Hand papermaking is certainly a strange duck. It’s simultaneously a tradition that is thousands of years old, yet artists today are just at the beginning of expanding creative papermaking techniques, and combining the medium with other art processes.
Well, who’s out there preserving tradition AND driving experimentation? A must-know organization is the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory & Educational Foundation, located in Cleveland, Ohio.
Hold onto your seats, because we’re going on a virtual studio tour!
Jane Ingram Allen is an artist, curator, educator, Fulbright scholar, and world-traveler whose work embodies all of the above. She uses local plants and natural materials to create handmade paper installations and sculptures that invite collaboration from the community and viewers.
Participant at ‘The More We Get Together’, Artist with gallery visitor at the hand-papermaking station, 2015
What’s currently topical in the handmade paper world? Projects and artists that explore alternative, local fibers for papermaking. These are paper projects that often connect with broader circles, from community organizations to environmental agencies.
Jane Kramer, Foreshadowing – Endangered and Threatened Plant Species, Long-bracted spiderwort on phragmites
As an art medium, hand papermaking has an incredible potential to speak meaningfully about the environment. One artist you should know is Jane Kramer, who has focused on invasive and native plant species by combining handmade papers with alternative process photography.
Hand papermaking allows an artist to take ownership of their materials. Choosing a fiber for paper pulp, making handmade paper, creating the final form—papermaking is a mutable art medium that allows for a multitude of options. When used in interdisciplinary manner, the process can be a way to add context, content, and meaning to an art piece.
Patrick Blenkarn is a Canadian artist based in Vancouver who recently created Soliloquy in English, a performance piece about English as a second language. It uses a rich combination of materials: words spoken aloud, a book containing varied experiences, and paper handmade from a secondhand dictionary.
Josh Monroe, Staccato Prints: Green/Blue Woodblock and handmade paper, 3.5″ by 3.5″, 2015
It’s a wild, wide world of potential for hand papermaking, especially when paired with other art-making mediums. Paper pulp itself has a huge variety of capabilities, including a remarkable memory suited for casting.
Let’s take a quick look at work by Josh Monroe, an artist who combines printmaking (relief woodcuts) and papermaking.