First, a quick note to let you know that I’ll be traveling for the next month in Europe. My posts might be sporadic due to internet connection (or lack thereof). I’ll be teaching, lecturing and vacationing, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to share with you…. enjoy your summer!
Way back in the early 1990’s, when I was first learning about handmade paper, I had the opportunity to visit Boston to view an exhibition on Japanese papermaking. Looking back, I had no idea how special this exhibition was. It featured 20 papermakers from Kochi Pref. who came with all of their papermaking equipment! These professionals were performing all aspects of papermaking in the museum, and it was incredible!
While in Boston, I had the opportunity to meet Lauren Pearlman, who hosted the papermakers from Kochi. Lauren runs Paper Connection International, an incredible resource for all kinds of papers from Japan and many other countries.
We’ve kept in touch over all of these years, and I had the opportunity to ask her some questions recently:
1. How did you first become interested in paper?
LP: As far back as I remember, when I was 6 or 7 years old, I began collecting ephemera. I started with antique labels, antique postcards, stamps, matchboxes, and mini paper umbrellas – leftover from adults’ fancy drinks. Around that same time, I made my own collaged cards for friends. Today, my personal card collection is large enough to have a separate card shop.
While living in Japan in the 1980’s, the paper collection grew. I added papier mache dolls, like eto ningyou–zodiac animals. My stationery collection soon expanded from postcard to small sheets of chiyogami. It was almost a coincidence however, just before moving back to the US, that I went to a papermaking village in Kagawa-Pref. That is when a seed was planted in my subconscious. A seed for a business in which I could share my love of Japanese paper culture back in the states….
2. How has Paper Connection International evolved? Tell me a bit about its history, how you came up with the idea, how you started, where you’ve come.
LP: Upon moving back to the US, I worked for a Japanese paper (washi) business in the Boston area. I was in charge of a large of inventory of paper and other folk art and artifacts. In 1990-91, I was able to learn papermaking with Elaine and Donna Koretsky at Carriage House Paper when it was in Somerville, MA. At the same time, I started doing business with Bernie Toale and Joe Zina of Rugg Road Paper Co. I was lucky enough to attend a week long PBI at the University of Iowa and met Tim Barrett, Richard Flavin, Howard & Kathryn Clark of Twinrocker and so many other wonderful paper people.
Together we watched the Twinrocker film about their beginnings. I remember welling up, and I knew then – in that room, sitting amongst all of those first generation paper people and watching a film about them – that I had to somehow be involved with their story/their family.
After hosting the 20 paper artists from Kochi in 1992 at the Peadbody Museum in Salem, MA, I was beyond hooked. I had fallen in love with a bunch of papermakers! I was already promoting their paper, but after meeting them, I could sell their paper with so much more meaning and passion.
Just after returning from the International Paper Conference in Kyoto, at the end of 1995, I broke off from the Boston company to start my own business, Paper Connection International. The Boston firm was closing most of its operations at the time, and I was able to acquire the inventory, purchase new inventory and moved all of it to my home in Rhode Island.
Eventually, I moved to a studio/warehouse space in Providence. The space had humble beginnings but a lot of character and potential. I was happy to bring some action back to such a historic but long-time-not-used space. Over the years, I added paper from Nepal, India, Latin America, Indonesia, China, Korea. With an expanding paper range, we took over more space in the building, establishing our presence as a main resource for unique, high-quality fine art and decorative paper in North America. Today, Paper Connection is in its 19th year in that original warehouse space in Providence, RI.
The next step is to take on more space in the building in order to set up our papermaking vats. As of yet there is no community papermaking studio in Providence, and I feel at least one is a necessity. The goal is to attract teachers of the paper arts to this paper arts center, who will spread their knowledge to the local community via workshops and demos, and at the same time be able to make paper for their own work.
3. Where do you sell your papers? Special events, brick and mortar, on-line, …?
LP: Although Paper Connection began selling with a busines
s to business model,when Aiko’s (formerly in Chicago) was closing and handed us the baton to carry on their paper business, we decided to “open our doors” so to speak, so we could continue the Aiko’s legacy to their loyal customers and at the same time welcome new artists to try our papers. We now sell to individual artists, graphic and interior designers, library and museum conservation labs, and paper crafters, in addition to stores, boutiques, stationers, and manufacturers. We promote paper and our community of papermakers via conferences, trade shows, lectures, demos, social media and e-commerce.
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