Sarah Rafferty walks a lot.

“When I walk, I am deep in concentration, looking at plant silhouettes, their form, and how they might render as a future cyanotype,” she says.

Cyanotype photography is a unique, cameraless technique. The process was first used in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, mainly to reproduce documents, Sarah explains. About a year later, Anna Atkins famously used the cyanotype process to document physical algae specimens and became the first person to illustrate a book using photographic images.

Cyanotypes are created using a 1:1 ratio of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Once combined, they become reactive to the sun.

“Using hand-coated and light sensitive paper, I expose my work to the UV rays of the sun in order to produce the botanical composition of each piece,” Sarah says.

“Each cyanotype is a representation of a moment in time, like a visual poem marking the sun, the wind, and the clouds of a given day,” she continues. “No two are ever the same. These moments get to live on your wall and bring the reminder of the natural world into your home.”

Winterthur is delighted to welcome Sarah of Atwater Designs as our summer Artist in Residence. During her residency, Sarah will showcase and teach the fascinating process of cyanotype.

A prolific local artist trained at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Sarah has extensive experience in both darkroom and digital photography. She launched Atwater Designs after many years of teaching and has since showcased her work globally. Her art has been featured in Town & Country magazine, Ralph Lauren collaborations, and other prominent projects. Sarah, who resides locally, draws inspiration from the beauty of the Brandywine Valley.

Artist in Residence Sarah Rafferty

Engage with Sarah throughout the Summer

Artist in Residence Program, June 8–16: Working in Winterthur’s historic greenhouses, Sarah will create her cyanotypes using elements from the nearby cutting garden and the greenhouse metalwork. Her works on both paper and fabric will be displayed around the greenhouses throughout the week, inviting guests to stop by and learn. As visitors pass, Sarah will demonstrate the cyanotype process and discuss its historical significance and connection to Winterthur and early horticultural specimen collection and recording. This is a drop-in event. No reservations are necessary; just come and watch. Sarah’s work will be available for purchase.

Midsummer, June 22: Celebrate the summer solstice, reconnect with nature, and enjoy bonfires, dancing, food inspired by the garden, and a cyanotype demonstration and display.

Artisan Market, July 19–21: Some of the region’s most talented craftspeople, including Sarah, will present their outstanding wares as tent vendors.

Sun, Cyanotype, and Sundial, August 18: Join us to celebrate the sun! Sarah Bourne Rafferty of Atwater Designs will demonstrate the process of cyanotype against the backdrop of the Sundial Garden, and a gallery of her work will be on display and available for purchase.