Making & Baking

Making & Baking

The Sunday Paper #303
This issue of The Sunday Paper is dedicated to my sweet father-in-law, Pete, who passed away this week at the age of 92.
March 15, 2020

Paper of the Week: Dare I mention TP?

My husband fell in love with Japanese toilets last fall and decided to get me one for Christmas. I wasn’t so sure what I thought of this gift at first, but it might come in handy now that I’ve been to two stores that were completely out of TP!
Here’s a preview of next month’s project in The Paper Year – Plantable Paper. This might be a fun project for your kids who are home from school for spring break and beyond due to COVID-19. All you need are 6 squares of TP (although once the kids make a sheet, they’ll probably want to make more). Embed seeds in your paper, plant it, and watch it grow.
I showed some neighborhood girls how to make plantable paper last fall. They show you how you can make plantable paper in this adorable video.


In the Studio:

An artist friend came up to the studio with me on Friday, and we made this pop-up card that PaperPaul generously shared over in The Paper Studio (scroll down on that page to find the Butterfly Pop-Up Card Tutorial). I’m sending this one to my mother-in-law in Indiana. Listen to my interview with PaperPaul on Paper Talk – he creates a weekly pop-up to explore and perfect his paper engineering skills, and he and his girlfriend run the popular website

Papery Tidbits:


Check this out: lack of funding bars production of this handheld paper device developed by biomedical engineers at Purdue University to test for COVID-19. I’ve heard of other tests being developed – and hopefully they’ll get where they need to soon! It turns out that lots of tests are paper based. ‘Tis a wonder material!

I’m a super fan of material-based artwork, and this exhibition in Chicago looks amazing. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China encompasses 48 works from 26 contemporary Chinese artists. And this work by Shi Hui features handmade paper!

Shi Hui, “Float” (2000/2007/2013), wire mesh and xuan paper pulp. Installation view at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou

Don’t forget! If you are thinking of registering for Flexible Book Structures, the cut-off for ordering the supply kit is Weds, March 18th (AND you get a free copy of The Paper Year if you order the kit by that date). Join us and create a set of unique book structures in your own space at your own pace. Watch the video, learn more and register today!

I love reading the All Things Paper newsletter and blog. Ann Martin has some lovely sentiments about beautiful images creating a sense of well-being, especially today. Take a peek.

Paper flowers by artist Kate Alarcon

Things are unsettling these days as we see what is happening around the world and in our own communities due to COVID-19. Both of my children are in the Chicago area in college: one of their schools is going online for the rest of the year; the other has an extended spring break. My mother lives in an assisted facility near me, but I am not allowed to visit.
What do you do in times like these? I try to stick to routines (like going to yoga, walking and swimming), and I continue to do things that make me happy: like making and baking. I have been baking these pumpkin muffins for several weeks now (this time I substituted coconut sugar, used coconut milk and because I live at altitude, I like to use 1 cup of white flour/the rest whole wheat). I also enjoy knitting (although I’m having a hard time finding a project at the moment), as well as creating my own art. My book deadline is in three weeks! Recent events are making it harder to concentrate, but I intend to be done with the manuscript by then, and some of the samples and steps for photography will be completed later, for the photo session next fall.
Since I work for myself, I don’t have to change my work habits, but I do have to worry about lost income – it looks like a teaching gig in April will be postponed for a year. Fingers crossed that events this summer in the studio will still go on.
I am so thankful to all of you in my virtual community! Please take care of yourself and help out where you can! I’ve seen The Quarantini (martini by yourself) mentioned a couple of times, and Pandemic Papermaking – one professor’s new class title for her hand papermaking that now has to meet online. Art and humor will tide us over. And, as my yoga instructor said this morning, we will weather the storm, as we always do.


Featured this week in my Studio shop:
Flexible Book Structures online class, Alpha Beta, an alphabet book, The Paper Lovers Package, and Grid Paper.
Flexible Book Structures Banner


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Thanks to everyone who has already pledged your support!

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  1. Daria Wilber says:

    Great blog post, Helen! You & Ted stay well and enjoy that toilet!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks, Daria! Glad to see you traveled in and out of Mexico safely during this time.

  2. I so much enjoy this weeks Sunday morning Paper. Especially the paper talk Featuring Robbin Silverberg.
    Best of luck on finishing your deadline for your new book.
    You are very inspiring to me and we all need to find ways to nurture our creativity and you certainly offer this to all of us. So sorry for the lost of your father-in-law, Pete.
    Stay well, Marlene

  3. Nancy Struck says:

    Helen: I always enjoy your Paper talk and also your sharing the day to day, whether toilets or the restriction of visiting your Mom not to mention adding extra logistics (due to the virus) on top of grief at the death of your father-in-law.
    Ironically I live in a retirement community and I could not feel safer with all the amazing pro-active measures taking place. We are in the CA counties near San Fran where some of the initial cases popped. We are also next to Stanford where I just heard they have developed a way to do higher volume testing.
    Enjoy the following from a friend of mine.
    Stay healthy

    • Helen says:

      Love that poem and all of the sentiments, Nancy. Thanks for sharing. And I’m so glad you feel safe! I am enjoying my alone time and getting lots done.

  4. Jean-Paul says:

    It’s so nice to see that you’ve enjoyed my tutorial. Thank you so much for giving it a try and sharing the result!

  5. Chuck Crockford says:

    Dear Helen,
    I was so very sorry to learn of your father-in-law’s passing. Any death is a sad occasion, and the fact this was the death of a family member makes the occasion all the sadder. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.
    Concerning Japanese toilets, one of our great-nephews is in grade three in an International School in Japan. For a class project one of his classmates did a presentation on Japanese toilets, and to finish the project the class visited a toilet museum–it would appear that a Japanese toilet is a wondrous thing, from both aesthetic and practical standpoints!
    Concerning the nasty virus that’s currently making the rounds, I’ve been told that stores are out of hand sanitizer in Waterloo. Fortunately, we use sanitizer as well as soap so we have a good supply of it on hand. Since my wife and I are both in our eighties we are staying as close as we can to our condo–one of our favorite restaurants makes a superb shrimp provencale that I was looking forward to enjoying this afternoon, but I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy it for a number of weeks to come! As for the virus itself, I’m of the opinion that it is God’s way of punishing Evangelical Christians for supporting Donald Trump, and that all the others who come down with the disease are “collateral damage”–ha!
    Best wishes, and stay healthy–

    • Helen says:

      Hi Chuck, a toilet museum? Wow! Stay safe and healthy. I’m with you on the fact this might be a challenge for society from God, but I don’t subscribe to punishment of particular sectors. All my best to you!

  6. Randy Merrill says:

    I signed up for you paper weaving class last summer. Due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to participate at that time. Guess what I’m doing now! I’m enjoying the class and it is good to have a project that makes one happy right now as we all stay home.
    I keep all of your emails and when I have time I read them, so I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Fashion Art From Paper” (paper gowns) at Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute by Isabelle de Borchgrave. As a paper maker, I wish I could see this in person.
    Stay safe & stay well,
    (Ms.) Randy Merrill