Archives for posts with tag: paper artists

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.

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.










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:





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.


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!

With all the paper cutting art we see, everywhere from ETSY’s on-line gallery to the museum or gallery down your street,  I asked myself, where did this phenomenon come from?  And why is paper cutting so hip right now?

It all starts at the beginning; it always does! …Seeking the origins of the traditional folk art of paper cutting,  of course, I would look nowhere else but where paper was born more than 2000 years ago; China! The first symmetrical paper cut can be traced to Xinjiang, China, in the 6th century.  This art, called Jian Zhi (cut paper), was most popular starting in the Tang Dynasty (8th & 9th centuries) and used mainly for decorative wall art in the royal courts.  From the start, Jian Zhi were produced by the common folk, typically passed from grandmothers to grand-daughters.  Today, Jian Zhi are often presented as a gift on auspicious days and days of celebration.

Here are two images of present-day, yet intricate Chinese paper cuts.  The red one on the left is a Chinese opera character and the multi-colored one below to the right, is a tiger.  Both images are mounted on handmade paper to make a greeting card. 

The Chinese tradition of  paper cutting traveled via the silk road to various pockets of the globe, thus, many cultures developed their own version of the art.

Above, an image of Polish folk paper cut, called Wycinanki.

Below,  a  present-day Japanese paper cut called Kiri-E, by artist Shoto Kimura.

So I took another look at some of the more renowned and up and coming paper cutters of our day, Peter CallesenTom Gallant, Hunter Stabler, and our own Providence based, emerging RISD artist Lois Harada.

The Core of Everything by Peter Callesen


The Collector II by Tom Gallant

I Would Like To Apologize For Anything I've Ever Said to Anyone, by Hunter Stabler

Wall of Wonder by Lois Harada

Although talented and established as these artists are, how do they contribute to the trend in paper cutting?  Or is it just that there is more exposure to the craft?

I hope a paper cut artist will enlighten me…

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my friend Yasuyo Tanaka and her first solo show here in Japan.   I spent 3 days with her,  her art and delightful artist friends up in Tochigi Prefecture. Without a doubt it was the highlight of my time here in Japan.  Yasuyo’s work is superb, her workshops so informative and her enthusiasm and energy to teach, learn and live is deeply impressive.

The photo below shows the back wall of the Gallery in the Blue covered with her collagraph “grid” prints. 

Below a photo of Workshop Day 1;  Yasuyo explaining grain direction at the beginning of her suminagashi workshop in the Gallery in the Blue.

See more.

Looking forward to this weekend, where I’ll be in a room full of art lovers, paper artists and probably some fellow paper junkies.

My talented friend, Yasuyo Tanaka, has returned to Japan for her show in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.  The show is called “Transformation-questioning myself“.  The Manhattan based Japanese weekly newspaper called NYSeikatsu, -“NY daily life”, published Ms. Tanaka’s October 9th interview (see pages 19-20 of NYSeikatsu) .  The interview was done in NYC, where she resides.  This is her first solo show in Japan, so she’s pretty excited… I too am excited about her self-transformation via art.   If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, right?  I am very lucky to experience the real thing, October 23rd at Gallery in the Blue in Utsunomiya City.  For all you readers stateside, check out her beautiful work:

Transformation by Yasuyo Tanaka

Chigiri-e literally means torn paper collage.  Chigiri (pronounced with a hard “g”)  and e (pronounced like “ay” as in “hay”.  Chigiri is the noun form of the verb “to tear” and e is any kind of art picture: collage, painting, drawing, etc.

When you see one of these detailed collages in person, it’s hard to believe the image is nothing but paper.  Of course, not just any paper, the process will work best with washi– Japanese paper.  Check out this Chipmunk Chigiri-e by Etsy artist: Michiko Yoshida.

Traditionally scissors are not used (but are not prohibited!).  Washi torn by hand produces a soft edge, ideal for blending colors and creating a 3-D effect.

Pulp Painting is the bigger category and chigiri-e fits into this English term.   There are many techniques of “painting” with pulp.

Two highly-respected paper artists,(not just by me, but all over the world), whom I know  from my days in Boston  are, Joe Zina, famous for his stunning floral paper “paintings” (click to his name to see one image) and for co-founding Rugg Road Paper Company, back in the ’80s, and Michelle Samour, who teaches, writes and takes  pulp painting in yet a completely different direction; a completely new latitude.

May is a great time to head to the city.  The weather was perfect last week- dry, sunny.     Here’s the May sky at Lexington around 30th Street.

Was in NYC for a networking event called “Rock the World”  sponsored by the on-line, woman’s entrepreneur group called Savor the Success, with my RI associate, Joan M. from Cicione Studios.

May 5th: Lisa Price, Poppy King and Taryn Rose; the experienced business women who spoke in the morning, were a great inspiration; each one with a “in the beginning”  or ” in my garage”  story to relay.

Lisa Price from Carol's Daughter

Poppy King-small blond on right

The real-life interactions between on-line  networkers was no less than fascinating.  Things got REAL exciting, in the afternoon,  when Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth, generously spoke about his long life experiences, slowly yanking off the audience’s business-blinders; blinders which we “wear” tightly wrapped around our cluttered, little  heads, in order to bring us back to the here and now of REALity…  Mr. Gerber is  a very present, grounded individual indeed.


Back to NYC for the Stationery Show at the Jacob Javits Center-will take photos if they allow it!

DONT FORGET TO SAVE THE DATE for our Paper & Fabric trunk show at 133 W. 25th Street (btw 6&7th above the Quilt Shop).   Luscious paper goods plus a yummy salad of fabrics and cute tees for sale from 10:30am -5pm, Thursday May 20th- wow! that’s already next week!

Still not sure which is which: Japan or the USA, but the timing seems just about right to depart from one home or the other.  My other self gradually gets unpacked upon arrival: paperwoman: the (mainly) researcher in Japan and paperwoman: the teacher/marketeer back in the US.

This was a few days ago at a friend/client’s in Japan:

Yuko at Pure decorating with PCI's abaca rolls

Now, I’m between homes.. this week here in the Lone Star State: Texas Nonetheless, I won’t be a “lone star”!

Together with my long time client and friend, Joan Son; an amazing paper artist, both morning and afternoon on March 4th in Houston I will do a talk and slide presentation on how Japanese paper is made:  From Fiber to Finish, followed by an Origami Demo by Joan, at Texas Art Supply on Montrose:

Joan Son's stunning paper robes

Yesterday, I saw Joan’s  incredible paper robes in person at her studio- unbelievable! and she used our exclusive Laurelai Designs in this stunning piece shown to the left.

For more of Joan’s incredible work in paper, check out her website: