Episode #119: Susan Warner Keene

Paper Talk
Paper Talk
Episode #119: Susan Warner Keene

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Susan Warner Keene is a Toronto-based artist working in handmade paper who has been exhibiting in Canada and internationally since 1980. She graduated from the Ontario College of Art, where she specialized in weaving and feltmaking, subsequently shifting her practice to focus on papermaking by 1990. The acquisition of a Reina beater enabled her to set up her studio to develop artworks that are created during the papermaking process itself, exploring ways to make objects with an internal architecture created by the material conditions.Her ongoing interest in the intersection of ideas and materiality is reflected in her exploration of aspects of language, the book form, and the nature of the page.


We talked about working with high shrinkage fibers. Warner Keene says: “The physical labor of transforming plant fiber into a sheet of paper offers seemingly endless opportunities to consider the material requirements and possible strategies for image making. Focused attention is essential, with all the senses attuned to what is happening from moment to moment, as pulp becomes paper.”

Practice, 2021: handmade paper (abaca pulp, abaca fibre, hemp fibre), 38″ x 70″ x 3″ 

Folio Series: Early Drafts, 1996, 27” x 46.5” x 2.25″, flax paper, linen cord

We also discussed her Foliate series. As text migrates to the digital universe, this series considers the “empty” page itself as an object of contemplation. Today, printed text is offered to us in many forms, increasingly electronic, and this is generally efficient, timely and cheap. Warner Keene is intrigued, however, by the paradoxical “charge” possessed by the sheet of paper, even empty of text. It is, after all, a format in which we have registered thoughts and histories for hundreds of years, a (rec)tangle of plant fibers that we sense with our bodies and whose imaginative space invites our entry. A sheet of paper can challenge us to be fully present.

Leaf #2, 2012, 23” x 18.5 x 1.25”, handmade paper (abaca fiber, cotton rag)

Her body of work called Verso emerged from several overlapping areas of interest: in narrative as a kind of mapping; in the possibilities of language as physical form; and in paper as the substance rather than the traditional substrate of a work of art.

30″ x 25″ x 1″, handmade paper (abaca fibre), thread, pigment


Susan Warner Keene‘s recommendations:


Visit Susan Warner Keene’s website to learn more about her work.


Music featuring excerpts of Makin’ Paper folk song by Peter Thomas. Listen to the full song and find out about other paper and book arts folk songs.

Gary A. Hanson did the sound editing for this episode. He practices and refines his skills in audio production while making his own podcast I’ll Have a Beer and Talk, a show about tech news, culture, weird animal stories and of course, beer. Gary is also the Deckle in Pulp & Deckle, a Portland-based community hand papermaking studio.



  1. Fascinating discussion. Thank you for sharing a conversation I might not have been able to hear earlier. Great Zooming!

    • Helen Hiebert says:

      Thanks for listening! I’m curious about your comment – are you saying that you didn’t have some knowledge that you needed to understand what we were talking about?

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