Sonia Farmer wears several hats and she’ll be packing them
all up soon for a professional pilgrimage. A writer and book artist with her
own printing press, Farmer is making her way to a series of creative spaces and
cultural events in the Caribbean and U.S. The first stop en route will be
Barbados in March, where she will take up a month-long residency program at
A non-profit, artist-led organization based on a working
dairy farm in St. George, Barbados, Fresh Milk supports those working in the
creative industry “by functioning as a cultural lab” through its promotion of
residencies, lectures, screenings, workshops and its facilitation of art projects.
It was established as such in 2011 by Annalee Davis, its founding director.
Davis traveled to Nassau in 2012 to participate in the
Transforming Spaces art tour; it was then she met Farmer and was introduced to
Poinciana Paper Press.
“She came to my press and loved the work that I did, and she
said if I could ever come to Fresh Milk that would be great,” recalled Farmer.
Farmer was a member of The Current, the former art team at
Baha Mar. Her most recent work has been examining the effect of the tourism
industry on individual identity in The Bahamas. To do this, she has been
exploring found poetry – that is poems composed of words and phrases that have
been extracted from existing text.
Some of her poems have already been exhibited locally. They
were featured in digital format at the Seventh National Exhibition, Antillean:
an Ecology, at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas in December 2014. She
will also unveil a selection at Hillside House for this year’s Transforming
“The working name for my collection is The Best Estimation
in the World. And it just looks at the way that we construct our identities and
realities around the tourism industry and what that does to us,” explained
Farmer. “I’m thinking specifically of The Bahamas and I’m referencing my
particular experience at Baha Mar as something that has been a catalyst for
exploring this research.”
She hopes that being removed from The Bahamas will allow her
to have a solid mental space and fresh perspective to tackle her work. Based in
the Caribbean, Fresh Milk will give her a distance that is neither too near nor
too far from home to do revisit past works and compose new ones.
She is also hoping that the residency will provide links to
Barbados-based artists who may be incorporating the book form in their visual
art practices. To facilitate building connections, Farmer will lead a four-part
series of workshops on bookbinding and design. She has already received
applications from potential participants, most of whom are artists who are
interested in exploring the books or literary elements in their work.
“It gives a comprehensive look at how book art can engage
with your practice and it’s also the way that I was introduced to book arts in
school when I took my first book arts class. It was called The Art of The Book
at Pratt (Pratt Institute) and it was taught in a similar way... It just opened
up the horizons of my writing practice and my visual arts practice. So I’m kind
of hoping that my workshop will do that for them,” explained Farmer.
After Barbados, Farmer will be traveling to the Bocas Lit
Fest, an annual literary festival held in Trinidad from April 27 to May 1 this
year. She will also be making the rounds to book art centers in the States to
expand her network of book and paper artists as well as those whose practices
involve letterpress printing. Journeying to California and back east via the
midwestern and southern states, her travels will end in August. At that point,
she hopes to know whether she has been admitted to the University of Iowa’s
masters of fine arts program for book arts.
Though her passion for the art form is strong and has taken
her across the world to expand her knowledge, Farmer has not had formal
education in book arts. A true lifelong learner, she hopes that completing the
MFA program will equip her with substantial knowledge and confidence as an
Regardless of her student status in the fall, Farmer is sure
of her creative mission moving forward. She recently rebranded Poinciana Paper Press
and enhanced its online presence and has committed to returning to work she is
passionate about. A large part of her work, which focuses on feminism,
mythology and social structures, involves intense research. Determined to write
from an informed view, Farmer uses personal experiences, workshops, interviews,
observations and traditional reading methods to develop her writing. It is
this, her research, which she identifies as the most important part of what she
“People always go, ‘Write what you know’, and I think that’s
important. But I also think it’s important to not be so self-centered and
explore everything as much as you can, because you’re never going to be great
at your current state.”