In late April we asked you—our paper community—to send us your COVID-19 stories. I have loved reading each and every submission and wished I could have published them all in our July 2020 issue. All of the stories we received are published here. –Maria Olivia, Editor
My biggest pleasure during the pandemic is doing remote art lessons with my grandchildren, Paul (7) and Marie (4). We meet by Zoom most weekdays at 1:00. I plan what we’ll do, and then anything can happen. Today Paul was making a house with Popsicle sticks and a glue gun (we use only the finest art supplies). The lesson gradually disintegrated into using the Popsicle sticks to make grappling hooks and trying to knock things off the shelves. Then Paul asked me whom I liked better, Marie or him. I hesitated and pondered this important question. Then said I loved them both the same.
I haven’t spent this much time with Paul and Marie in a long time. Part of me hopes the quarantine never ends. When they settle into a project, when they’re really engaged, they sing together. I know they’re learning the joy of creating things, even if they are grappling hooks.
Laurie Wessman LeBreton
As one of the fortunate ones to have personal outside space to enjoy during COVID-19, I have spent the last few weeks gathering dye materials for ink making and for colouring the Daphne (Daphne laureola) papers that I made in 2019. My experiments have been fuelled by instructions from papermakers/inkmakers Anne Covell, Denise Bookwater, Chika Ito, and Babs Behan.
Although similar results have been experienced by many others, the fact that I could get such a wide range of colours from the land I live on has been very satisfying.
Our five acres near Victoria, BC, Canada are under conservation covenant and the Garry Oak meadow and Douglas-fir/Arbutus forest needs constant monitoring for invasive plants. Daphne is a serious invasive shrub on our land and the second worst offender is Bur Chervil (Anthriscus caucalis), followed closely by Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoprarius).
As well as the invasive plants, native dye plant sources include Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) bark, Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii) bark, Red alder (Aldus rubra) cones, Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) bark and berries, and Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmondria).
I have made a swatch book to record the results.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Corona stories! There was a Saint called Corona, she is pictured in a beautiful painting.
in a sky filled with birds
with shiny rays
drifting slowly by
and I! observe it all
Merge with the paper and tell my story!
I am in Delhi at the moment waiting to be allowed to travel again so I can get to Norway. Have been here for seven months. I don’t have a studio which is frustrating but I am making do.
After having my entire summer teaching schedule cancelled or postponed, I really was hoping for something to do. One of the gigs was at Princeton University. I have been teaching a workshop there on Indo-Islamic papermaking for the past two or three years. This year however, they still wanted to go ahead with it–online! Luckily, as last time, I was co-teaching with Johan, and we figured out how to get the students to make paper at home, and how to demo the technique from our Norway studio while filling in the blanks with a live ‘voiceover’ from Delhi!
It worked pretty well surprisingly and allowed us to do more in a sense that we would have done in person.
New Delhi, India
My remote work day begins with a poem, recited in my ear by poet Dwayne Betts, who is turning his book of extraordinary poems, Felon, about life after incarceration into a performance for prisons and theaters. He is whizzing down the street on his bicycle, or doing the dishes, or on break from coaching his boys’ online learning; I am at my desk with the text of the poem he is committing to heart. This little ritual of rehearsal and step by step work on a task is important to the day. Dwayne first approached me as a theater director who develops performance with poetry, he a writer, first formerly incarcerated person to graduate from Yale Law School. What we only discovered later is that what binds us together is papermaking. He makes a thick grey paper out of inmates’ sweats; I make a performance Recycling: washi tales that incorporates papermaking with washi sets and costumes by Japanese paper artist Kyoko Ibe (HP Summer 2020). Somehow, Dwayne and I found each other, two fibers floating in a vast vat, now we are working every day to make a new sheet, in which prison time is recycled into something of use and beauty.
All best wishes,
Nothing special; I go to my kozo grove to get fresh air and to take care of the young shoots, I get orders for paper, I make paper, and send it door to door delivery. This week I made heavy paper for watercolor from flax and abaca (dried in the dryer box), and thin kozo paper for restoration (dried on boards). As I said, nothing exciting.
I’ve been doing pretty well here in Asheville, and fortunate to be in a location that hasn’t been hit nearly as hard as other U.S. cities. I also have been thankful to have the added advantages of a yard and garden, and that has offered great solace during this quarantine. My paper studio is attached to my home and is basically a covered concrete slab space that functions largely as a 3/4 year work space as springtime and fall are both warm enough to work outside here. With my printing press in a smaller indoor studio, it has worked out pretty well to go back-and-forth in these media since we moved here two years ago.
Largely, I’ve been working on repairing, repainting, and updating the paper studio and have help from grad students who have constructed some new moulds and deckles that I am waterproofing and attaching screens to. This has kept me pretty busy, along with my current duties as next winter’s Hand Papermaking’s Guest Editor for the issue of Prints on Handmade Paper. It’s been exciting and inspiring to receive and read these articles from authors writing on various aspects of this topic, so I’ve been lucky to have the time to address this fully. Converting my one course in Paper & Book I’ve been teaching at Warren Wilson College this year to an online course has been challenging, but seems to be chugging along.
On a less exciting note, I’ve had papermaking workshops cancelled that I was planning to teach at both Haystack in Maine and Cullowhee Arts, here in North Carolina. I’d also planned an Open House of my studio for Print Day in May, and promoting my own classes this summer from my studio, which seem to be in limbo right now. Still, feeling luckier than many who are living in much riskier locations right now, (which includes my daughters and brother). I am keeping all of you in my thoughts daily.
Best regards to all, stay safe and be well,
Asheville, North Carolina
This is about my show cancelled because of the pandemic. youtu.be/9-cKncvjXAE
The Covid-19 pandemic has actually opened up opportunities for me to grow my business in new ways. As a papermaking, bookbinding, and papercrafting studio, we have sold stationery and gifts for a long time—but now more than ever, people are starving for safe, tangible ways to reach out and connect with their friends and loved ones. So we have been very busy making and selling our handmade stationery, recycled paper seed bombs, letterpress greeting cards and loads and loads of handmade paper flowers. I built my business on my love for fostering communication between people and in this time of social distancing and communal solitude, I have been proud to know that my work is helping people to communicate, show love and stay connected in ways that they otherwise couldn’t do.
Buffalo, New York
I’m lucky to have a big back yard even in the city. I have three colours of erythronium, native fawn lilies, white, yellow and pink, and blue camas growing on my chunk of bedrock. I start my day going outside to visit them, check on their progress, maybe take some photos. Then I check the progress of the Solomon’s seal, the maidenhair fern, and the goats’ beard. That’s my grounding. Everything else goes fine after that.
My life had been partly defined by handmade and decorated paper for decades. And my association with Hand Papermaking has been delightful since the beginning of this wonderful publication. So though I am no longer a papermaker (I did it by hand for about 15 years), I am a fanatic collector, and this leads me to my Covid-19 Story.
My wife and I collect all things PAPER. Well, many things PAPER. We are getting to a place at which we are thinking of a permanent home for our massive collection. Our papers (all 22,000 of them) are at Texas A&M University. But we have also collected books, pamphlets, sample books, watermarks, molds and other tools, and a host of other things having to do with paper. This includes blotters, dolls, ashtrays (we never smoked, but the ashtray of a famous paper mill fits into our collection perfectly), measuring devices for paper and from paper companies, aprons from paper mills, more sheets of decorated papers, mugs from paper mills, and scores of other things.
Eventually this needs to be placed in the hands of some institution that is clever enough to take it all—especially our library, that numbers in the thousands of pieces. I have wanted to catalog the books and other publications for eons, but my life is too filled with teaching and travel and other responsibilities. By luck, we have been stranded in our home in Arizona since the virus arrested our movements, and this is where the bulk of our collection is. So I have been working on a catalog since being happily trapped here. (The catalog is now more than 460 pages.)
This has given me the golden opportunity to reacquaint myself with the treasures my wife and I have acquired over the years—including many things we have not looked at in decades. It has inspired me to write my next Hand Papermaking Newsletter column, about the beautiful papers of a commercial paper mill and distributor. And it has given me the chance to look with great care and insight into, and to ruminate about, things I never had the chance to see so closely before.
So you can say that my Covid-19 Story is a tale of discovery and fascination and appreciation for all who created the treasures in our collection. Every item, from the most mundane to the most elaborate, is a treasure to a fanatic collector.
Covid-19 is a black cloud hovering over the world; but for me it has a silver lining.
As a professor who has taught writing his whole career, I hate to conclude with a cliche (silver lining and so forth). So let me add that my Covid-19 Story has other good features: the love of friends and relatives who have shown their concern for us; the appreciation we have for all who make this frightening world a bit safer with their unselfish work (those in the medical profession, people who keep essential businesses running); and the friends we have made through Hand Papermaking.
Stay safe, everyone!
I’m keeping safe and healthy in the Rocky Mountain town of Edwards, Colorado, hiking everyday and practicing social distancing and working in my studio at my house. I’ve also been making face masks for the last few weeks for people in my community and beyond. Eric Avery is working in his beautiful garden and studio sanctuary in San Ygnacio, Texas, along a dangerous border area between the US and Mexico. Eric is also a medical doctor and you can find more info about his work at his website. This project is about one aspect of the exodus of migrants fleeing violence and corruption in Mexico and Central America and hoping to find a safe place to live in the US. Eric and I have been working together since the mid 80’s when he was a visiting artist at the newly built Picante Paper Studio at the Southwest School of Art.
Below is a quick blurb about the project we started back in January at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas funded in part with a visiting artist grant from Beck Whitehead (also a former HP board member). The project is in progress and slowly progressing, as the school, like most others, closed its campus as the quarantine began in March. We are all working long-distance now.
Stash House—a paper/print collaborative artist book project about human trafficking along the border in South Texas, by Eric Avery and Susan Mackin Dolan, with students at the Southwest School of Art, spring semester, January 8, 2020.
As human trafficking becomes more organized in response to the hardening of the Southern Border by Customs and Border Protection, the Laredo Morning Times newspaper has reported on stash houses being used to house migrants on their journey north.
The floor plan of a one bedroom home is the model Susan used to make an edition of four sheets of double dipped kozo paper. They have silhouettes of fifty people sleeping on the floors of the house. Eric will print four linoleum blocks on the sheets so that when laid out, the assembled print will be a floor plan with – walls, door openings, kitchen, bathroom and silhouettes of fifty people. The prints will be enclosed in a portfolio that, when opened, depicts a typical looking stash house from Eric’s neighborhood around the border town of San Ygnacio, Texas.
While the Dieu Donné studios are closed, Amy Jacobs and I have been giving Zoom lectures for college students. Depending on what the students were studying the lectures have been on various topics in papermaking, using Dieu Donné projects as examples of techniques, and showing different ways that artists are working in paper, etc. Since so many of our papermaking / teaching friends had to switch to online classes on short notice their students have been missing their physical studio spaces. We’ve been really impressed by how many of them are making paper and working with it at home!
We’ve done a dozen classes, and now we are planning some live lectures for the general public.