Confessions on Paper

If the first step is admitting you have a problem…..I have a problem.  No need to worry about the rest of the steps, since I really don’t want to get rid of this problem (though a bit of “curbing” might be in order). I’ve had this problem for years and first noticed it around the age of 5. I’m a full fledged, card carrying paper addict, as evidenced by the following photos from my studio and office.


Since kindergarten you ask? Yes. I distinctly remember being given, in “art class,” used mimeographed sheets so that we could draw on the back. Setting aside the wonderful smell of mimeograph ink, and if you’re older than about 45 you know what I mean, I was incensed that I was expected to do my best work on a crappy piece of paper. Really? If I was going to spend my precious time drawing what would no doubt turn out to be an inspired masterpiece I certainly deserved a nice piece of paper and not something that felt as though it had been dug out of the trash.  (Yes, I could express righteous indignation at a very early age.) I can also remember trips with my mother to Import Plaza, an exotic import store where we were allowed to pick out one item and I invariably chose a package of brightly colored origami paper.  Didn’t know squat about origami, but the possibilities that those pristine sheets offered were endless.  The thrill of opening that packet still sends shivers down my spine.

Throughout the years I experimented with other media — paint, clay, metal — eventually graduating from college with a degree in art and a concentration in fiber.  Keep in mind that this was more than a couple of years ago and paper arts as a major was not really an option. I spent a few years as a weaver/feltmaker but when my middle son was two yrs. old, I enrolled in an adult ed bookbinding class at the local community college, primarily to get a night off. However, it just took one class and I knew that paper was indeed my re-found medium and I never looked back. Since then I have worked as a bookbinder, box maker, paper designer my own designs are available on this site), papier mache “sculptor,” letterpress printer, printmaker and tried or done pretty much everything else that can be done with paper. The one paper thing I leave to others is papermaking. I’m happy to just admire and collect the work of expert papermakers.

So what is it about paper that I find so appealing? Well, I think that it’s the versatility. It can be molded,

and folded,

and formed,

and printed.

And that’s just for starters.  Paper comes in a nearly unlimited variety of weights, textures, colors, finishes and sometimes scents. It can be relatively affordable, or even free as the recycled map, music and grocery bag papers used to make these little gift bags.

Of course there some glaring exceptions to that “affordability” factor, such as these metallic leaf (mica) papers from France. They are actually gold/silver/copper/bronze leave that have been adhered to a tissue thin base and you don’t want to know how much they cost. I use them very sparingly and only when I can show them off as evidenced in this lamp shade made by Helen Hiebert. (Check out her book, Paper Illuminated, for more shade ideas and instructions.)

So what can paper not do? I’m thinking. I have seen furniture made from corrugated cardboard, newspaper used as garden mulch, edible rice papers that surround chewy candies, machines that tightly roll paper to be used as fireplace logs, translucent waxed papers that replace glass windows…..I could go on and on and on. For me, I’m satisfied making books, boxes and the like.  After all, I’ve got enough stock to keep me going for another 50 years or so (see top photos).