After a while deep in the grasp of my proposal context, I have spent a day going back into process and looking at what new processes may be relevant to take my work on to the next step. This has brought me back to paper and specifically to making my own handmade papers, which I have been toying with on and off since I started college. The time is now right!
There are some great books and online sites which delve into the process of paper making, particularly using plant fibres – which would be a natural extension to my Genius Loci work. Either as paper made directly from plants, or as inclusions or dyestuffs. Plenty to experiment with.
This led me onto looking at a couple of inspiring artists using handmade paper as their main medium. First, using mainly paper and pigment is American artist Ellie Winberg. She explores the tactile nature of the paper, creating abstract shapes and textures. I like the minimalism of her works which bring out more of the “paper-ness” of the material.
From here, I came across another US artist Aimee Lee, who seems to have become something of an ambassador for traditional Korean paper making and paper weaving techniques. Her work reminded me of the basketry work we did at West Dean – I wonder if our teacher had any exposure to the Korean technique, known as jiseung. Aimee is a great example of an end-to-end papermaker, or rather from “root to sheet”. Her works “examine traditional objects used in various moments of life and history…I alter these forms by changing their proportions, shapes, and pairings to see how older technologies and stories inform contemporary versions of objects we use to this day. To design new function and form for paper as a substantive material, I invent book structures and print directly onto woven, knitted, and sewn paper. These pieces challenge the usual assumptions about the strength, heft, and capacity of paper to be both itself and something still to be imagined.”
A couple of my favourites from her extensive gallery online:
After this, I went further into paper making processes and discovered Helen Hiebert who has written a number of books on paper making and makes very interesting, almost meditative paper sculptures and artists’ books. Two examples of her work I liked are below, as well as a beautifully crafted video which introduces her process: “Water Paper Time is an intimate examination of the organic, non-static, sculptural, and time-based qualities of Helen Hiebert’s process in paper making.”
What I took away from this fascinating video was the exciting idea of allowing the paper to exhibit its own internal energies, its own wildness, with you the maker only shaping and encouraging that process to occur. I very much like the idea of following up this process within my own practice. This can be combined with my idea of mark making of place – using locally grown fibres or dyestuffs to imprint the essence of place within the papers.
My internal Maiko-monitor (the little voice that sits on my shoulder and asks me why are you doing this?) asked what the relevance of paper is within my project context. I have a proto-thought on this developing so far: paper is most often a substrate – an aether – onto which language and thought are organised. It takes the role that the path does; the ground beneath our feet allows us to explore the world while our eyes and minds look beyond. What can we see in the areas in between the words?