Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Sarah Schlosser, who will receive an M.F.A. in book studies from the University of Iowa in May 2021, is the winner of a Fulbright Study/Research grant in Book Arts to India for 2021-22

Hometown: North Canton, Ohio
Award: 2021-22 Fulbright Study/Research grant in Book Arts to India
Degree: MFA book studies

Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?  
I will be traveling to India to work with craftspeople and understand/document traditional methods of natural dyeing textiles. Then I will be working with the Kumarappa Institute of Hand Paper Making to develop a series of best practices for naturally dyeing handmade paper with respect to cultural tradition.  

What drew you to this field of study?
For me, it all started with a blog. I was a part of a print exchange and found myself completely lacking any printing equipment. I used some handmade paper I had and found out that turmeric, which creates a lovely bright yellow, will change color if you alter its pH. One project turned into a semester and that turned into three years of fascination. I quickly realized Western research omitted the expertise of traditional artisans and it has led to some discrepancies in the published research. After a few semesters hitting this frustrating wall, I decided to apply for a Fulbright grant to work directly with craftspeople and document their story. The colors that natural dyes create are stunning and I am so excited to learn more.    

How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
In the immediate future I am excited to get answers to research questions I have been asking for years. In the long term, I am not quite sure how it will impact my future career, but I am open to opportunities when they come. If you had told me years ago, I would be a Fulbright awardee who graduated from the Center for the Book, I would have laughed, but after years of following my interests, I feel like I ended up in the right place. Right now, my main focus is putting together an extensive server of traditional Indian natural dying practices.

"Studying at the University of Iowa has opened so many doors for me and I am grateful for the expertise and guidance of the faculty here. Working with Tim Barrett was such an inspiration."

What experiences at the UI inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
In 2019 I was awarded a Graduate Diversity Fellowship to conduct a deep dive into natural dyeing. This experience allowed me to critically look at current research and develop a deeper understanding of natural dyes. This time greatly accelerated my research and provided me with the opportunity to fail, and then try again. Studying at the University of Iowa has opened so many doors for me, and I am grateful for the expertise and guidance of the faculty here. Working with Tim Barrett was also such an inspiration. He showed me that interest and intuition are worth following, even if you don’t know where you are going to end up.

Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process? 
There are so many people I would like to thank. I couldn’t have received this award without community support and guidance. This accomplishment is not just mine, but also those who helped guide me. First, I want to thank Karen Wachsmuth and Brenda Longfellow. They asked me difficult questions that not only improved my application, but also made me seriously consider the research I wanted to conduct. Even if I didn’t get the award, I learned so much from them. I'd like to thank Tim Barrett, Sara Langworthy, and my other professors here at the Center for the Book for supporting me through the application process and showing up for me in ways I could never have imagined.

I would like to thank my family, especially my sister and brother-in-law, for reading drafts of my grant and helping me perfect the tone. At one point towards the end of the application process, they took the time to go line by line with me and the application was better for it. I would also like to thank the members of my cohort. They taught me the importance of listening to the voices of craftspeople, and to appreciate the value of a life working in a craft. These conversations have forever changed my perspective. They helped take photos, watch my child, and listened to me babble about this project for years.  I couldn’t have done this without a combination of these voices.

Explore the many funding opportunities open to UI students and alumni

Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance.  Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).