolors?I’m still doing artwork and trying to find my particular style and medium. I’ve had a few shows myself and sometime perhaps I will bring some things to Walton. Congratulations on this step in your life and career….. Pam Thompson

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