17: 2D Handmade Paper

17: 2D Handmade Paper

Many of you know about my work in handmade paper, and I’d like to dedicate a couple of posts to papermaking. This one features two-dimensional work.

First, a brief history about how I got involved with hand papermaking. I moved to NYC in 1987, right after college in Tennessee. After a brief internship with the Department of Cultural Affair’s Percent for Art Program, I fell into a series of jobs in the printing and graphic design industries. A brief trip to Japan during this time (to visit my father who was doing physics research there) sparked my interest in paper; I started looking for ways to go to Japan and study, but soon I discovered Dieu Donné Papermill right in NYC. The Japan trip was scrapped, and I became an intern at Dieu Donné and was soon hired as program director. I worked there for six years.
During that time, I was approached by an editor at Storey Books about writing a how-to book on making paper with plants. This eventually led to the publication of my two how-to books on papermaking: Papermaking with Garden Plants & Common Weeds and The Papermaker’s Companion.

The Papermaker’s Companion has chapters on many of the ways of working two- and three-dimensionally with paper pulp. I recently completed The Papermaker’s Studio Guide DVD, which is a visual companion to The Papermaker’s Companion. Here’s the introduction to the DVD:

The last ‘chapter’ of the DVD features 22 paper artists who are working in the medium. Following is a sneak peak of the work of some of the artists featured in the film who are working two-dimensionally with handmade paper.
Diane Jacob’s Hairy Times: Diane embedded actual hair between sheets of paper made from cotton and newspaper pulp.

The Hairy Times, by Diane Jacobs

John Risseeuw has done a series in which the pulp is made from the clothing of landmine victims. This piece also features shaped paper and letterpress printing.

La Explosion, by John Risseeuw

Michele Samour makes multiple shaped paper circles in pigmented abaca which she configures according to the venue where she is exhibiting.

Eyes of God, by Michele Samour

Oblation Papers & Press makes handmade paper wedding invitations and other cards for other occasions. This card features a Pablo Neruda poem that is letterpress printed on a shaped sheet.

Neruda Heart, by Oblation Papers & Press

We filmed part of The Papermaker’s Studio Guide at Oblation Papers & Press. Here’s a short profile of the company.

EXTRAS Oblation Papers and Press from Ian Lucero on Vimeo.
Marilyn Wold uses collage techniques during the wet sheetforming process.

Forgotten Memories, by Marilyn Wold

Paul Wong also collages during the wet process and applies xerox transfers on top of the  sheets after they are dry.

Unsettled, by Paul Wong

Robbin Ami Silverberg embeds matchsticks between sheets of paper in her artists’ book, From Dreams to Ashes.

From Dreams to Ashes, by Robbin Ami Silverberg

Here is another example of embedding: a string drawing embedded between sheets of translucent abaca. This is one in a suite of drawings that I made entitled String Theory.

Rooted (in the heavens & in the earth) by Helen Hiebert

Embossing wet paper is another two-dimensional technique, which Marjorie Tomchuk does elegantly.

Spray, by Marjorie Tomchuk

There are several artists who have perfected various pulp painting techniques. Here are two examples, one by Lynn Sures, the other by Pat Gentenaar.

White Sands, by Lynn Sures

Ducks, by Pat Gentenaar

One other two-dimensional technique is watermarking, which has a long tradition in hand papermaking. Traditional watermarks were made from twisted and soldered wire designs, but contemporary artists have developed innovative techniques using a variety of other materials. Watermarks can be magical – invisible in the sheet until illuminated or backlit. Robbin Silverberg incorporated the technique into her artists’ book, Affidavit.

Affidavit, by Robbin Ami Silverberg

Here’s a watermark I made featuring the College Book Art Assocation‘s logo.

I write a column for Hand Papermaking Magazine called Unique Techniques, in which I profile paper artists who are practicing unusual and innovative techniques with the medium. Do you have a unique technique? If so, please share it with me by emailing or leaving me a comment below.
About the 25 Days of Paper: I’m going to be a crazy blogger in December, featuring cool paper products, projects, blogs, books, or papers each day. Join in the fun by reading along! I’ll also post links on my FaceBook page. Enjoy the season!


  1. Linda K. Fendley says:

    I just checked two of your books out from the library. They are a wealth of informaiton. Wonderful!

  2. Inspiring post! I will now pay more attention to papermaking art (instead of focussing mainly on paper manipulation). Mega thanks for the 25 Days of Paper!