Darien, GA:

Ashantilly Press

Back in late March of this year, in the wee-beginning months of planning our trip, we received an Instagram message from a printer named Nic from Savannah, GA. He advised us to check our Ashantilly press, a print shop located on the coast of Georgia close to the beach. At this point in our planning we were excited for any printers that reached out and wanted to host us - so we followed up. We did not have any idea what the summer would end up looking like for us, but we were excited to give it a go. The impending problems of COVID and financials as a young creative kept us on our toes throughout the Spring. All we knew was we wanted to travel around the country to meet printers, with a studio in the back of our car, and eat good food. We had the forethought to make money while doing it, and the conviction to make it happen. And with people like Nic, who reached out from all the way on the other side of the country we were hopeful people wanted to meet us too.

We met Sara and Harriet almost exactly three months after those messages on June 27th at Ashantilly Press, which felt very special. They are the President and Vice-President to the board of the Ashantilly Center, stewards of the former plantation grounds originally owned by Georgian planter Thomas Spalding. Sara and Harriet, both take pride in the educational, and restorative work they do for the center. From Sara sharing honey (in our tea, of course) from the honeybees she keeps on the grounds, to Harriet teaching us about the undeniably heavy history of the area, they both work tirelessly to make the people and places around them better. We were so grateful to be able to share in that passion even for just two short days.

Rosemary and I pulled up with sand and sunburned on our skin from a full day on the beach at Tybee Island in Savannah, GA. After a quick visit in the press room at Ashantilly, we followed them back to their home on Black Island. They welcomed us to stay in their home for our short stay. It is tucked away in the marshes of coastal Georgia with all the alligators, wild pigs, racoons, birds, squirrels and frogs you can think of … just to name a few of the friendly visitors we met in the area. After we settled in and freshened up a bit, the ladies took us out to a delicious seafood dinner right on the river in town. As we waited for our table, we looked out on the sunset and water scene that is so distinctly ingrained in my memory. An unforgettable, serene scene. As our name was called, I saw two large eyes hovering in the water, “an alligator!” I explained, and there lazily lay the one and only alligator we saw in Georgia.

The next morning, Harriet took us on the grand tour of the surrounding area of Darien before we were to print in the evening. Harriet is passionate about the animals and people that occupy the land she calls home. She taught us about the different ecosystems and animals in the area including birds like cardinals, bluejays, redwing blackbirds and cranes. While on a mission to see another alligator we saw many, many other creatures in its place.

On the way back to the house we stopped at Butler Island. A site where hundreds of enslaved Africans produced millions of pounds of rice during the 19th century. Considered one of the harshest crops to work on, the site oversaw the largest sale of human beings in U.S history, known as the “Weeping Times.” We learned that many of the descendants of these people still reside in the area to this day. Harriet and Sara did not shy away from talking about the racially complex and harsh history there - a history that was discussed and acknowledged our entire stay, from the dark roots of slavery to the perpetuating systemic racism today.

We arrived back at Ashantilly Press in the late afternoon for our print event. Inspired by the original printer of the grounds, William Haynes Jr. a renowned, award winning book artist that printed primarily poems, we based our print off one of these poems found in one of the publications titled “The Traveller,” we found it quite fitting. We paired the poem with a simple border, another Haynes inspired flare, and a little engraved shrimp - very fitting for coastal Georgia. The event turned out to be one of the most successful of our trip thus far. Sara, Harriet and Nic really got the word out to the community to come down to Ashantilly - even on that rainy and buggy afternoon.

Our time at Ashantilly is one of my most memorable, and cherished times of the trip so far. From the community, to the history, alligator spotting, and printing experience - I wish I could remember and share every bit of this stop in every detail, but I guess that's the point of this tour. You move quickly, but make strong connections and just hope someday you will be back to make *impressions* again.