The Secret Life of Paper

The Secret Life of Paper

The Sunday Paper #59

Paper of the Week: Stained Tyvek

An accordion night light project, which can be found on page  in my book Playing With Paper.

An accordion night light project, which can be found on page 76 of my book Playing With Paper.

I learned about Tyvek® in a workshop (perhaps with Hedi Kyle) and then picked it up again a couple of years ago when I was designing projects for my book Playing With Paper. It folds really well, is super strong and water resistant. You know, its that stuff they use in construction, protective apparel and packaging (no wonder I like it – it has qualities of paper and cloth). It comes in white (and black) and I use watered-down acrylic paints to pigment my sheets, brushing the paint on with a foam sponge and wiping off the excess. The staining picks up the texture in the Tyvek®, which creates a lovely pattern. By the way, Tyvek® is not paper, but the way it cames about sounds really similar to the story told about T’sai Lun (credited with making the first paper). I love the story of inventions. T’sai Lun is said to have noticed the fibers from laundry collecting on rocks in the river and matting together. The discovery of Tyvek® was made by a DuPont researcher, Jim White, who in 1955 noticed white polyethylene fluff coming out of a pipe in a DuPont experimental lab. A program to develop the new material was set up, and a year later DuPont submitted a patent proposal for this strong yarn linear polyethylene.


In the Studio: Anjani Millet recently published this poetic review of my film Water Paper Time. I hope you will take the time to read it and watch the trailer.


Here’s an excerpt: 

“Helen opens Water Paper Time with a story of children who have never seen, touched, or written on paper. What? Really? I had never thought of that either. All my life, I’ve had the privilege of having paper in my life. I’ve printed my photographs on paper, and my writing on paper; I’ve drawn on it, painted it, inked, glued, crumpled, torn, kept, discarded it, folded it up around gifts, and made my own. I’ve cried over pieces of paper and laughed over others. But I had no idea paper could be alive, could do what Helen so lovingly coaxes it to do. Now I know. This film introduced me to the secret life of paper.”

If you like what you read and see, you can download and own Water Paper Time for $4.99.


Speaking of Hedi Kyle, have you checked out the exhibition at 23 Sandy Gallery? HELLO HEDI is a juried exhibition of book art celebrating this influential book artist. The exhibition features 56 books by 53 artists, all of which emulate or adapt the book structures Hedi invented. I have taken a few classes with Hedi over the years, and so respect her inventive and innovative mind, and in this exhibition we get to see many of those she has inspired. 

Vellicate by Karen Hardy, featured in the current exhibition HELLO HEDI at 23 Sandy Gallery

Vellicate by Karen Hardy, featured in the current exhibition HELLO HEDI at 23 Sandy Gallery

I don’t have a problem finding an open meeting room in my office, since I’m the only one who works here. But this device filled the need of some creative minds over at Viget. Illumigami is a light they can hang outside of meeting rooms to let people know whether a room was in use. It was thought of as something similar to an “On Air” light. Red means the room is in use, green means it’s available. Now that’s just clever.

Check out these clever illustrations on folded white paper by talented Danish artist HuskMitNavn. Drawings on both sides of the paper sheet encourage interaction and make the art look three-dimensional.


Jocelyn Chateauvert is one of my all time favorite artists. Why? Because she works sculpturally with abaca in incredible ways. And she has a new website!! Be careful not to drool on your computer as you peruse her work.

Grasses, by Jocelyn Chateauvert

Grasses, by Jocelyn Chateauvert

I will never cease to be amazed by what can be done with a single sheet of paper. Watch this video of the creation of a spiraling paper tower by origami expert Chris Palmer. Nothing turns into something, and a flower transforms into a tower.


Sunday Paper ClickWould you consider making a donation to support the research, writing, design and delivery of The Sunday Paper? Click on that cute paper button (I made that paper) to see how you can provide support. And if you run a paper-related business, you might be interested in promoting your business in The Sunday Paper.

Thank you to those who have pledged your support, and enjoy your Sunday!

1 Comment

  1. Great Sunday read, as always, Helen. Thanks for spreading the word on the Hello Hedi show. It’s a fun one!

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