It’s safe to say that Laurie Corral is the unofficial matriarch of Western North Carolina’s book-arts and print scene. In 2004, she founded Asheville BookWorks — a creative space designed to bring artists, bookbinders, and literary authorities together under the same roof. With the help of Laura Ladendorf, cherished friend and studio manager, she has since shifted how locals think about book arts, letterpress, and printmaking.
“Ten years ago, the art was less visible,” says Corral. “Now, it’s blowing up.” Art books, letterpress relief printing, specialty paper, and boutique stationery have all gained ground, almost in opposition to ubiquitous digital media. Corral tells Asheville Made about the lasting impression she’s made on paper — and in local business.
You’ve been in the region a long time …
I moved to Hickory, NC, from Michigan in 1994, after I finished an MFA in Printmaking. I served as Education Director at the Hickory Museum of Art for four years, then gradually worked my way to Asheville.
Tell us about the early days at Asheville BookWorks.
In 2004, we opened as a working studio where people could learn how to bind a book or make something like a relief print. A few months later, I mounted an exhibit called BookOpolis — an open call for artists’ books. It kicked things off. We didn’t have a dedicated gallery space then, so the work was exhibited on tables for one long weekend. It was my passion, and I met others who had a passion for it, too.
How has the printmaking scene changed over the last decade?
Everywhere you go now, you will likely see examples of printmaking. For instance, there’s a relatively new organization called Asheville Printmakers that evolved through the Book and Print Arts Collective. It’s a young group, and still developing a structure, but it brings printmakers together to share ideas, work together, and pool resources. I’m also seeing more prints in Asheville’s galleries. Blue Spiral 1 had a recent print exhibition, Momentum shows work by Asheville printmaker Andy Farkas, and Horse + Hero offers original prints for sale.
You’re pioneering a tight niche — few venture to do what you do. Have you hit any roadblocks along the way?
There are many challenges. Anticipating what workshops, exhibits, and projects people will be excited about is always tricky. Students come and go, and classes can be hard to fill. It’s a small studio, too. Between the two of us, myself and Laura [Ladendorf], we make it happen.
Speaking of roads, didn’t the Department of Transportation let you borrow a steamroller once?
It was actually Carolina CAT. They pulled a large roller from a state road job so we could use it for the weekend. About a dozen artists printed oversize linoleum and woodcuts outside, in the parking lot. It was a blast and very generous of them!”
Any secrets to success?
Cultivate an interested audience and deliver quality classes. Oh, and get excited doing what you do.
Asheville BookWorks, 428 Haywood Road, Asheville. For details about events and classes, call 828-255-8444 or visit ashevillebookworks.com.