Pith “Paper”

Pith “Paper”

© 2020 Irene Wei, Pith "Paper" Flower Bouquet Year: 2020 Medium: Pith "paper" (made from the pith of Tetrapanax papyrifer) 12" x 9" x 17"

The Sunday Paper #334

October 18, 2020

Papermaker of the Week: Irene Wei

This is a new column. If you’re a papermaker and would like to be featured in the coming weeks and months, please fill out this form. I’d love to hear from you!

© 2020 Irene Wei, Pith “Paper” Flower Bouquet, pith “paper” (made from the pith of Tetrapanax papyrifer), 12″ x 9″ x 17″

Irene Wei is a Taiwanese-American papermaker and furniture designer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Irene started Pith Flower Shop so she could preserve, share and educate her artistic and cultural communities about this unique 2000 year old craft of making Taiwanese pith flowers. As someone who lives across the world from her heritage country, she believes that traditional arts are a tangible way to access and connect to Taiwan’s history and culture while living in America. She hopes that through educating people about this craft, she can share an aspect of her culture with other diverse communities and also help Taiwanese immigrant or multigenerational families stay connected to their heritage culture through making (or receiving) pith flowers. Irene studied pith flowers under the instruction of Jerry Chen (expert pith flower maker and director of the Taiwan Tong Cao Association). She also conducted tōngcǎo research around sweet potato island with Kuei Mei Liang (executive director of the Taiwan Tong Cao Association).

While Irene’s main mission is to promote the beautiful tradition of making Taiwanese pith flowers, she still works in a furniture/object design-related field. Irene graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Furniture Design and a Concentration in Nature Culture Sustainability Studies. In addition to her academic studies, she pursued Traditional and Contemporary Papermaking on the side full time through various acclaimed hand papermaking institutions and businesses such as the Ox-Bow School of Art, Pace Paper, Carriage House Paper and Paper Connection International. She is currently a board member of the national Hand Papermaking Magazine where she provides representation for student hand papermakers. Her practice involves investigating different methods of papermaking that can be applied in sustainable and practical ways within her furniture/object making practice. Irene’s works have been published in VISIONS Magazine multiple times and has shown her work across America. She was recently selected as the Emerging Artist of 2019 at the Philadelphia Furniture Show competition and has shown her work at Architectural Digest, the Ogden Museum in New Orleans, LA and through the Asian Creative Network at the Salesforce tower in San Francisco, CA.

In the Studio:

The Paper Year is going online in 2021, and I can’t wait to share the details with you in early November. In a nutshell, The Paper Year online is a year-long class with a new lesson/project every month. Here’s a sneak peak of one of the projects, a criss-cross accordion book/lantern/sculpture – I love panel-based objects that can transform. The projects in the Paper Year are designed to be open-ended. Four guest artists and I will challenge participants to explore the techniques and projects we introduce in new and inventive ways. We’ll explore a variety of techniques throughout the year too, including pop-ups, book arts, paper cutting, paper folding, illumination and more.


Papery Tidbits:

  • The Handmade Holiday Series begins a week from tomorrow. Join us and create a collection of sweet and simple giftable objects.
  • The Paper Advisor is a place where you’ll find my most popular papermaking and papercraft resources all in one place.
I enjoyed this lovely conversation between Eric Avery and Susan Mackin Dolan who discuss their collaborative print and paper work, which began at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio 35 years ago. Their most recent collaboration resulted in the publication of this limited edition artist’s book related to human trafficking and a stash house. The project involved students at the very same school where their collaborations began.

Eric Avery + Susan Mackin Dolan, Stash House, Floor Plan Puzzle Assembled, Linoleum block on handmade paper, 36 X 25 inches

I was just coating papers with kakishibu this morning, a fermented persimmon juice that makes paper waterproof. And then I happened upon this witty article about Aqua Notes, discovered by a writer that was looking for a paper she could jot notes down while… wait for it… in the shower!  They exist in more varieties than one.

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad


This looks like it will be an engaging book arts symposium, open to anyone as it is going to be online this year. It is free, but registration is required.

Check out the work of artist Tyler Foust, who creates continuous line drawings (on paper) full of mesmerizing patterns.

Did you know the University of Alabama’s Book Arts MFA curriculum was the very first of its kind, started in 1985? To this day, there are only a handful of programs in the country dedicated to bookmaking craft and art books. We met with the professors of the longest running Book Arts program to find out more about this multifaceted, unique discipline taught in Tuscaloosa, AL. Click through to watch a lovely video about book arts and the program.


Featured this week in my Studio shop:

Interluceo: Collage Packs, The Papermakers Studio Guide, Try It! Woven Paper Lantern self-study workshop, and Papermaking with Garden Plants.


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