When It’s On paper, It’s Considered Art

When It’s On paper, It’s Considered Art

The Sunday Paper #227

September 22, 2018

Paper of the Week: Paper Talk!

Every month I record a podcast episode for Paper Talk, an ongoing series of interviews featuring artists and professionals who are working in the field of hand papermaking.

When I was in Chicago this summer, I had a conversation with Melissa Jay Craig. Have a listen and there’s a video peek into her studio too. In this episode, she explains how her first artist’s residency coincided with having just learned about papermaking, and how instead of lugging 400 books to the residency to create the type of work she had been making, she took just two books and some kozo fiber and was able to cast paper-shaped books instead. We discuss a nomadic artistic life comprised of a period in which she traveled around the country doing residencies and teaching gigs. And we touch on one of her works, S/Edition, that ended up going viral by being featured on This is Colossal.


In the Studio:

This week I was busy cleaning up my studio (after the retreats) and getting back in the swing of things. Truth be told, I spend only 10-ish hours a week in the studio (and at least 3 times that running my business). How much time do you spend in your studio? I love this photo which was taken by a participant at the retreat – thanks, Tomomi! This is the wet floor – I have a dry work area that’s the same size to the right.

Papery Tidbits
  • Do you subscribe to Paper Talk? (sign up in ITunes) There’s a Who’s Who of hand papermakers building up over there!
  • I’m heading to the Movable Book Society Conference this coming Thursday. Can’t wait to meet some of the paper engineers I’ve written about (and see others I’ve met before)!
  • I’m going to the annual meeting of the Friends of Dard Hunter in Iowa City this October. Will I see you there?


Elena Osterwalder’s installation Here and There features amate bark paper dyed with chochineal (bugs). Her work also includes writings, videos and talks on the history of both elements – Cochineal and Amate, from her native Mexico. I wish I lived closer!

One of the most important costume features of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam is the paper mask that children love to wear. With plastic and rubber dominating the market for mask-making, handmade paper masks have lost out and many families that used to make have either given up their vocation or curtailed it significantly. I hope the tradition won’t die out completely – at least this one family has been making masks for 40 years. Hmmm, I wonder if big box stores could make supporting artisans a priority?

I enjoyed this powerful and enlightening review of the work of William Cordova, now on view in Miami at the Pérez Art Museum. “Cordova doesn’t fancy himself an ethnographer, but “making the invisible visible” is something he is very good at — especially when it comes to telling stories that decentralize whiteness.

william cordova, “daniel boone, pat boone y mary boone (and firestone, pero los Olmecas venceran)” (2008). Gold leaf, paper collage, and spray enamel on reclaimed backdrop paper

Okay, this isn’t paper at all, but I find it really unique, and since these cakes are inspired by origami, they made it onto this blog! You have to click through to see what else pastry chef extraordinaire Dinara Kasko is up to!

Anni Albers was a pioneering figure in modernism who took the ancient craft of weaving and elevated it to fine art. This quote by Albers struck me: “I find that, when the work is made with threads, it’s considered a craft; when it’s on paper, it’s considered art.” This is a good read about a fiber artist I adore, and there’s an exhibition that is traveling around + a new book out about her work.


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  1. What a treat this issue is! The origami pastries are incredible just to see the process and I love the interview with Melissa Jay Craig! You surround yourself with the best conversations on art and process! Really enjoyed this blog!

    • Helen says:

      Thank you, Sally! Some day maybe I’ll get around to interviewing you… I’m branching out to include non-papermakers soon.

  2. Helen says:

    Thank you, Sally! Some day maybe I’ll get around to interviewing you… I’m branching out to include non-papermakers soon.

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