Art, Handmade Paper, Invasive Plants: New Photographs by Jane Kramer

Handmade paper art from plants, Jane Kramer

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.

The Project

Jane Kramer is a photographer whose projects are based on overlooked or forgotten subjects. In her new series, Foreshadowing – Endangered & Threatened Plant Species, Kramer photographs the shadows of endangered and threatened Michigan plant species, and transfers them onto on handmade paper created from invasive plants.

An ongoing project, Foreshadowing has so far used papers made from Phragmites australis Subsp. australis, garlic mustard, reed canarygrass, Dame’s rocket, and narrowleaf cattail. Kramer harvests the plants from nature preserves and roadsides, processing them into pulp and making 6” x 9” sheets of paper.

photographs on handmade paper art

Jane Kramer, Foreshadowing – Endangered and Threatened Plant Species, Beak grass on garlic mustard

hand papermaking from plants, photographs

Jane Kramer, Foreshadowing – Endangered and Threatened Plant Species, Houghton’s goldenrod on reed canarygrass

Why We Love This

With Kramer’s new series, the act of making paper becomes both utilitarian and expressive. The invasive plant fibers are not only substrate for the photo transfers, but the material itself adds meaning and visual complexity to the series. It is art-making that gives full consideration of materials.

Since you can make paper from potentially thousands of different plant fibers, the act of choosing readily available, local plants imbues the artwork with regionality—the plants give a specific color palette and texture to the photographs.

From Kramer’s Artist STatement:

For me, it is the shadows that speak to the fragile, ephemeral nature of endangered and threatened plant species and their struggle to survive in a dynamic environment. Many of these plants are disappearing from their natural habitat due to invasive plant species.

The shadow images are transferred onto invasive plant paper using an alcohol gel process. The images appear somewhat transparent and, because of the paper, irregular. This coupling of shadow and paper speaks to the complex relationship between invasive and endangered plant species.

The process from beginning to end is labor intensive and unpredictable, as each invasive plant, and therefore paper, is different. As a result, I am forced to abandon my need for control over the materials and instead allow the organic matter to determine the outcome of each piece.

Jane Kramer, artist

Jane Kramer in the field, photographing plant species. Photo credit: Rebecca Williams, Michigan Public Radio

photographing native plant species in Michigan

Photographing shadows of native Michigan plant species. Photo credit: Jane Kramer

Hand papermaking from plants, phragmites australis

Harvesting Phragmites australis. Photo credit: Jane Kramer

The Process  

Kramer harvests the invasive plants, cuts them up, and boils them with soda ash, and then rinses it to rid the fiber of impurities. She then uses a kitchen blender to pulp the fiber.

hand papermaking with plants

Forming sheets with a hand mould and deckle. Photo credit: Jane Kramer

Using a hand mould and deckle built by Lee Scott McDonald, she forms sheets of paper, couches the wet sheets onto cloth, and dries them between the cloth and plexiglass.

Alcohol gel transfer, alternative photographic process

Alcohol gel transfer process, Photo credit: Jane Kramer

To transfer the shadow photographs, Kramer prints the images onto special transparency film, and uses alcohol gel (hand sanitizer) to transfer the ink to the paper’s surface.


Handmade paper art, photograph, invasive plant papers

Jane Kramer, Foreshadowing – Endangered and Threatened Plant Species, White or prairie false indigo on garlic mustard

Find Out More

Interested in learning more? Check out the links below:


5 thoughts on “Art, Handmade Paper, Invasive Plants: New Photographs by Jane Kramer

  1. Pingback: Jane Kramer’s ‘Foreshadowing’ | Artisan Paper-Making

  2. i have been in hand paper process for 14 year now and i do`not how i can improve my paper to be able to print out in hp print, i have only the basic skill for making hand paper, if there has some one can help me what can i do to charge or add value to my paper
    I produce hand paper from milt,grass with the recycle paper, here at Namibia

    • Hi Abraham, what are the issues with the paper you are making now? Also, what is your process for making paper? I’d love to hear more before I can help you out, – May

  3. Pingback: Papermaking in Detroit: The Invasive Paper Project by Megan Heeres | Paperslurry

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