Alumni Spotlights: Amity Katharine Libby ’99
This month our spotlight shines on Amity Katharine Libby, who earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts at the University of Maine at Machias in 1999. Originally from the Washington County town of Talmadge, Libby is now a self-employed artist living in Dixfield, Maine. Libby also teaches online courses on botanical paper artwork, which can be found on her website, flowerandjane.com.
Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now.
In 2016 I began working as a paper artist, which coincided with the birth of my daughter. In the last five years this has grown to an online art school as well. My fine art paper floral sculptures are for sale at the Good Supply in Bristol, Maine, and my online school currently features teaching artists from around the world. Paper flowers are a wonderful, meditative art form that allows for science and aesthetics to get to know each other in a very satisfying way. I describe what I do and teach as “botanical realism” and you can learn more at flowerandjane.com.
What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?
Without a doubt, the most powerful takeaway from my experience was that nature is our co-teacher and if we only paid attention we would learn so much. From plein-air painting at Schoodic (Henderson), to understanding the pH of handmade paper in Whiting (Vinzani), to field botany in the quotidian byways of Washington County (Lewis) — it was all primary source learning enriched by my professors. The door was there, they opened it and I walked through.
Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?
Turn off the screens and go outside. Document what you see, share what you learn, preach it like you think it will get you to heaven. Not everyone has the coast of Maine as a teacher…our natural resources, our First People, our incredible vistas and even those mud flats have more knowledge to be had than a secondary screen or someone else’s adventure. Primary source experiences are what you need to build a lifetime of knowledge and there is no finer place to have those than UMM.
How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?
In particular one class on the business of writing (Kupperman) was instrumental in forming my understanding that a fine art product or experience is the result of marketing a well-fleshed out idea, and one cannot make said thing without first seeking community support for it. I iterate and reiterate that concept a hundred times a year. For those who don’t remember, the class published original works of writing and photography in a book, with a handmade cover which we produced on a Vandercook press, printed locally, bound by the class, and oh yeah, it cost a thousand dollars — 1998 money. I raised that money with Jessica Beagan Archer (‘99) by walking the main street of the town and asking for it. Never be afraid to ask for the money for projects you believe in. “Boreal Fog” was one of those and the class gave me a clear foundation of how to ask and deliver gracefully.
How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?
One of my fondest memories of all time, ever, was the applause the professors gave us as we walked out of our graduation ceremony. My word, that was a moment I took in and still savor. The piece of paper told the world I did the work. That applause told me that they believed in me. And that has made a lot of difference to this goofy kid who grew up in a small town in Washington County. It’s there in my head when I need it. A cheer that says, well done.