Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two of My Favorite Things (revisited and updated)

While working on my new website, I've discovered that old blog posts are an invaluable source of content. I've even found myself re-reading some of the posts because they're - well - interesting. So I've decided to update and re-publish some of the good ones, since I don't having a lot of time for blogging right now, and a lot of people, especially on facebook, never read them before anyway. So, here goes!

No, it's not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, not that either one of those is bad.  It's paper and books!  These have probably been two of my favorite things almost all of my life.  Of course, they are closely related, since books are made primarily of paper.  Also, I recently got two great books about paper, which I'll review in this post.

One of my earliest memories is of kneeling at a coffee table, drawing on a piece of paper.  My grandmother, who cared for me while my mom was at work, tells me that I was about two years old at the time. What I remember most is that as long as I had paper and a pencil, I was happy.

Photo from Analyzing Children's Art, by Rhoda Kellogg

Paper!  I love everything about it: the way it feels, whether rough or smooth; the flexible ease of folding or manipulating it; the emptiness of a fresh sheet of paper, waiting to contain the world of my imagination.  The smell of a fresh sketch pad is inspiring to me.  As a child, I was delighted by the discovery of construction paper- so heavy it held its shape when folded, and all those colors!  Little did I know that it was only the tip of the iceberg.

It wasn't until much later in life that I realized the extent of the huge variety of papers that are available.  In each of my college classes, I was gradually introduced to different types of paper: non-bleed layout paper for graphic design, cotton rag watercolor paper, and printmaking papers such as Hosho and Rives BFK.  When my printmaking instructor gave me a Daniel Smith catalog, the wide world of paper was suddenly opened.  I had never dreamed there were so many kinds, and I wanted all of them!  Now, even far more exotic papers are available to us because of the internet and an expanded import market.

These are some of the papers I purchased recently from PaperArts.Com, a great source of handmade and decorative papers as well as other cool collage stuff.  Many of these yummy papers are beautiful works of art in their own right.

Closeup: Most of these are handmade, with wonderful textures and inclusions.

 An assortment from Blue Sky Pink, one of my favorite sites for ordering paper ephemera.

* Addendum: I have just found out that, sadly, Blue Sky Pink is closing down. Everything they have left is on sale super cheap, if you feel the need to rush over there and grab something - I did!

Books are another of my favorite things, and I can't remember a time when I didn't love them.  I was never bored if I had a book; they transported me to unknown worlds, and opened my mind to new ideas and possibilities.  I used to get in trouble in school because I'd finish my assignments before everyone else, start reading a book, and become so absorbed that I didn't notice that the teacher had gone on to the next lesson!

Of course, books about art are my favorites, and I'm always adding to my already vast collection.  I recently bought two books featuring art that's constructed strictly from paper. The first is Paper: Tear, Fold, Rip, Crease, Cut by Raven Smith, published by Black Dog Publishing.

This isn't a how-to book, but rather "shines a light on the beautiful world of paper in art, fashion, and design"  (from book jacket).  The first section deals with the history of paper, giving an overview of how it was invented and made, and the evolution of its various uses and methods of manipulation.  (Did you know that papyrus is not really paper, even though that's the origin of the name?)

 Studio Glow by Riki Moss

Icosahedron by Richard Sweeney

The rest of the book showcases a wide array of work by 44 artists working in every imaginable style and genre that could possibly be constructed from paper, including but not limited to sculpture, advertising design, installation, book arts, fashion, and furniture.  Some of it is unbelievable, all of it is beautifully crafted.  The photos are gorgeous, really a joy to look at; each artist's section is accompanied by text interpreting the work and giving us a glimpse into their processes.

Papercraft: Design and Art with Paper by R. Klanten (author, editor), S. Ehmann (editor), and B. Meyer (editor), published by Gestalten, is my other brilliant purchase.  The text in this book is pretty much limited to the preface and introduction, both written by R. Klanten.  The premise of the book is best described by these excerpts:
"Faced with the deceptive freedom of digital creation, the "anything goes" promise of virtual tools, many designers, artists, and illustrators have (re-)discovered tangible means to convey information... In this spirit of DYI and discovery, the artists and designers assembled in this publication re-translate their skills, styles and stories to a huge range of 2D and 3D paper creations that transcend their material's humble origins.  With just a few folds or drops of glue, the basic sheet morphs from flat plane into an actual body that represents and defines its occupied space."  

The rest of the book's 249 pages are jam-packed with photo after photo depicting every kind of art and craft made of paper by 70 talented artists.  Some of the artists push the applications of paper beyond anything I would have previously imagined- for example, a paper forest and even paper shelters!

Newspaper House by Sumer Erek

This book also comes with a DVD/DVDROM which features 17 very cool paper animations/videos, as well as templates for making some of the paper objects. Here's a sampling of one by Javan Ivey.

I cannot understand how anyone could look at either of these books and not be inspired.  I highly recommend both.

* Addendum 2: I also feel I would be remiss if I didn't recommend one of my favorite ever documentaries. It's called Between the Folds, and it may not sound interesting, but believe me, you'll be surprised at how utterly mesmerizing and mind-blowing it is. It treads the boundary of art and science, which is exactly where I like to live!

Here is the trailer:

You can watch the entire film on YouTube here.  I hope you enjoy!


  1. A few of my favourite things too .... with art books at the top of my list. Thanks for the book recommendations. I love the gel medium transfer in the last post!

  2. These books look wonderfully inspiring, as does your collection of luscious papers! Thanks for all the recommendations.

  3. Replies
    1. thanks, Donna! It's been fun to re-visit the things I did when I actually had time to write.


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