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.
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.
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.
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.
Find Out More
Interested in learning more? Check out the links below:
- Jane Kramer’s artist website
- Her story on Michigan Public Radio
- More details about the making of Foreshadowing on her blog
- The Paperslurry infographic about papermaking from plants
- Another artist, Megan Singleton, uses invasive seaweed to make paper
- Want to learn more about the basic papermaking process? Here is our tutorial showing how to make paper from recycled scrap papers