Artist Interview: Middle Dune

Craftland is excited to have you meet Sylvia Tomayko-Peters who runs Middle Dune, a paper goods company based in her studio in Somerville, MA. We are proud to carry Middle Dune’s handmade journals, cards, and jotters!

“A silk screen, ready to be printed.”

What is your background and how did you get into bookbinding and printmaking?

I didn’t go to art school but I grew up with two parents who are visual artists so I was always immersed in the creative process. I used to sit on their studio floor and draw ponies with my crayons, all the while subconsciously soaking up what it meant to be an artist. My mom is a printmaker so I learned what I know from her and she’s always encouraging me to experiment. Bookbinding I picked up when I took a one week course during a summer break in college. Once I graduated I really wanted to get back to making things with my hands and books were the perfect solution. Basically, I’m very much a self-taught experimenter with not much “formal training.

Do you work in a studio, if so where did you start out?

I have a studio in my Somerville, MA apartment which is lovely because I can be at home (playing with the cat) and be working at the same time. My letterpress lives on Cape Cod at my mom’s house though because it’s so heavy it would probably fall through the floor of my apartment. Having a small studio is a big improvement over how I started out, printing on my desk and using my bed as a drying rack.

“My letterpress, an antique 1950’s press we’ve named Belle, printing book covers in gold.”

What inspires your designs, and how often do you come up with new designs?

My designs are usually inspired by plants and animals, and the water of course. Growing up on Cape Cod means the beach will always be a large source of inspiration. Recently my designs have been drawing on ancient Greek mythology and Medieval tales. I was a fantasy nerd when I was younger and stories of strong goddesses and magic were enchanting. I feel like I’m getting back into that now as an adult. Even though I’m sketching all the time, I usually wait and release my new designs twice a year.

What do you find the most challenging and rewarding part of owning your own business/creative career?

The most challenging part of running my own creative business is limiting stress and finding time for myself. I’m not very good at setting aside time for relaxing – since my studio is in my home I can always be working if I want. The problem is, if there’s an overwhelming amount of things to do, I just keep going and don’t stop to breathe. On the other hand though, I’m doing what I love and I’m having fun. Even if I work late into the night, I’m still working at something that makes me feel happy and creatively satisfied, that’s the most rewarding part of my job.

“Mixing ink for the letterpress.”

What is your goal for the future of your company/ career?

Learning how to scale up a creative business is hard. In order to grow, there are big investments of time and money that have to be made even if they seem daunting. My goal for Middle Dune is to keep growing until I feel comfortable living off my work and perhaps hiring a few other makers (it’s a one woman show right now) to help out. But I don’t want to grow too big that I’m divorced from the process of actually making my own work. I always want to be a part of the art making process at Middle Dune because I see myself as an artist first and a business woman a distant second.

Is there another form of art, materials, or elements you are interested in working with or incorporating your designs onto?

I’m always scheming about adding new mediums into Middle Dune but I never seem to be able to find the time for all the new crafts I want to pick up. I’d love to introduce some textile elements, even if that’s screen printing tea towels with my designs. I also had fun this summer with indigo dyeing and dip-dyed a lot of paper. There will be some limited edition prints on those that I’m very excited about so maybe that’s something I’ll incorporate more of. Also I want to make matchboxes. Anyone know how to make that happen? I have to do my research but it’s a dream of mine.

“All the ingredients for a hardcover book, ready to be bound.”

“Me behind the table at a Middle Due craft show.”

Thank you Sylvia Tomayko-Peters!