Hand papermaking allows an artist to take ownership of their materials. Choosing a fiber for paper pulp, making handmade paper, creating the final form—papermaking is a mutable art medium that allows for a multitude of options. When used in interdisciplinary manner, the process can be a way to add context, content, and meaning to an art piece.
Patrick Blenkarn is a Canadian artist based in Vancouver who recently created Soliloquy in English, a performance piece about English as a second language. It uses a rich combination of materials: words spoken aloud, a book containing varied experiences, and paper handmade from a secondhand dictionary.
Hand papermaking is an interesting animal. While it is a technology and historical craft, it’s also an art-making process that can cross borders into performance art, community cultural events, theatre, and collaborative creative work.
Imagine for a moment that every single sheet of paper in the world was made individually, by hand. If you lived before the 1800s and the invention of the Fourdrinier Papermaking Machine, this idea wouldn’t be so preposterous, but a fact. A video by the University of Iowa Center for the Book documents Associate Professor Tim Barrett and his graduate students replicating a traditional three-person papermaking team, capable of making 100 to 200 sheets per hour! A great film, well worth the 11 minutes and 42 seconds of your time today. Promise.
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