Strange Papers

I had the pleasure of meeting Fred Siegenthaler at the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artist’s (IAPMA) meeting in Fabriano, Italy in early July. I’ve known about him since the beginning of my career, but our paths hadn’t crossed, but when I was doing research for my book, Papermaking With Plants, I discovered his book, Strange Papers. The New York Public Library owns a copy of the book, so I went to have a look (I was living in NYC at the time).

Fred Siegenthaler holding another book (not Strange Papers)

Fred Siegenthaler holding another book (not Strange Papers)

Strange Papers: a Collection of the World’s Rarest Handmade Papers features a selection of papers that are approximately 8″ x 10″ in size that Siegenthaler sought out and commissioned. He produced two editions for a total of 200 copies. What is amazing today is that Siegenthaler wrote letters (by hand, sent with stamps) requesting sample papers from 500 papermakers and manufacturers in the early 1980’s. He then chose 100 papers form 50 papermakers and purchased 200 sheets from each maker. Siegenthaler explained that he spent approximately 100,000 Swiss francs to procure these papers. Lucky for him, the edition sold out quickly, and today copies can be found in special collections around the world. 

Wasp's nest paper, from Strange Papers by Fred Siegenthaler

Wasp’s nest paper, from Strange Papers by Fred Siegenthaler

Another part of this story that I hadn’t heard before was that Siegenthaler received such a good response from the papermakers he contacted, that he decided that there was enough interest to form an organization. This is how IAPMA began. It has grown into an international organization with about 500 members that provides ways for those interested in handmade paper with many networking opportunities: a monthly newsletter, an annual bulletin, a comprehensive website and opportunities to meet in person at Congresses every two years.

I was lucky to sit behind Siegenthaler during one of the lectures at the recent Congress and received these two sheets of paper from him as a gift:

A chiaroscuro watermark of Fred Siegenthaler

A chiaroscuro watermark of Fred Siegenthaler

A sheet of handmade paper featuring international currencies

A sheet of handmade paper featuring international currencies


2 comments to Strange Papers

  • Susanna

    My husband, Walter De Maria, gifted me with two of Siegenthaler’s books,TSAI LUN and TSAI LUN II.
    As I age I’d like to divest myself of some of the valuable items I own, passing them on to those who would appreciate and protect them.
    If anyone is interested please contact me.
    Susanna De Maria Wilson

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I’m Helen Hiebert!

THE SUNDAY PAPER brings you stories and examples of people doing exciting, innovative, and beautiful things with paper, as well as link to interesting paperfacts from around the globe. Read all about it here!

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