It Reached Out and Grabbed Me!

It Reached Out and Grabbed Me!

The Sunday Paper #308
April 19, 2020

Paper of the Week: Assorted Decorative Sheets

I have assembled 10 sets of these lovely decorative sheets, ranging in size from 3 x 8 inches to 9 x 12 inches. This set of twenty papers includes two handmade sheets by yours truly + a selection of decorative sheets from around the world. Click here to read more and place your order. What do you think you will make with your new stash?


In the Studio:

I think we’re all going to be a bit travel shy for a while, and sadly, I’ve been seeing workshop venue after venue cancelling their summer workshops (my own included). I am planning a fun online class with the intention of getting us through the summer together as we explore paper + light through a series of weekly exercises. Stay tuned for more information, but here’s what I’m planning:

  • 12 weeks of Paper + Light, broken into 4-week sections. Sign up for four, eight or all twelve (there will be pricing incentives for the longer sessions)!
  • The weekly ‘lessons’ will focus on techniques with a few structures: kneaded paper vessels, strip structures, pleated paper, fun folds, woven wonders, paper panels, shadow structures and more.
  • We’re going to dig into our paper stashes, and I might have a few specialty papers available for purchase.

I’d love your input, and if you fill out this short survey about the class, I’ll send you a $10 coupon when class opens for registration. We could all use a little more light in our lives!


J Radford is a paper maker, book binder, and maker of things squirreled away in her studio near Charlotte, NC. She creates from a spirit of adventure and finds joy in the tiniest of details. Find her books and paper in her Etsy shop. I’m the proud owner of one of these lovely journals.
I’m promoting artists here on the blog to help them replace some of their income during the pandemic. Please reach out if you have a paper product to sell that you think my readers will enjoy.

Listen to my interview with Ioana Stoian on Paper Talk! Ioana is a british-born artist who currently lives and works in Minneapolis. When I met Ioana there a few years ago, she gifted me a black t-shirt like the one you see her wearing in this photo. We began our conversation talking about self identifying as an artist – that was fun! Ioana got interested in hands-on learning during a five year decorative painting apprenticeship in France, and that interest led her to travel to Japan, where she discovered the art of paper folding. She was inspired to create her own designs, which she has published in a couple of books. You can read all about her books and watch Ioana read her latest children’s book, Always Be You, in the show notes. Enjoy our conversation!

I love this story about Ann Mason, whose “never-ending curiosity for working with new surfaces and materials can turn out something delightfully unexpected”. Can you see what the piece below is created from? I have several students who enjoy using this type of paper.

Handmade toilet paper anyone? Here’s a bit of paper humor for your Sunday morning thanks to Carriage House Paper! I think the 2-ply to 1-ply separation game could become a favorite pastime!

Roll of toilet paper made from pineapple fiber by Asao Shimura

Admittedly, this particular item has little to do with paper. My husband forwarded me this obituary about John Conway, a mathematician at Princeton, who unfortunately succumbed to the coronavirus this past week. Ted read that Conway spent time turning paper strips into flexagons (a minutae in the life of a great solver of much larger and more abstract puzzles). The flexagon bit got me to read the article, but it was this statement by a collaborator of Conway’s that reached out and grabbed me. “I’ve worked with a lot of people, and he was the fastest at solving a problem and would pursue a topic as far as it would go.” I admire this ability to exhaust a topic. It is hard for me to focus on one topic for a long time, and I am often on to the next thing too quickly.


The News from Here:
How are you faring this week? Colorado got our stay-at-home orders on March 25th, but we were staying in about a week before that in Eagle County. Even though I get out to go to the studio three times a week and walk the dog a lot, I am starting to feel a bit antsy, or maybe I’m bored. I am still working hard, but my leisure activities have waned. I don’t have a good knitting project, and there is no excuse – there is a fantastic knit shop nearby that will hand pick yarns for me. The boredom is a familiar feeling though, and I know it too shall pass.
My online class, Flexible Book Structures, began this week. It is so fun to see what the participants are creating! I beat pulp and made some abaca leather paper – it had been awhile since I’d pulled sheets. And I have a new watermark to put on the mould next week. There is always an element of excitement and anticipation that comes with new papers and projects!
On Thursday, my husband went on a shopping spree – meaning he had to go to four stores to find what he was looking for – in search of hair clippers. He found them at store #4 (Walmart). I just gave my first haircut! It reminded me of mowing the lawn, something I did to make money as a teen. That was one sweaty job that had to be done at 7am in hot and humid east Texas. Ted’s company got a small business loan/grant this week, so they are hiring back the staff they had to lay off just three weeks ago. Ted was not laid off (his hours and pay were reduced) and it sounds like they will be phasing things back in over the next couple of months. In the meantime, he is eligible for the Colorado Work-Share Program, which means that he can collect unemployment benefits.
My sister and niece were supposed to be here right now, visiting from San Antonio. My mother would have really enjoyed that. I’ll go visit mom later today. We now sit on opposite sides of a window and talk on our cell phones. I think I’ll bring letter-writing supplies. She has a hard time writing and has been learning how to dictate letters on the computer, but they’ve cut back on services. Mom loves receiving letters (who doesn’t?) and sending a few out should prompt reciprocation. She has at least one childhood friend who still writes to her regularly. My parents set great examples for keeping in touch with old friends. Do you remember having pen pals as a kid? I thought that was the coolest thing!


Featured this week in my Studio shop:
Assorted Decorative Sheets, Vertices, Playing With Pop-UPs, and Water Paper Time.


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  1. Phoebe Diamond says:

    Dear Helen,
    I love getting these in my email.
    My comment actually is in regards to your mom. What type of a computer does she use? If it is an Apple of some type then she can go through the Accessibility setting in the System Preferences. If she selects Dictation, she can set it up so the computer will type her words. She may have to do a bit of editing for capitalization and punctuation. This should also work on a PC, I know it does with a Chromebook.
    I have used this function with my elementary school students and it is free, not a service. I hope it helps.

  2. Shelly DeChantal says:

    Hi Helen,
    I look forward to getting the Sunday Paper with all your paper findings that keep us connected with what we are passionate about.
    In these strange times, I especially appreciate your willingness to share how you’re experiencing this isolation. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on any art making and have substituted making face masks for a meaningful activity; not so creative, though. Maybe the juices will begin to flow again with Spring’s green sprouts and blossoms.
    Thanks for your inspiring blog, Shelly

    • Thanks so much for acknowledging this, Shelly! I sometimes wonder if I’m sharing too much. It’s fantastic that you’re making masks, and when I’m sure your creative juices will flow again. All good wishes.

  3. Thank you, Phoebe. My mother is not computer literate. She does something like what you’re describing with an occupational therapist.

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