Friday, December 9, 2016

Earth | Paper | Sky - Late Night Pecha Kucha Power Session, by Catherine Nash

Late Night Pecha Kucha Power Session, by Catherine Nash

Jay Fox and Kerri Cushman hosted a power talk by 6 dynamic Friends on Saturday night. Pecha Kucha is a high speed way of covering a lot of informational ground without excess time to deviate: each presenter was allowed 20 slides with an auto image sequencing every 20 seconds...a total of about 6 minutes. It was high energy and lots of fun!

I was so grateful for my scholarship this year to attend the Santa Fe meeting - more often than not I cannot attend and I sit at home chomping at the bit as I wait for some published news about the amazing presentations and demos at the FDH annual meetings. I hope you will placate me as I have thoroughly written about each presenter - I’m so happy to report on these inspirational talks and I hope this satisfies your curiosity~

Helen Hiebert’s theme was “A Papermaker’s Challenge” and she outlined her creatively diverse way of making a living from papermaking. Hiebert is a talented artist who often collaborates with community in her installations such as Mother Tree and has permanent works such as The Wish installed in a library in Thornton, Colorado. She recently exhibited The Secret Life of Paper: 25 years of Works in Paper, a retrospective exhibition at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center (KBAC) and Western Michigan University in April 2016.

While these installations and artworks are not necessarily money makers, they come straight from the heart and offer her enrichment and connections in a deep and meaningful way. Hiebert also creates artist books which offer her a steady income stream by sales through her own website and artist book sellers such as Vamp & Tramp. She is an educator and a prolific author, having published such classics as The Papermaker’s Companion and Papermaking with Garden Plants and videos such as The Papermaker’s Studio Guide and Water Paper Time.

Brainstorming on innovative marketing techniques, Hiebert started “The Sunday Paper” blog. Consistently produced weekly for the last two years, her blog now has 1000+ subscribers and 1000+ followers on Facebook. (I am one of them!) In each “issue”, Helen writes about what is happening in her studio, offers 5 or so fun facts about paper around the world and frequently showcases other artists. She invited the Friends to send her images as she is always on the prowl for paper news. This past year, Hiebert launched Paper Talk, an ongoing series of podcast interviews featuring artists and professionals who are working in the field of hand papermaking. Recently, she had a very successful crowd fundraiser that allowed interested folk to pre-order a wonderful, how-to 2017 “The Twelve Months of Paper” calendar, full of hands-on activities.

Through her blog and social media, Hiebert markets her annual September Red Cliff Paper Retreat in her home studio in Edwards, Colorado. She announced her future intentions to us:
  • launching an on-line papermaking class in 2017 
  • writing a book entitled “Hand Papermaking in the 21st Century” that will honor contemporary artists working in the media.
  • creating a film that exemplifies contemporary paper artists similar to the film about origami entitled Between the Folds
We can learn a lot from Helen Hiebert’s business acumen...I, for one, have admired her for many years...and tell her so! Discover all this and more on her exciting website: Hiebert is keen on supporting the notoriety of papermaking as a viable craft and art and invites us all to join her in brainstorming ideas for pushing the field of handmade paper for the next few centuries!

Genevieve Lapp’s talk was entitled, “For Every Need a Paper: The Extraordinary and Often Bizarre World of Work at a 208-Year-Old Specialty Paper Mill”. Lapp regularly publishes a blog entitled The Fiber Wire [] which is chock full of interesting information. In 2016, Lapp did an internship with papermaker Alejandro Geiler in Buenos Aires, Argentina as part of her Master’s program. As Geiler was my vat mate when he and I studied at Awagami Factory in Japan in 1995, I was excited to support her crowd fundraiser to help her travel there to work with him. And I was psyched to finally meet Genevieve face to face in Santa Fe!

Lapp spoke dynamically and was completely engaging about Knowlton Technologies, a historic mill in Watertown, New York where she has worked since 2015. K.T. has produced “Innovation Papers” - a very wide range of specialty papers - for 208 years. Such everyday papers that we take for granted or don’t even realize keep us safe through fire retardant and filtration are used in varied industries, agriculture, aircraft, and architecture. These papers are still created at Knowlton Technologies on old machines with very skilled craftsmen. Less than 8 paper mills worldwide focus on these kind of papers today and sustainability as a working mill is an issue today for them today. Keeping abreast of new technologies and industrial needs is their challenge in the 21st century.

Knowlton Technologies have taken on viable environmental stewardship by producing durable goods that increase efficiencies such as friction and filter papers for heavy equipment and industrial off-road vehicles and varied transportation modes.Through the centuries, their papers have protected us with fire retardant papers and gas masks. Today, composites and laminated papers offer increased energy saving structural integrity, increased thermal endurance and enhanced performance.

It is hard for me to make these exciting in the written word, but Lapp definitely wowed us with her dynamic presentation made of vintage and contemporary images she found in the files at the mill. It is the intersection of industry and the creative mindset that she proposed as she ended her talk. Our contributions may well be a way to help ensure this historic papermill might survive another 100 years: Lapp called out a challenge to us as entrepreneurs and invited us to send her proposals to work with 50 lbs. of pulp and machinery at Knowlton Technologies. What do we envision and want to innovate?

When Monika Meler presented Paper, Ink, Pressure, she related how one of her teachers told her, “As a printmaker, you’ll get addicted to paper.” Her artistic journey and the resultant paper addiction led Meler to develop a multi-pass printing technique that she terms “Diffused Relief” printing. Meler uses an intricately cut matboard matrix to emboss the surface of her printing paper, as well as print layers of transparent imagery, producing variable editions. These prints have a very rich, spatial depth and visual narrative. “Images repeat, change direction and dominance. All of these actions mimic the actions of memory."

The content of her artwork reflects her examination of “actual and constructed memory, especially as it related to my upbringing in Poland and immigration to the United States.” In her artist statement, Meler writes, “ work is often an abstraction of a place, space, building, folktale, or event that had a lasting impression. I use images that reference my father's elaborate gardens, my mother's colorful textiles, the Slavic folktale of the Baba Jaga, and the majestic skyscrapers of Chicago.” You can view her work at

A new mother, Meler was faced with reconfiguring a studio schedule to dovetail with her new responsibilities. She committed herself to structuring in at least one hour per day in creating her art and admitted to doing it while traveling...even working during this conference in her Santa Fe hotel room! Meler has managed to create much work and has had numerous exhibitions within that time frame. It also shifted her work as she found she could work on the cutting of her images in smaller studio “sound bites”. The final hand cut mat boards have become the work themselves and the main focus of her creative work of late.

After the talk, I went up to her to let her know how very engaging I found her beautiful images. but also how personally moved I was by her commitment to her work. (I’m in year ten as a caregiver for an elderly parent with a long term illness.) Also drawn to her was Laura Roe, my friend, colleague and a mother of two young children, who also was energized by Meler’s work ethics. As artists and craftspeople, we have a need to express ourselves creatively. By finding a way in a very busy life, if even devoting an hour a day, we protect our nucleus in the studio and nurture the creative muse.

Andrea Peterson gave us the gift of Indigenous Indiana, a wonderful papermaking account of her amazing art, family and community: fibers and papers are interwoven into her daily life on her "studio farm". On their website, they describe themselves: “Hook Pottery Paper is the studio farm of Jon Hook, clay artist, and Andrea Peterson, paper, book, and print artist. Andrea and Jon have been living their dream in northwest Indiana since 1997. In both of their fields of work and study, they attempt to live in harmony with the surrounding environment. They practice several sustainable methods on their small farm that entwine their work and life practices. Hook Pottery Paper consists of a clay studio, a combined book, paper and print studio, and a gallery shop."

As a true artist of the earth, and a papermaker to the nth degree, Peterson is influenced by the natural world surrounding her. She makes and uses in her art handmade paper formed from fibers harvested on her own and neighboring farms. With walnut ink, pencil drawing and letterpress, Andrea incorporates images of a personalized iconography - leaves, flowers, fungi, organic forms, sinuous line, technical/architectural rendering - into small editions or one-of-a-kind artist books.

Peterson gathers and stores the corn stalks that her son grows for feeding chickens to use for papermaking in the winter. Every plant is fair game for paper: while gathering straw and hay from her neighbor, she couldn’t help herself when noticing all the sisal used for tying bales scattered on the ground...those were all gathered up and made into paper as well. I am sure that Andrea endeared her neighbors to her when she started requesting all their old worn out dungarees to make into farmer denim paper! All their workshops, indigenous papers, both her and Hook’s art, paper tools and more are available on their website...and in season, starter plants of heirloom tomatoes and basil!

What I was most moved by is how Peterson and her talented, artist husband Jon Hook, along with their two sons, Ry and Lu (“the home team”), have nurtured a collaborative and integrated existence, one that is seasonal and based on a sustainable practice. The home team works collectively with their community as well - a supportive and creative life that keeps them close to their family, their neighbors, and the earth. She left us with some great advice: “Your only limitation is your imagination!”

In her art and community activism, artist Jill Powers has been exploring themes of ecology which she exemplified in her talk “Land and Sea - Kozo Installations". Evolving from decades of work in handmade paper, her sculptural media of choice has been kozo bark fiber for the last 16 years. Powers has developed some alternative techniques of casting and pigmenting that are both visually and texturally exciting and lends itself perfectly to her art. Go to to view more of her work.

Environmentally related art work holds, for her, “an inherent tension between the aesthetics and the activism.” Powers seeks to educate, engage and enervate the public at large with both exhibitions and related programming. Living in Colorado, she is very sensitized to the mountain forests that have been devastated by drought and bark beetle infestation in recent decades.

Powers described her working process: I “dig deeply into the science, work directly with scientists in the field and look for points of wonder - unique vantage points that will intrigue people and draw them into wanting to know more. Like learning the details of insect life beneath the bark!” For the western forest exhibitions, she collaborated with dancers in a special performance, hosted an insect film night, offered art workshops, trained nature center staff and gave public talks. Her art installations were punctuated with the recorded sound of bark beetles eating.

Most recently, it is the ecology of the ocean and specifically seaweeds that have inspired her latest creative endeavors. While kayaking in the Pacific NW, she became fascinated with “the beauty, variety, colors and fascinating life of seaweeds”. Seaweeds are responsible for 70% of the earth’s atmosphere, taking in carbon and producing oxygen. Her research with marine biologists from Stanford, UC Berkeley and scientists from Oregon and the San Juan Islands of Washington state led her to create a number of sculptural works and installations that dealt with microscopic phytoplankton for instance, or with plastics and turbulent ocean currents. Jill’s large solo exhibition, Seaweeds in a Time of Oceanic Change was held recently at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, CO. It included many large (12 foot high) kozo installations, about kelp forests, ocean upwellings, and other pertinent issues.

Once again, her art exhibitions were augmented with visitor opportunities that educated and enlightened through scientist lectures, proactive ocean advocacy events and benefits, cooking classes and informative hikes. Powers’ work is deeply meaningful and passionate: her pursuit of an active community involvement into her integrated visual art and educational ecological platform gives her work tremendous potential for true communication.

Building Papermaking Moulds: a 25 Year Odyssey was the focus of Brian Queen’s presentation. Queen’s incessant need to design and build has been a gift to us in our community for many years as he has developed his technical skills and adapted new technology in his pursuit of building the better mould and deckle. Beginning with traditional wood moulds the evolution of Queen’s building took a new turn when he started using a computer guided router or CNC machine to cut out plastic for a jointless mould as well as a deckle. Why stick with the rectangle?

And while asking questions, why does anyone create in miniature? There has to be some quality of character of just plain fun that drives one to belabor in a Lilliputian scale. Using the same CNC machine, Queen created a beautifully crafted traditional wood laid mould and deckle that just fits in the palm of his hand. For the half scale laid surface Brian turned to a kindred spirit, master mould maker Tim Moore. So, if you are in need of handmade paper that measures 2 x 3 inches and has four authentic deckle edges, this is the mould for you! One year, Brian created a tiny chiaroscuro watermark kit as his contribution to an annual FDH meeting keepsake exchange. It came replete with a chiaroscuro screen, cylindrical “tin can” style paper mould, wet cotton pulp, an agitator, and miniature press. He editioned 200 of them!

In Calgary, Alberta, Brian joins other entrepreneurial minds at Protospace: “Calgary’s original, community-based, member-driven maker space, offering access to workshop space, education, community, and shared tools for your projects.” ( Perhaps his most recent forays have been influenced by such a conducive atmosphere. I was totally blown away by Queen’s use of 3D Printing to create a watermarked laid mould. And should I add that he just had to create an electronic device that can be attached to a mould during sheetforming to measure the papermakers shake? Future plans include WiFi-enabled sensors that record the time, date and number of sheets made as well as LED’s that help you keep the mould level as it drains.

Cloud computing for the papermaker: IoT (or The Internet of Things) as Brian says. “New technology will exploit and inspire mould making in the future.” Ah, the potential!

Brian Queen has always exemplified what I love most about the Friends of Dard Hunter. His inquisitive mind, generous willingness to share and love of fun is for me what my experience with the Friends has always been about. In Santa Fe, I was excited to meet so many dear old friends, meet wonderful new folk and experience and be inspired by our next, dynamic generation of papermakers face to face. What a superb meeting! Thank you, FDH!

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