Archives for category: culture

Without a doubt Koreans are passionate about their kimchi and have successfully shown the rest of the world what they’re boasting about. After attending a hanji-Korean paper- symposium entitled ” A Thousand Years Old Hanji, Meets the World” , I have no doubt hanji too will soon be rolling off everyone’s tongue! Korean kimchihanji symposium, ksdf, Korean Craft and Design Foundation

Hanji is one of the finest papers in the world and certainly has many die-hard fans.  It is, however, still less known in the global market compared to other Asian papers, i.e. Japanese (washi), Thai, or even Indian cotton papers.

 

SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE UNIQUE QUALITIES OF TRADITIONAL HANJI?

webal -style sheet formation, no top locking screen, side to side dip, each sheet is double-couched in 2 opposite vertical directions, log rolled over couched sheet to elimate air bubbles and possibly helping release pulp from bamboo screen, and dochim: burnishing or hammering process which flattens, increases the density of paper.

SAMSUNG CSC20141217_15213120141217_152128

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Most of the attendees from foreign countries were book and paper conservators from places like the Tate Gallery in London, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and several other world-renowned institutions. In fact, the focus of the conference was the case for hanji to be used in repair and conservation.  Once the special features of traditionally-made hanji were established over a few days, the conservators could better speculate in what particular repair applications hanji would be the right fit.  The visit to observe actual papermaking, was one step towards understanding the material at hand and how it may behave with other materials.  It was a rare occasion for conservators and papermakers to be sharing each others’ daily jobs, but quite key for mutual of understanding between users and makers.

For me, this emphasized the need for paper vendors like Paper Connection,  as we are really “interpreters” of so many hundreds of paper needs and applications.  At Paper Connection we feel it is our role to chronically disseminate and convey information into a paper vocabulary which the maker or manufacturer can relate to.

Thanks to the prestigous members of the group, we had the privilege of being invited to a special viewing of the archives of Chonbuk National University, (one of the largest collection of antiquities in Korea); what incredible facilities.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two of my favorite book authors were part of my group:  Ms. Aimee Lee and Mr. Nick Basbanes.

IMG_5696

As you can imagine, the uses for hanji are endless, also true for almost any other well-made paper.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Of course, Paper Connection is honored to carry hanji, both in an array of wonderful colors and neutral tones. Our hanji line is becoming quite popular, and now available here.  In 2015, we will be stocking a thicker (96 gsm) hanji for printmaking or for backing, and a new thinner paper for basket cording.  Check back here often!

We were very lucky guests of the mayor of Jeonju, 20141218_115712where we were treated to feasts and traditional pansori music performance.  Jeonju is considered the home of hanji and famous for the old-style architecture maintained in Hanok VillageIMG_9274of course, bibimbap, (rice bowl with meat), and the best pansori singer in the land.SAMSUNG CSC

Many thanks again to The Korea Culture & Design Foundation for inviting me to the symposium.  It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about hanji and its culture, its  applications in conservation, and Korea, of course.  A very special thanks to Ms. Bo Kyung Kim of Fides International and hanji artist Ms. Aimee Lee.

SAMSUNG CSC

Photographs provided by Paperwoman and KCDF.

We met Helen Hiebert back in the early ’90s, in SoHo, NYC at Dieu Donné Papermill , and have since watched her blossom into truly a paperwoman extraordinaire.

In our conversation below, we discuss handmade paper with Helen, who has cultivated a solid reputation as an educator, artist, writer and champion of the art of paper.  Enjoy her musings on handmade paper, altitude, and insight on her techniques, as well as what new paper goodies she is offering this time of year!

PCI:  What first attracted you to papermaking?

HH:  The fact that I could make paper from the ground up. I was involved in a community garden in NYC when I first learned to make paper at Dieu Donné Papermill, so I was learning about growing plants for the first time. When I discovered papermaking, I was intrigued by the fact that I could grow and make the raw material, and then continue working with it by making art.

PCI:  Would you say your approach to papermaking is more scientific or do hope to achieve a certain aesthetic goal? Do you aim to create your papers as a base for your artwork?

HH: To answer the first part of that question, I think I do both: I have an experimental approach to working with abaca – testing its strength and ability to become translucent and shrink in relation to various things I interject into the process (embedding string and wire for example, or nailing wet sheets to a board, thus interrupting and altering the drying process). But when I am working on a particular project, like Mother Tree or The Wish, I do have an aesthetic goal, and I choose from my reportoire of techniques to order achieve these goals. And to answer the second part of the question: I do not see myself as making papers as a base for my work but as the material that I’m most likely to work with.

The Wish, installation by Helen Hiebert.

The Wish, installation by Helen Hiebert.

The Mother Tree, installation by Helen Hiebert.

The Mother Tree, installation by Helen Hiebert.

PCI: How have traditional Asian papermaking methods influenced your papermaking?

HH: A trip to Japan in the late 1980’s inspired my interest in handmade paper. I saw handmade papers in shops and was struck by the light filtering through the traditional shoji screens at the inn where I was staying. This was not a paper trip, but rather a trip to visit my father who was working in Japan, so it was purely inspirational. But that trip became the beginning of my career! Upon my return to NYC where I was living, I began looking for ways to return to Japan to learn papermaking. I remember visiting an out-of-the-way bookstore and purchasing Sukey Hughes bookWashi, and I think I purchased Tim Barrett’s book around that time. When I was researching ways to travel to Japan (i.e. an income stream) I discovered Dieu Donné Papermill and volunteered there for a short time. Then I became Program Director and worked there for six years. I never went back to Japan (not yet at least) and I learned all about Western papermaking and creative papermaking techniques.

PCI:  We absolutely love this video of children learning papermaking at Dieu Donné, as featured on Sesame Street! Spot Helen @ 00:25, 00:39, and 1:47.  The other artist is Robbin Ami Silverberg, who now runs her own papermill in Brooklyn.

PCI:  How has your growing knowledge of papermaking influenced how your work has evolved?

HH: I’m not sure this is an answer to your question, but I would expand it to include all of the paper arts. I have a fascination with graphic design and product design, and I’m always looking at materials and products and thinking about how they might translate in paper. I’m also obsessed with techniques that other artists are discovering, and I don’t think that the potential of paper has been fully explored. I’m more concerned with expressing my ideas through paper (and other materials) rather than expanding my knowledge of papermaking, although I’m certainly influenced by what I see and discover.

http://www.paperconnection.com/laurelai-designs

100 x 100 Paper Weavings #51; © 2013 Helen Hiebert Studio, Paper Connection’s Laurelai Design series & Hark! Handmade Paper

PCI: You recently moved from Portland, Oregon, to Colorado. How has the water,  altitude, and all around general move affected your papermaking and work?

HH: People told me my work would change when I moved, but I’m not sure that it has significantly. Part of this might have to do with the fact that most of my projects take years to realize. I’ve also moved a lot, so perhaps that is just part of my being. I miss the artist community I developed in Portland, and my paper dries much quicker here in Colorado.

PCI: You recently completed a trip to Europe. What were some highlights? Anything that would find its way incorporated into your next pieces?

I taught a workshop and lectured at the Papierwespe in Vienna.  Beatrix Mapalagama, the owner, has a great little business in Vienna, providing workshops in all facets of paper. I enjoyed the time I spent with her as well as the teaching.

Artists' books in a Venice window, Italy.

Artists’ books in a Venice window, Italy.

And it was a treat to visit Fabriano in Italy –to see all of the historic equipment and watermarked papers and to participate in the IAPMA (International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists) Congress.  Jocelyn Chateavert gave a demonstration which sparked several new ideas for working with abaca.  I was also able to visit Roberto Mannino’s studio in Rome as well as his permanent paper installation at the Graphic Institute in a building right above the Trevi Fountain.  It is wonderful to be able to share time, stories and ideas with other artists who work in similar ways.

Fabriano IAPMA Congress venue.

Fabriano IAPMA Congress venue.

Jocelyn Chateauvert prepares for her demo, Fabriano.

Jocelyn Chateauvert prepares for her demo, Fabriano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biking with friends in Germany.

Biking with friends in Germany.

Herr Chmel's paper theater, Vienna, Austria.

Herr Chmel’s paper theater, Vienna, Austria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

unnamedceiling

unnamed

PCI: Do you prefer making paper, working with paper, writing, or teaching? What aspects of each of these do you enjoy?

HH: Good question! Part of this has to do with making a living. Years ago, I looked at my income to see which of these areas was most profitable. And you know what? It was pretty even across the board. That told me two things: 1: I could choose one direction and put all of my energy there; or 2: I could continue to have several income streams. I really enjoy each of these facets and think that they play well off of each other.  Sometimes I make myself tired because I can’t turn off the ideas. Lots of them go by the wayside, and others stick.  This keeps me ticking.

Holding, by Helen Hiebert

Holding, by Helen Hiebert

PCI: We are certainly glad you keep active in all fields, and keep those ideas coming! Which artist(s), past or present, would you like to have a conversation with? What would you say about paper?

HH: I’d have to say Eva Hesse, and I would discuss our shared fascination with materials, among other things.  I’ve always thought that she would have loved paper… and she lived really close to Dieu Donné, (although it wasn’t there yet – she died in 1970 and it was founded in 1976). I sometimes fantasize about how we walked along the same streets of New York.

 

 

PCI: What is next for Helen Hiebert?!?

Per Helen’s blog, she posts this:

“A quick heads-up: next Friday through Sunday (11/28 – 12/1) I’m offering FREE SHIPPING on everything you find on my website. Playing With Paper Kits, How-to books, DVDs and art. It will be almost like you’re here shopping in my studio!”  

Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Window Start Paper Kit, by Helen Hiebert.

Window Start Paper Kit, by Helen Hiebert.

Earlier in the year, Helen  published a wonderful blog about Paper Connection.  We are so pleased to be collaborating more with Helen this year and re-developing a deeper paper relationship between us.

For more on Helen Hiebert, please visit the following:

Website: http://helenhiebertstudio.com/

Blog: http://helenhiebertstudio.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HelenHiebertStudio

Many moons ago, on a few occasions, we were lucky to have Chuck Lathrop visit Paper Connection.  Back then, Chuck Lathrop lived in nearby Massachusetts and was part of the Monotype Guild of New England.  Chuck exposed us to his brave approach to  print on ANY surface, resulting in cutting-edge, bold and abstract prints, and we exposed him to traditional, Japanese, fine art  papers or washi.

A few years ago,  Chuck left our area to start his own studio in the sunny Southwest.  Let’s talk to Chuck and find out his opinion on paper, and the situation with his own handmade paper with dryer lint!  Chuck is never shied away from trying new surfaces; coffee filters, and yes, even dryer lint paper.

coffee filters, beeswax, encaustic

74 Days in the Life of the Artist as Measured in Coffee Filters (used coffee filters, beeswax)

PCI: Please tell us about what you do.

CL: Over the last 35 years my work has included printmaking, painting, mixed-media drawings and objects. The landscape has always had a huge influence on my work. At first it was through direct observation or photos, but today I work from within relying on memory, impressions, andemotion to create abstractions. Automatic mark-making is a huge part of my work as well.

PCI: Who has inspired you?

CL: My artistic influences are varied and too numerous to cite individually. Paul Cezanne and Robert Motherwell standout because my introduction to them coincided with huge changes in my style and motif.  Today, there are many contemporary artists I draw inspiration from.

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?  What do you like best about working with it?

CL: Paper is probably one of the most versatile substrates available to artists and I have enjoyed pushing it to its limits.

West Mesa (Large) mixed media drawing on Kozo

West Mesa (Large)
mixed media drawing on Kozo

 

PCI: How did you hear about our company?

CL: I was introduced to Paper Connection International through the Monotype Guild of New England when Lauren Pearlman invited MGNE members to come to PCI’s office (showroom/warehouse) to talk about Japanese paper.

PCI: How much knowledge did you have about Japanese papers before using ours?  How did we help?

CL: Until my introduction to PCI I had only used Western paper and my knowledge of Japanese paper was very limited. What my association with Lauren and PCI did for me was to expose me to a lot more possibilities regarding paper.

PCI: What papers do you use of ours and for what process? What did you like about those papers that aided in your creative and/or technical process?

CL: Kumohada Unryushi, (now a limited edition paper), and the various weights of Kozo are the ones I use the most frequently.  I use the Kozo for monotypes and woodcuts. The Kumohada is utilized for collagraphs and painting. Some of the work on these papers I have mounted to panel and used as a basis for encaustic work.  (Please see image below of When the Rhythm Sections Floats I Float Too, encaustic on  reduction woodcut on panel).

Untitled, monoprint, using Kumohoda Unryushi paper

Untitled, monoprint, using Kumohoda Unryushi paper

PCI: We are learning much about how our papers react to the encaustic process, and we’d love more of your feedback as we are novices to the application.

When the Rhythm Section Floats I Float Too encaustic on reduction woodcut on panel

When the Rhythm Section Floats I Float Too
encaustic on reduction woodcut on panel

PCI: We’re reminded of your visit and how laundry lint inspired you?

CL: As I remember it I was learning how make paper with scraps of museum board, something of which I generally have a quite a bit of in the studio. In my research I ran across a reference to someone using dryer lint. Made sense to me since some Western papers were made from cotton rags hence term “rag paper”.  I collected a bunch of lint from the dryer and one day when I was creating paper from museum board I threw some of the lint into the mix towards the end of the day’s session. Consequently the first sheet had a little paper pulp which yielded a light blue-gray and the last sheets had no paper pulp and came out a dark blue-gray.  Though I still have some sheets of the paper (both from museum board and lint), I created at the time (the late 1990’s), and still work with it on occasion, I found the paper was weak and easily tore when I didn’t want it to tear.  Given that I now live the Southwest and water supply is always an issue, especially during the current drought we are in, and the fact that any kind of paper making takes a large amount of water, I probably won’t be making any more paper.

PCI: We commend your awareness and responsible action. What is your experience as far as the strength of Japanese papers versus Western papers?

CL:  I prefer Western paper when I create paintings and mixed drawings, but for printmaking I prefer the Japanese papers. The Japanese papers don’t hold up well with my painting techniques and tend to fur-up when I draw on them. On the other hand I appreciate the quality of the Japanese papers when I’m making prints because there is a beautiful difference on how they receive the ink regardless of the strength.  I don’t think Eastern paper is necessarily stronger than Western paper. A paper’s strength is largely dependent on the length of its fibers and what it is made of.  I suspect some of the Eastern papers maybe stronger, but on the other hand, I would also guess some of the Western papers might be stronger.  Other issues in this discussion are the questions: What will the paper used for? Will it be dampened or soaked? How absorbent is the paper dry or wet?

PCI: Those are all very good questions that one should ask before purchasing paper.  Our famous bonus question: If you could have a conversation with any artist present or past, who would it be? And would you talk about paper?

CL: Yikes! There are so many I would like to have a conversation with that if I had the chance I would gather them around a table, if a large enough one could be found, just to talk about art.

PCI: We’ll provide the drinks!

For more on Chuck Lathrop, please visit his website: http://www.chucklathrop.com.  Chuck has recently established an online journal: www.nmartreview.com.  We enjoyed the discussion, “On Serious Art.”

An upcoming show at the Downtown Contemporary Gallery, in Albuquerque, NM, will feature Chuck along with other printmakers.  The show opens May 30th. If you are in the Albuquerque area then please go!

Her name evokes light, bright, warm light to me, and when you see her AMAZING works, (yes, that is all in CAPS for a reason), you will feel the same light too: paper transformed into creatures and works that come alive, and feel like they can float away, tempting you to put your fingers on them, feel the fiber that encases them, and even wear them.  Meet the one and only Joan Son.

I have had the privilege of giving 2 presentations with Joan Son and have been to her studio/residence several times in Houston, TX.  Joan is a most gracious host. I cherish her warmth, kindness and years of friendship.  Joan’s glowing personality is truly manifested in her incredible talent of transforming paper into life-like sculptures.

I hope you enjoy reading her perspective on paper as much as I did.

PCI: What kind of artwork do you do?  What or who has influenced and inspired you?

JS: I am an artist working in the medium of paper based in the discipline of origami. For the past 21, years since my debut in the windows of Tiffany & Co. (Houston Galleria), I have devoted my career to the exploration of contemporary origami as fine art. My art has developed into finely crafted gift items for museum shops beginning at the Smithsonian in 1995; larger commissioned works for public and private venues and origami instruction nationally at Origami Conventions and in Houston at numerous educational facilities.

Bamboo

Bamboo

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?

JS: I have always loved paper. My first love was designing paper doll dresses when I was 9 years old. So even my mother’s typing paper, lined school papers and tissue paper were attractive to me from very early on. I was totally intrigued making carnation like flowers with tissue paper. Even now when paper towels or napkins are on my grocery list I get excited wondering what patterns will be available. The commercial stuff is always changing.

zooslide

PCI: What do you like best about working with paper? I’m so curious as you have such a literal hands-on approach.

JS: I like to say that paper is sculptable and forgiving. I love that about paper. It works into to all of my art pieces. It is much more durable that most folks think.

PCI: I love the choice of words “forgiving” and “durable”, it’s almost like you are describing an amazing person.  Please share how we met.

JS:  Your wonderful papers were represented by a commercial paper company (Clampitt Paper in Houston, TX). Their representative gave me your contact information and I have been passionate about your papers through all your evolutions.  Since 1993 when I was working in a design firm, creating brochures, annual reports… and dabbling in my own creative process,  I’ve been using them for everything from butterfly pins, collage works, to 8-foot tall paper Kimonos.

PCI: Hopefully I’ve been evolving in a progressive way! And our papers reflect that.  We are so happy that we have such a long-term solid relationship.  It’s reliable artists like yourself that help small business keep going.  Did you have much knowledge about Japanese papers before using our line?

JS: Very, very little… only Origami papers.

PCI: In what ways did Paper Connection help navigate and perhaps inform you about Japanese paper?

JS: In every way. You and I did a presentation together for Texas Art Supply here in Houston a few years ago. It was fascinating to see and hear about your travels in Asia and all the details and nuances of these exquisite papers.

PCI: What papers do you use of ours and for what process? What did you like about those papers that aided in your creative and/or technical process?

JS: Japanese Yuzen and Katazome paper are delicious, the Laurelai design papers, (see the Yoga Garden Robe), are fun and add a distinct personality to my designs. Looking through the catalog now I see there are so many more I still have to work with. I can hardly wait! I use your papers for many of my collage pieces, origami pieces and display.

paper sculpture

Yoga Garden Robe by Joan Son, using several of the Laurelai papers

The Robe Series by Joan Son

The Robe Series by Joan Son

PCI: What are some of the differences between our papers and others you have worked with?

JS: Paper Connection always has the highest quality papers.

PCI: Thank you so much! We really try to represent the best in handmade papers for those like yourself who truly appreciate them.  Word game for you: fill in the blank, if you had to recommend a Paper Connection paper for a particular application:

JS: I like Daitoku papers for their simple gold touches and natural beauty.  Plus they have saved my life on two projects where I needed a very large sheet. These measure 37 x 72 inches. Perfect!

bookmarks, Laurelai Designs

Laurelai bookmarks by Joan Son

money holders, business card holders

Joan loves the Laurelai papers for many things, including bookmarks and wallets.

PCI:  That paper is an oldie but goodie.  Our famous bonus question:  If you could have a conversation with any artist present or past, who would it be?  And would you talk about paper?

JS: PATTI SMITH. As I strive to make my work more deeply meaningful first to myself and that it be illuminating for others… this veteran rock and roll artist transcends all levels for me. She continues to inform our world with her tenderness and fury.  And that she continues to evolve her art into all the years of her life. I think the conversation of paper would come up easily with Patti. I’m sure we would be tearing it or making it into butterflies right away.

PCI: Yes! A musician! To say the least. A poet. You surely would. Can I dance along? Thank you Joan, for all you do for Paper Connection and the paper world.

Check out this BIG NEWS for Joan!  She opens a new body of work in Houston at the Jung Center Gallery in April 2014.  We have included the Press Release:

TIME TRAVELERS
looking back to move forward
a retrospective
a coming full circle
a beginning

When:  Opening night Saturday April 5, 2014

Where: Jung Center Gallery 
5200 Montrose, Houston, Texas 77006
Time: 5:00 to 7:00

On view through April 29, 2014

If you are in the Houston we highly recommend you attend. We wish we could be there ourselves.

Joan Son is an American artist who has devoted her career to the exploration of contemporary origami as fine art.

Now, through an Individual Artist Grant from the city of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, she shows a side of herself that has been hiding for 50 years.
TIME TRAVELERS brings her art full circle with paper doll dress designs she created when she was 9 years old. From these early paintings (that luckily her mother saved!) Joan is constructing full size paper dresses that will be displayed on lighted 6 foot plexiglass cylinders suggesting portals of time. Her story is inspired by this quote from Carl Jung…
“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.”
Joan raised additional funds through her Kickstarter campaign and may be best known for her origami art that debuted in the windows of Tiffany & Co. in 1993. During the past 21 years she has developed her art as gift pieces for museum shops around the country beginning with the Smithsonian in 1995, been commissioned for larger art works both public and private and worked as an instructor of origami nationally and locally.

Much more of the story here on Kickstarter…

We didn’t have to look too far to meet our next Artist of the Month: Esteban Martinez.  How close?  How about a next door neighbor! Rhode Island has a reputation for being small, where there exist three degrees of separation, with those degrees going down as the art scene in the Ocean State only gets stronger.  As Mr. Martinez answers our famous questions, perhaps you can think of reaching out to a neighbor, business or otherwise, and see what kind of connections you can make: it’s amazing how much in common we have, simply by asking.

PCI: Tell us a little about yourself and your work, Esteban.  What kind of artwork do you do? What or who influenced and inspired you?

EM: Shodo, Japanese calligraphy.  My main inspiration was my late Aikido teacher Fumio Toyoda Shihan.  I also get inspiration from classical Zen calligraphers and martial artists.

Ordinary Mind by Esteban Martinez

Ordinary Mind by Esteban Martinez

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?

EM: Well, 50% of good Shodo is having good paper. The other 50% is skill and ink.  So paper is important.  How paper reacts to ink, quality, size, texture…it will all affect the end result.

PCI: What do you like best about working with paper?

EM: How it reacts to the ink, and the effect it produces, whether it is dry or wet spots.  It all gives the calligraphy a unique feel.

Esteban choosing papers at our warehouse.

Esteban choosing papers at our warehouse.

Kihosen Kana  in bolts

Kihosen Kana in bolts

PCI: In turn, which your pieces manifest.  How did you hear about Paper Connection International?
EM: Lauren is my next door neighbor!

PCI: So who says good fences make good neighbors?

How much knowledge did you have of washi before using our papers?

EM: Just the basics of Japanese “rice” paper for calligraphy.  I didn’t really got my hands on real handmade until Lauren gave me a piece of a beautiful paper called Kihosen Kana.

PCI:  A popular misnomer that Asian papers are made of “rice” materials.  We are so glad you were introduced to that gorgeous paper, made out of kozo, or Japanese mulberry.  How did Paper Connection help navigate and inform you about Japanese paper?

EM: Through Lauren I have been learning the differences between machine made and hand made paper, and why handmade quality paper is so much better.

IMG_8360

PCI: So what papers do you use of ours and for what process?

EM: I got a whole block of Kihosen Kana handmade paper.

Kihosen Kana Paper

Kihosen Kana Paper

PCI: What did you like about those papers that enhanced your creative and technical process?

EM: The sumi ink flows beautifully in it and I really like how the calligraphy looks on it.

PCI: Please explain some of the differences you have discovered between our papers and others you have worked with.

EM:  You can tell that the paper from PCI has been carefully sourced from the best places. The rest feels generic and poor quality.

PCI: Based on your experience so far, what papers would you recommend to a fellow Shodo artist?

EM: I like Kihonsen Kana paper for  Shodo or Sumi-e because it has a beautiful texture and the sumi_ ink flows perfectly on it.

PCI: I can envision the tranquility of each brushstroke as you describe that.  Our famous bonus question:  If you could have a conversation with any artist present or past, who would it be?  And would you talk about paper?

EM: I would like to have a conversation with Yamaoka Tesshu. He was a master swordsman and Japanese calligrapher. I would ask him how did he choose his paper and how he mounted them on scrolls.

PCI: What a combination of skills! Surely that would be an enlightening conversation.  Thank you so much, Esteban, for your time, and your support of Paper Connection International. We really appreciate it. And thank you for being such a nice neighbor!

To find out more about Esteban Martinez, please visit his website: Gohitsu Shodo Studio, where you can also fan his Facebook page and see what he’s up to on YouTube.  I totally chilled to the background music while watching him at work. A great way to get inspired!

September brings us back to school, back to a regular routine, and maybe a case of summertime blues? In case you need some motivation to return to your classes, whether it be teaching or attending, here’s an interview with our Artist of the Month, Kumi Korf.  Kumi has been a longtime customer, who faithfully orders her go to paper from us: Akatosashi.  This aged kozo paper has a bit of “aka” or a red hue to it, reflecting the maturity of the fiber.  And perhaps it takes an experienced hand to work with it.  Instead of widely experimenting with our many grades of kozo,  Ms. Korf loyally stands by this paper.  She knows exactly what she wants, and when she calls, we know to get her usual supply ready.  Of course, it’s not the only paper from us she has worked with, but we feel like Akatosashi is a trusted friend for her.  If you are an artist who likes your old “reliables”, you will enjoy her interview.  Or maybe you are starting off this semester unsure of what direction you want your work to go; Ms. Korf’s expertise can benefit you so you can aim your course wisely.

PCI:  What kind of artwork do you do?  What or who has influenced/inspired you?

KK: My art work is mostly printmaking and artists’ books. I am in love with 20th century art and 17th century Japanese art.

kumi  kumi2

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper? What do you like best about working with paper?

KK: Being Japanese, paper is the most familiar material next to wood, it being the most beautiful and handcrafted material ever. Paper demands a certain way of handling, and its relationship to water is special.  Touching paper is like meditation.  When I face paper, and prepare to work on it, with respect to paper and my craft, it returns what I expected and even more.

PCI: Could you elaborate more on the paper’s relationship to water?

KK: When one uses European paper, when it is wet, unless one uses a blotter and weight, it is not possible to keep it flat.  In washi’s (Japanese paper) case, air drying keeps the paper flat.  In my case, if I want the paper really smooth, I iron it.  It’s lightweight and thin, but when damp, I can safely peel the paper off the copper plate.  The washi’s long fiber is very useful and wonderful.

PCI: So interesting.  It’s sort of a paper urban myth that light weight and thin papers are not strong.  How did you hear about our company and paper?

KK: I met my paper in New York.

Akatosashi

New batch of handmade Akatosashi

PCI: We love how you call it your paper, like your own kin!  It’s been so long that we have known each other, which we appreciate!  We have a mutual colleague: Yasuyo Tanaka, which you two have known each other far longer than we have, but the Kozo connection can be small.  How long have you been working with washi?

KK: My knowledge of washi goes back to my childhood.  In Japanese everyday life, washi’s presence is everywhere: as part of screen doors, toilet paper, gift wrapping paper, calligraphy paper, sketchbooks, origami, etc., I must have made something with washi as a youth.  In the mid 1980s, I started to make my own kozo paper.  When I made my own paper, I made it as art by itself, but not paper for printmaking.

PCI:  For what process do you use this  aged kozo? What did you like about it that aided in your creative and/or technical process?

KK: I use Akatosashi for intaglio prints, because I like its color and finish.  It gives me the quality I like and the color I need.

"Radiation Swim, 2005". Spit-Bite and sugar-lift aquatint on Akatosashi.

“Radiation Swim, 2005”. Spit-Bite and sugar-lift aquatint on Akatosashi.

PCI:  Tell us more about the unique character of Akatosashi’s color, and why you like it.

KK: Akatosashi, as its name suggests, has that tint of reddish, brownish color.  I equate it as an “under painting” color for painting. I consider my prints as paintings more than etchings, so it is very useful.  What it does is that undertone unifies colors; I can count on that.

PCI: What a testimony to not only the papermaker but the amazing fiber as well!  In what ways did Paper Connection help navigate and perhaps inform you about our selection of Japanese paper?

KK: As a provider of washi for me, not only Akatosashi, but other washi for me, your service is appreciated always.

PCI: Thank you so much.  Likewise!  And of course, which artist(s)  would you like to have a conversation with? We know paper will be a topic!

KK: Rembrandt, Koetsu, Miro, and Matisse.

PCI: Fascinating group! That would be a discussion we’d like to eavesdrop on.  Rembrandt makes his appearance again.  Thank you so much, Kumi, not only for your time but your long time support.

Kumi Korf is represented by Chandler Fine Art in San Francisco. she also is a member of the Center for Book Arts in New York, where she has been teaching for many years, besides the San Francisco Center for Book Arts, and Ink Shop in Ithaca, New York.

For more on Kumi, please visit her website kumikorf.com.

I literally just stepped off the plane from one of the most beautiful places on Earth: Hawai’i.  Despite the need to be out from behind a desk, close to the lullaby of the ocean waves, still I couldn’t resist delving further into some traditional culture of the islands.  Little did I know this curiosity would lead to a quest on finding a local kapa artist and a lesson in ukulele.

Practically upon landing on Big Island, I immediately discovered an article in the Where series (wheretraveler.com) by Lynn Cook called The Kapa Chronicles, which included not only some kapa history, but also a written review and images of kapa maker Marie McDonald’s pieces as fine art, her recent exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.  I decided I had to meet this woman, and I set out to find her or at least more information on her work.  How delighted I was to learn she resided in Waimea, only 12 miles from where I was staying!  This was my only but unbelievable chance to meet the kapa maker herself.  Before I embarked on my search for Ms. McDonald, however, I had a few things to learn during my visit.

Performing arts and fiber arts? Always a connection!

First, a brief lesson in ukulele, (click link twice to see video) where I “fell in love” with my young teachers Melissa, Lauren, Ryan and Eric; true, young geniuses at dance and all the traditional performing arts.   Then, a mini lesson in hula, but I noticed there were no signs of anyone wearing kapa; the bark cloth worn for hula in the past.  The art of kapa was almost lost in 1820 when the missionaries who came to Hawai’i introduced woven cloth and sewing circles.

Patterns printed on kapa are made with carved wooden sticks or anvils and natural dyes.Geometric Patterns examples for kapa (bark cloth).Geometric Patterns examples for kapa (bark cloth).

Kapa, generically known as tapa in Polynesian, is a cloth made out of bast fibers from bushes.

Front side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji.

Front side of “Masi”; bark cloth from Fiji.

Back side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji.

Back side of “Masi”; bark cloth from Fiji.

Used traditionally as loincloths and other garments, the kapa was handmade by women.  Did you know, however, that kapa is made out of kōzo; fiber from the paper mulberry bush? Called wauke in Hawai’ian, parallel to the kōzo fiber used in Japan for washi, wauke is cultivated to make kapa cloth traditionally used for hula.  These days, artists create modern patterns on their own, homegrown, homemade kapa cloth.  It is interesting to note that the paper mulberry’s bast fibers make their appearance in various, functional fiber arts found across the globe.

My quest to meet Marie, the kapa artist:

I drove to Waimea and inquired at the local Gallery of Great Things, which carried both Marie’s kapa work as well as her daughter’s. “How could I meet the great Marie McDonald?”  I was informed at least her daughter Roen would be at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday selling kapa.  Saturday, I again made my way to  Waimea Town to the  Farmer’s Market.  Unfortunately, I did not catch up with either mother or daughter, but I was so close!

These photos of mother and daughter were taken in 2010, by http://www.damontucker.com in 2010.

Marie McDonald

Marie McDonald

Marie McDonald, who is 87 years young this year, is a native Hawai’ian who intends to pass on her wealth of knowledge on traditional arts to future generations, along with her daughter, Roen McDonald Hufford.  These are very special farmers, as they grow their own “art materials” to create their art.  They have long been living sustainably before the word became fashionable.

Roen McDonald Hufford

Roen McDonald Hufford

Marie has taught traditional Hawai’ian culture for decades in schools.  She is a scholar in this realm and a true kumu (teacher)  of her culture. She is author of an important book on lei-making called, Ka Lei:The Leis of Hawaii (1985) , and a newer book on  leis, with astounding photography called Na Lei Makamae: The Treasured Lei (2003). I have now learned that mother and daughter teach traditional Hawai’an arts via the Hawai’i Prep Academy, where I must visit next time for sure!

Here are some leis I saw at the farmer’s market in Waimea.homegrown, handmade leis

Here are examples of Marie McDonald’s kapa work:

Dancers wear kapa as they perform; scenes from the Merrie Monarch Festival  from Lynn Cook’s article.

Hula_Kapa1Hula_Kapa2

The Big Island Beckons: The kōzo, kapa and HULA connection is calling me back to the Big Island.  Hopefully it will be very soon, so I may have the honor of meeting Marie McDonald, her daughter, and their many students.  There is much to discuss, learn, and share, but in the meantime, here is my offering of what a little curiosity on vacation can do for you.

Carl Keck is a New England based artist who approached us out of the blue.  He is that one of a kind special customer who trusts our choices, accepts what paper we provide him before he even looks at it, never mind touches it, and transforms it into something that is entirely his own, without any fanfare.  A lot goes unspoken, but understood.  One day we may meet Carl in person, but in the meantime, we enjoy his generous amounts of prints he sends us, not just emails of images, but actual prints he mails, as well as some poetic emails we receive.  We actually featured Carl’s work a few blogs ago, and although it showcased his wonderful and prodigious talents, we did not have the opportunity to ask Carl personally his take on the paper he uses, his work, and that parallel world where Rembrandt meets Paperwoman.  Here is our conversation.  Enjoy!

PCI:  How would you describe your work?

CK: Our world is what we perceive it to be.  Our experiences influence what we can and cannot see.  My art is about putting down as quickly and clearly as possible, those things I experience.  What I see around me sets off a cascade of thoughts and usually coalesces into an idea.  I try with all my heart to express that idea.  Since all thoughts are abstract when you try to think about them, my art, when it’s good, lies on that border where the things I see meet the thoughts that those things emote in me.  Paper, any paper, allows me to translate my inspirations quickly.  With woodblocks, it allows me to rapidly experiment with additions, color and textures.  I don’t want to lose the essence of what insight I may have to share.

Carl's woodblock on gampi, made the week of May 20th, 2013.

Carl’s woodblock on gampi, made the week of May 20th, 2013.

New print, May 23, 2013 .

New print, May 23, 2013 .

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?  What do you like best about working with paper?
CK: Good paper, which for me is Japanese washi-especially vintage washi-somehow instructs my work.  It’s always closer to how I first imagined the work, when I use the best materials I can find.  At the same time, different papers want you to treat them individually.  It’s a pleasant challenge!  I make something everyday.  Art is a kind of continuous diary of what we’ve felt about what we’ve seen.  I do just about everything possible with paper: woodblocks, monotypes, watercolors, ink and wash paintings, and so on.  Often I mix processes together-whatever it takes to get the idea that’s in me out.
PCI: What inspires or influences you, Carl?
CK: There have been so many influences besides Nature herself.  I frequent museums a lot, especially the MET in Manhattan.  I go there to see the level of dedication great art shows.  I noticed that I was always attracted to paintings and sculptures that seem as if they were done in a few hurried moments.  I saw so much more when the artist had no time to smooth things over.  And this is most apparent in drawing and other works on paper.  Van Gogh’s reed ink drawings are so immediate.  Klee’s watercolors have something mysterious about them.  Degas’ pastels worked over monotypes, Redon and his flowers, Rembrandt’s etching-oh how he wiped his plates!  And Picasso-how he experiments still before our eyes.  I can go on and on.
PCI: How did you come to know Paper Connection? Were you familiar with Japanese papers in the past?
CK: I have been using Japanese washi for a good number of years.  Sources are few.  A good friend in Kyoto finds me vintage washi from the auctions she goes to.  Also I sometimes purchase directly from merchants in Japan.  However it’s expensive.  I searched the web for some of the paper makers I’ve used, and found Paper Connection.  So by mainly looking for well known paper makers and vintage washi.Work on Gampi made on the morning of May 16th, 2013.

PCI: How did we help you navigate through our extensive collection and your previous knowledge of washi?

CK:  A few years ago I contacted Paper Connection and was sent some papers: many decorative papers I rarely use, and some others which I gladly exhausted.  At that point I had to have more.

PCI: We are happy to hear that you liked our Fine Art paper samples.  What are some of the differences between our papers and others you  have worked with?
CK:  About paper, I can get used to any kind.  The better the quality, the easier it is to love and work with.  Once I get familiar with a paper, I instinctively call for it when a work requires it’s qualities.  Japanese washi is strong, thin, and honest.  It takes whatever manipulation I need from it, and the way it takes ink and pigment are predictable.  Though with vintage papers there is a quality of imperfect absorption which thrills me.
PCI:  What papers do you use of ours and for what process? What do you like about these papers that helps your creative and technical process?
CK: Just recently I received backed gampi from Paper Connection.  It has the sheen of gampi, which is usually thin tissue, yet has the backing to make it hardy for repeated printing.  A great innovation.  For delicate subjects it glows.  You experience the delicacy all over again just because of the paper type.  In tissue form its great to use when there is enough ink left on your block to take a second impression. Colors are soft and subtle, yet they are all there.

PCI: Our bonus question: if you could have a conversation with any artist, past or present, who would it be? And would you talk about paper?
CK:  I’d love to have a conversation with Rembrandt or Durer.  I’ve done literally a thousand self portraits and another thousand of my son.  Rembrandt did many.  We learned from him how to look deeply and frequently at our mortal predicament.  What a great gift are his paintings and works on paper.  And he used washi!  I’d thank him and ask about what it meant to grow old, how he kept his art flame so bright.  I’d ask him about the women he loved.  And if he’s ever heard of the Paper Women up in Rhode Island…

PCI: Wow, we’d love to be a fly on the wall for that one!  Carl, thank you so much. We really appreciate your insight, your support of washi, and of course, your work that you so generously share with us.

March has been a very busy month for us.  We have been planning for the upcoming Southern Graphics Conference, a printmaking love fest that this year is being held in Milwaukee.  So printmaking methods have been in our minds, maybe a bit too much. What papers are best for lithos? Is gampi good for chine colle? , etc. (The answer, by the way, is yes, yes and yes.)  However, to take a break from the wonderful world of printmaking, we turn our attention to a different, if not extraordinary application of our papers, by Arlene McGonagle.  We have known Arlene for many years; she is a very faithful, loyal supporter of Paper Connection. And we love her unique approach to transforming our sheets of papers into something three dimensional, and even poetic. We will let her explain.

Layered, by Arlene McGonagle

Layered

PCI: Tell us a little bit about yourself: What kind of artwork do you do?

AM: I make baskets – one of a kind sculptural baskets. I have been a traditional basket maker since 1980. I grew up on a produce farm in Hadley, Massachusetts. Baskets were part of our harvesting process in which our vegetables were all harvested using different basket styles. As a young person I was not aware of my passion for baskets, but I do believe growing up on a farm gave me the knowledge for the functional construction aspects of basket weaving.

PCI: What or who has influenced and inspired you?

AM: After making functional Nantucket and Shaker baskets for fifteen years I needed a methodology in which to become more creative in my personal form of expression. So I returned to college entering The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth in the Fiber Arts and Textile Design Department for a Masters Degree. As a result my work and materials changed overnight. The Fiber Arts Department encouraged us to use different and unusual materials from barks to wire and everything in-between.

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?

AM: The wide variety of texture in paper, I felt the more texture the better in the paper I use. The paper reminded me of the barks, woods, and reeds I had used in the traditional basketry process. However, the paper I chose was colorful with intricate designs and flexible without soaking it in water. It was also gentler on my hands and easier to weave.

PCI: That’s great, especially for your hands’ health too!  What do you like best about working with paper?

AM: For me it’s all about texture and color. I love the thick kyosei-shi paper because it reminds me of fabric. I have been working in neutral colors lately, but this paper allows me to go wild with color if the basket calls for color. I also love the mulberry, or kozo paper for its translucent and regal qualities. When words are written on this paper it adds a note of importance and strength.

PCI: How did you hear about our company?

AM: I had heard about Paper Connection for many years, but did not know it was open to the public. So I called one day and explained that I was a basket artist looking for special textured paper and made an appointment to stop in.

PCI: Simple enough. We love your initiative.  Did you have much knowledge about Japanese papers before using our papers?

AM:  I had no knowledge of Japanese papers whatsoever. I fell in love with the papers offered at Paper Connection and sometimes even designed the baskets around the available papers. I learned more about paper variety and function with each visit to Paper Connection. The vast knowledge of the staff and the wonderful stories Lauren would tell about the makers of the paper helped me to realize that the paper was almost sacred and that my designs had to live up to the value of the papers I purchased.

PCI: Wow. We’re so happy and grateful to hear that.  What a testimony to the artistry of the papermakers themselves!  What are some of the differences between our papers and others you have worked with?

AM:  I seem to keep going back to Kyosei-shi for most of my basketwork. It is physically strong and with a wide variety of colors. However, I can buy it in off-white and dye in the colors I need. I don’t know if I could dye other papers in a water bath.

PCI: So to sum up?

AM: I like kyosei-shi paper because it is strong and textured like fabric for my baskets; it is flexible and does not tear when I weave it with wire.

Basket Book by Arlene McGonagle

Basket Book by Arlene McGonagle

PCI: Arlene, thank you so much.  We love your work, we appreciate how you use these wonderful papers, the motivation behind it, and your generous support over the many years.

u17

For more information about Arlene, please visit her website, Basket Sculpture.  Her studio is located in beautiful Warren, RI.  To read more about her work, Arlene was featured in the Fall 2012 issue of the National Basketry Organization.  Article courtesy of Arlene McGonagle.

I am always anxious to bring in spring; my favorite season…especially after the Blizzard of 2013 in the Northeast of the US.

Blizzard 2013:Rhode Island February 9th.

Blizzard 2013:Rhode Island February 9th.

This year on February 2nd, I was lucky to witness the Setsubun ritual at my local shrine in my other neighborhood in Japan.  The tradition of Setsubun no Hi or Setsubun Day is all about welcoming the spring.

When the idea came to Japan in the 18th century, it was incorporated into Japan’s native religion, Shintoism.  But Setsubun originated in China is performed before the Lunar New Year.

In Japan, Setsubun is an annual Shinto ritual.  Beans are thrown as a symbol to shoo out the evil spirits from the past year and thus welcoming in the new season; spring.  After a purification ceremony is performed, including waiving folded white paper (gohei), the Shinto priests toss good luck coins into the crowd;  5-yen or 100-yen coins. Sestubun1

While I was taking photos of the ceremony, unbeknownst to me a 100-yen coin landed in my shoulder bag!  I thought I heard something fall in, but I didn’t find it right away.  I guess that means 2013 will bring me lots of good luck!

Setsubun is surely full of superstition, as it based in Japan’s original religion Shintoism, which has plenty of  good and evil spirits in every animate and inanimate object.

You must admit though, that American culture has some pretty superstitious rituals.  Consider the same time of year-February 2nd, Ground Hog Day! Most notable is that both Shinto practices and the idea of having a ground hog predict the weather are strangely related; both customs are based in ancient nature worship and animism.

For now I’ll cross my fingers that we won’t have any more blizzards this year and eat a few more sweets with the Chinese character of “snake” ensuring 2013 is truly a good-luck, snake year.SnakeSweets