Flower Power

Flower Power

The Sunday Paper #63

Paper of the WeekTracing Paper

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

You know the tracing paper that you can get at any art supply store? It comes on a roll, in two colors (canary yellow and white) and in varying widths from 12″ up to at least 24″ (with a few sizes in between). Now I don’t use tracing paper for what you might think – tracing – I use it to create inflatable balls. It turns out that it is just the right weight and it has just the right amount of body (for lack of a better word) and crispness to hold its form once inflated. Here’s a picture of the five foot diameter Text Ball that I created with tracing paper. I based the gore width (those sections that are pieced together to form the sphere) on the width of the roll of tracing paper. The poem (by Ezra Pound) was rubber stamped onto the sections before the sphere was assembled. It reads: “The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand”.

Text Ball

I learned quite a bit about tracing paper from the wikipedia entry. The following description actually gives me some insight into the translucent abaca paper that I use in much of my work: “Through mechanical ‘refining’ of the cellulose fibre to create a fibre which is highly fibrillated and gelatinous, so that in forming the sheet of paper, virtually all air is excluded from the internal structure of the paper. This method produces a very translucent and even looking paper”.

You can learn how to make this inflatable ball structure in my book, Playing With Paper

What creative uses do you have for tracing paper? Please leave your comment below!


In the studio: I’m winding down my trip in the Pacific Northwest and am currently finishing up my last gig, a three-day workshop at the Oregon College of Art & Craft. Tomorrow we head home. One item of business that I took care of while here was having my new small sculptures photographed by Dan Kvitka.

flower group

I need a title for these pieces. Do you have any thoughts?


My friend and colleague Nick Yeager is  embarking on a trip that involves a motorcycle, calligraphy and biblio-sleuthing. This sounds a bit like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance crossed with From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. He’s going to do research in special collections libraries and plans to document and inventory calligraphy manuals, laying the groundwork for a database for researchers, scholars and designers. Nick is running an indiegogo fundraising campaign – you’ll enjoy reading about his ideas and his travels. And then you can follow the blog Motoscribendi as he makes his journey! He says he just might swing by Colorado for a studio visit!

Harry Ransom Center, Neudorfer the Elder

Harry Ransom Center, Neudorfer the Elder

I’ve typed about HiiH Lights before, but this week I had the my first visit to their new(ish) barn studio in Astoria, plus we’re staying at a friend’s house who owns these lovely lamps that they made. I love how the lotus seeds and bamboo work together in this piece!

HiiH Lights, Lotus Pod Ceiling Fixture, private commission

HiiH Lights, Lotus Pod Ceiling Fixture, private commission

I’m not sure that this concept will take off, but I think if it got into the right artist’s hands, it has potential, probably more for installation work than home art, but who am I to judge? Check out Soundwall. There is a paper version.

This is pretty interesting: a physical pop-up book interacting with a video game. Maybe there is a way to get the gaming generation to interact with real books! In this case, the physical book controls the game.


This is a pretty cool ad for a Japanese whisky. Watch as sound and image blend on the surface of handmade paper. At the end, the images are enhanced with illumination.


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  1. mary kritz says:

    Hi Helen:
    I really like your flowers. A possible name for them is Dance of the Flowers if in a group or flower diva if individual. Have a great week.

    • Helen says:

      Mary. I love the word dance… and I’m thinking of making some groupings. Thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Linda wilson says:

    Hi Helen,
    The first two look like morning glory blooms with twisty clingy stems. White throats would be nice too.