Gwen Frostic

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Gwen Frostic
Sara Gwendolen Frostic

(1906-04-26)26 April 1906
Died25 April 2001(2001-04-25) (aged 94)
Benzonia, Michigan, U.S.
Resting placeBenzonia Township Cemetery, Benzonia Township, Michigan, U.S.
EducationEastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan, U.S., Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.
Known forPrinting, drawing, woodworking, carving, writing

Gwen Frostic (April 26, 1906 – April 25, 2001) born as Sara Gwendolen Frostic,[1][2] was an American artist, entrepreneur, author, and Michigan Women's Hall of Fame inductee. Frostic is known for her naturalist, Linocut block print artwork, created with Heidelberg printing presses.


Gwen Frostic was born April 26, 1906 in Sandusky, Michigan to Sara and Fred Frostic. Her parents had both been trained as teachers in Yipsilanti, Michigan. At the time of Frostic’s birth, Fred was serving as school principal. She had an older brother, Bill, and later, several younger siblings.[3] At 8 months old, Frostic suffered a high fever from an unknown illness which left her with lifelong symptoms similar to cerebral palsy.[3] Despite physical difficulties including a limp and weak hands, Frostic showed an early interest in and aptitude for art. Her mother was a strong advocate for her involvement in diverse activities despite her disabilities.[4] In June 1924 she graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, where she was known for using a band saw to create event posters for her school.[3]

She continued her studies at Eastern Michigan University earning her teacher's certificate and gaining membership in Alpha Sigma Tau[5] sorority. In 1926 she transferred to Western Michigan University and left in 1927 just short of completing her degree.[3] She continued her artistic endeavors in metal and plastic, while occasionally teaching,[3] but with the war came a lack of metal to work with and she turned to printmaking, using the Linocut technique of carving linoleum blocks.

During World War II, Frostic worked in the Willow Run bomber plant of Ford Motor Company where she became skilled in production.

After the war, Frostic started her own production printing company in Wyandotte, known as Presscraft Papers, by turning her linoleum block carvings into stationery goods and prints through the use of Heidelberg printing presses. In the early 1950s Frostic shifted her attention farther North and opened up a shop selling her prints, books, and other items in the historic tourist town of Frankfort. Her Frankfort shop, located directly in the town, was quite successful. In 1960 she bought 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land in Benzonia with the intention of moving herself and her shop further inland into the forest.[3][6] Her new property was located in a rural wooded riparian area on the Betsie River, initially accessed by dirt roads.[4] Frostic oversaw the construction of the print shop and dwelling. She conceived of a number of naturalistic and artistic elements including large stone boulders and a natural spring flowing inside the structure and an area with a green sod roof. On April 26, 1964, her new shop opened for business in the completed building of her own design.[3] Her business grew and prospered steadily over the years. Frostic was recognized as a successful entrepreneur at a time when few women were celebrated for this. Her artwork frequently depicted the natural world surrounding her shop: trees, plants, birds, mushrooms, flowers, berries, and animals.[4] She incrementally grew her property into a 285-acre wildlife sanctuary.[6] Frostic remained actively involved creating art and working in her business well into her nineties.[4] She lived at the Benzonia property until her death at nearly 95 in 2001.[3]

Frostic's shop remains open in Benzonia today. All 12 of the original Heidelberg presses remain in operation at the studio, and visitors can watch them in action during the week. Frostic carved over 2,300 blocks, which can be seen on the shelves of the studio. The current owners of Presscraft Papers are working to remodel the building for better working and visiting conditions.


Frostic was granted several honorary doctorates from Alma College, Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and Ferris State University. In 1978, Governor William Milliken declared May 23 as Gwen Frostic Day in Michigan.[1] In 1986 she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.[6]

Western Michigan University named its school of art after her in 2007, after her 13 million dollar bequest to the University in 2001: the Gwen Frostic School of Art.[7] While given as an unrestricted bequest, the funds have primarily been used for scholarships for students, and for the benefit of the arts and creative writing departments in particular, in respect to her lifelong pursuits.

The Michigan Reading Association presents the Gwen Frostic Award to notable authors and illustrators who have impacted fostering literacy.[8]


  • My Michigan (1957)
  • A Walk With Me (1958)
  • These Things Are Ours (1960)
  • To Those Who See (1965)
  • Wing-borne (1967)
  • Wisps of Mist (1969)
  • A Place on Earth (1970)
  • Beyond Time (1971)
  • Contemplate (1973)
  • The Enduring Cosmos (1976)
  • Interlochen: An Unfinished Symphony (1977)
  • The Infinite Destiny (1978)
  • The Evolving Omnity (1981)
  • The Caprice Immensity (1983)
  • Multiversality (1985)
  • Heuristic (1987)
  • Chaotic Harmony (1989)
  • Abysmal-Acumen (1991)
  • Aggrandize (1993)
  • Synthesis (1995)
  • Ruminate (1997)
  • Lilies of the Fields (1999)


  1. ^ a b "Meet Gwen". Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  2. ^ "The 2001 Slate 60". Slate. 2001. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h James, Sheryl (March 1, 1999). "Gwen Frostic: Michigan artist crafts nature into a rich life". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on 2001-05-06. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  4. ^ a b c d Castanier, Bill (September 20, 2018). "The wonderful nature of Michigan artist Gwen Frostic". Lansing City Pulse. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  5. ^ The Anchor of Alpha Sigma Tau, June 1926, p. 19.
  6. ^ a b c "Gwen Frostic" (PDF). Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. The Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  7. ^ "Frostic School of Art named for famed alumna, artist". WMU News. April 27, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-27.
  8. ^ "Gwen Frostic Award". Michigan Reading Association. Retrieved 2019-01-10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Glaser, Jodi Sue (1988) "Illumination the Work and Life of Gwen Frostic" (senior honors thesis, Brandeis University).
  • James, Sheryl (1999) "The Life and Wisdom of Gwen Frostic", Huron River Press, ISBN 978-1886947856

External links[edit]