Structural Abaca

Structural Abaca

The Sunday Paper #309
April 26, 2020

Paper of the Week: The Abaca Selection

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you must know that I am obsessed with abaca pulp and the resulting paper. Abaca comes from banana plant leaves and I like to call it a the incredible, shrinking, translucent, sculptural material. I’ve been embedding strings and wires between thin, translucent sheets for decades, which it reacts to as it dries. The resulting papers are thin, strong and have so much potential! I have three sets of The Abaca Selection, which come with one thick sheet of flat abaca, a piece of abaca with embedded wire (aka bendable paper), two sheets of abaca with embedded string, and a magnetic Wish Disk, left over from my installation called The Wishing Wall. Click through to read more and acquire a set of these unique papers.


In the Studio:

I created a Studio Tour video this week. Check it out, and I hope you can come visit in person soon! I’ll write more next week about the watermarked paper you see in this photo.


Paper Tidbits:
Did you have a chance to listen to my interview with Ioana Stoian on Paper Talk?
Robbin Ami Silverberg was on the podcast recently, and she’s created a lovely virtual tour of the retrospective of her artist’s books at Pratt Institute.
This might be my last post about TP. Fritzi Huber shows you how to make it out of handmade paper!


Jacqueline Mallegni has curated an amazing show of contemporary handmade paper art which is now virtually on view at Gallery Fritz in Santa Fe with the support of IAPMA (the International Association of Papermakers & Paper Artists). I’m honored to be exhibiting in A Conversation With Paper with a stellar group of artists, and I was so looking forward to attending the opening. The exhibition is now virtual, and I really like how Jacqueline explains why she wanted to show handmade paper art in America in a short video introduction (we really don’t get the same recognition that artists in other countries do)! Take a look at all of the fine pieces, and contact Justin at Gallery Fritz if you’d like to own one of these works and support the arts at a time when we need it most!

Jennie Frederick, Black Structure with Beige Circles, 2020, kozo, plastic, thread, & wire, 48 x 52 x 7 in

These upcycled sewn paper birds are so sweet! Katie Patterson Larson runs Art Salvage in Spokane, WA, and this article walks you through the steps of creating your own bird or flock of birds from brown paper bags and other papers you can find around the house. Hide a treat inside and give these as gifts!

Here’s an interesting club that has gone online due to the coronavirus. Bruin Origami For All was started by some UCLA students who couldn’t find an active group at the school. They had intended to meet in person, but have moved to the Zoom platform until school is back in session.

First-year microbiology, immunology & molecular genetics student Chris Tai co-founded the Bruin Origami For All club, which meets on Zoom. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

I just learned about a new paper! Sarah Khan has virtual exhibition of works on Wasli paper (a type of handmade paper used specifically for painting miniatures in India) at Twelve Gate Arts. Her prints are a contemporary feminist commentary on a 15th century Indian cookbook, the Book of Delights.

Sarah K Khan, “In the Wake of the Indian Ocean World before European Colonization” Print on traditional handmade Wasli paper, 24”x 33″. 2019 Fall. Image courtesy of the artist.

This article gives a great overview about how the library at Bowling Green State University uses their collection of artist’s books for teaching.


The News from Here:
Our county was the first to be hit with COVID-19 in our state, probably due to the fact that it is an international ski resort. Our health care system was on top of it, planning since they first heard about the virus in January until it got here in early March, setting up the first drive-through testing facility, and creating more space in the hospital if needed (I don’t think they ended up needing it, at least not yet). We’ve managed to flatten the curve, and we have met the guidelines for reopening, which begins today. This is both exciting and terrifying. Let us see what our future holds!
It was just two weeks ago when I wrote here that I was bored. Well this week I found the energy to start some new things. I have a knitting project on my needles, I started reading a book, and my brain has been bursting with ideas for my business and my art. Hooray!
My husband’s company qualified for the Payment Protection Program, and his job will be reinstated on May 1st (he was moved to part-time in late March). He also qualified for work share unemployment, which filled his income gap. If you need financial assistance, I believe it is there. The number of programs and e-mails I get about them is overwhelming, and it is hard to determine whether I’m eligible or deserving (I have food on the table, a house, a husband with an income, etc). I decided to apply for a grant and for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to replace lost income from a teaching gig I lost earlier this month and summer events in the studio.
I listened to a lovely interview on On Being yesterday with Krista Tippett. She interviewed Stephen Batchelor about finding ease in aloneness. I enjoyed his description of solitude as the art of being alone. And he actually talked about how artists are good at this (this is not an art podcast). It is rewarding to have someone puts something into words that I’ve thought about and identify with.
Stay well my friends. May we all strive to find beauty and peace in our solitude!


Thanks to all of you who filled out my survey for the upcoming online class Paper + Light. I will be in touch with more info soon. In the meantime, if you missed it last week, here’s the premise, although I am now leaning towards one 6-week session.
I think we’re all going to be a bit travel shy for a while, and sadly, I’ve been seeing workshop venue after venue cancelling their summer workshops (my own included). I am planning a fun online class with the intention of getting us through the summer together as we explore paper + light through a series of weekly exercises. Stay tuned for more information, but here’s what I’m planning:

  • 12 weeks of Paper + Light, broken into 4-week sections. Sign up for four, eight or all twelve (there will be pricing incentives for the longer sessions)!
  • The weekly ‘lessons’ will focus on techniques with a few structures: kneaded paper vessels, strip structures, pleated paper, fun folds, woven wonders, paper panels, shadow structures and more.
  • We’re going to dig into our paper stashes, and I might have a few specialty papers available for purchase.

I’d love your input, and if you fill out this short survey about the class, I’ll send you a $10 coupon when class opens for registration. We could all use a little more light in our lives!


Featured this week in my Studio shop:
The Abaca Selection, Vertices, The Paper Year (now 1/2 price), and Playing With Pop-Ups and Water Paper Time.
The Paper Year


If you read this blog regularly, would you consider making a donation to support the research, writing, design and delivery of The Sunday Paper? Click on the paper button at the left to learn how. Or, perhaps you’re interested in promoting your business in The Sunday Paper.
Thanks to everyone who has already pledged your support!

SHARE THIS blog post with your paper-loving friends!


  1. Ellen Abels says:

    Thanks, Helen, for your “Sunday Papers.” There’s always something new and interesting. Best wishes from San Francisco,
    Ellen Abels