Hello again! My last post feels like a very long time ago. I am feeling much better now, and hope it's not long before I feel like my usual self and am back to doing my usual self things again. The most frustrating part about having a bad case of the flu is that you don't feel like doing anything—I didn't have the energy to read, watch a movie or even listen to music for several days. Instead there was just a semi-delirious jumble of thoughts about all of the things I had planned to be doing. You'd think all of that idle time could be focused into solving creative 'problems' awaiting me in the studio, but my brain couldn't even seem to follow a single thought very far. Things are finally returning to normal, though, and here—at last—are the photos that were to have accompanied the giveaway post.
As part of my 12x12 project, I'd like to focus on a different material each month. Going hand-in-hand with January's talk of fresh beginnings/blank canvases—and as such a fundamental & versatile material—'Paper' seemed like a great place to kick off the year (my apologies that it's already February). I have more paper than I could ever catalog, but as I was gathering some of it for various projects last month, I photographed a few of my favorites.
I love many things about paper...for example, how each paper has such a distinct personality, and even how the light/position in relationship to the sunlight brings out different aspects of their qualities. Often, you may find yourself searching for just the right paper to execute a project you have in mind, but sometimes a magical thing happens: a paper's beauty/virtues actually inspires something completely unforeseen. In fact, falling in love with a paper is what originally led me to begin The Piazzas of Florence. (Of course, it was really a passion for the city itself, but it's true that a love affair with a certain paper put the wheels in motion.)
The paper in question was Rives Heavyweight. In a past blog entry about an artist's book I had just finished, I mentioned the day the paper cast its spell (which is now closer to twelve years ago):
I still remember that July day, nearly eight years ago…I sat in the light of a sunny window, admiring the paper’s slightly toothy texture and deckled edges, knowing I just had to create something from it. I am fascinated by books that open in unexpected ways, revealing new layers...little surprises...so I started experimenting with miniature books whose pages folded out. Each chapter began with a historical background of each of Florence’s main piazzas, which was then followed by pages that unfolded to reveal different types of increasingly more ‘personal’ information: excerpts from the writings of past travelers, watercolored maps that could be personalized by readers, ‘Invitations’ to inspire creative expression and blank space to use however they wished. When I was ready to present the proposal for my ‘interactive travel guide’ (the original concept for the book that eventually became The Piazzas of Florence), the package included a mock-up chapter showing how the various elements worked together—which I constructed from the gorgeous Rives paper.
More on the Rives in a moment, but first a little background on the image at the top of this post (as well as the next two), showing my large sketchpad. The paper is not especially noteworthy, though it does have the right qualities for creating a 'place' I enjoy coming to each day: it's slightly creamy, lightly textured and has some weight. But, most importantly in this case, it is large...roughly the size of four sheets of A4/Letter-sized paper. I use it for my 'daily action', a ritual inspired by Carol Lloyd's Creating a Life Worth Living.
I have never felt that my life wasn't worth living (!), so I'm glad I didn't let the title of this book discourage me from buying it; there are a lot of helpful ideas for cultivating your creative process. One of these is the 'daily action'—fifteen minutes devoted to a particular activity each day. Carol suggests choosing an activity that "creates an empty space where your creativity can reassert itself. Let the action be solitary and process-oriented. You are giving yourself 15 minutes of emptiness within the blur of living. Some examples of daily actions are dancing alone in your living room, meditation, walking, writing in a journal, drawing without purpose, singing improvisational melodies, doing yoga, and gardening." She adds that, "Unlike some forms of meditation, the goal of the daily action is not an empty mind. Blank time is enough. Let your mind go where it wants to that day. In this empty place, allow yourself to brainstorm, make wild plans, imagine the impossible, worry about silly things. Let yourself stretch your dream muscle and express your inner-whiner. Space out, tune in, rev up, calm down. Let your mind do whatever it wants to do, while your body does the action."
For my daily action, I decided to seek out just the right large, horizontally-oriented sketchpad, and give myself time to sit with it each day. I often think best with pen & paper, so I use the time to jot whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I'll brainstorm about a specific project; other times I work out design details. Or I may end up with a series of questions. On these generous pages, I often indulge my love of planning. It's become a great way to begin my creative day, and I always look forward to seeing what ends up on the page...and where it might lead.
First of the cut sheets is the 175g Rives Heavyweight, the paper I mentioned using for my mock-up chapter of The Piazzas of Florence. I have never managed to find it locally, and had been living off of scraps from past projects until my parents brought me some lovely fresh sheets last year. Exquisite as book pages, it has also turned out to be perfect for the series of embossed piazza maps I've been working on (the second image shows a stack of hand-torn sheets awaiting embossing). The 'impressionable' quality may be ideal for embossing, but it's also very easy to make unwanted marks, so I tend to hold my breath a little when working with it! (This is one reason I still haven't finished all of the maps yet.) Luckily I have plenty of leftover strips for experimenting...
I came across Fabriano Artistico when I was trying to find a substitute for Rives. The Artistico is actually very different to the Rives—sturdier, thicker, less toothy—but I love that it's so forgiving in terms of the media it will accept and the amount of handling it can take. The 200g warm white that I use has just a hint of creaminess and makes a nice weight for multimedia journal pages, plus I love including the watermark (along just one edge) when possible, i.e. as the end page of an accordion journal. (The other deckled edge adds a lovely touch to folded cards.) I chose this for some of my found poems a few months ago, and have also begun designing purse-sized 'Fab Art' notebooks, which I hope to share one of these days.
Fabriano Disegno 5 is a recent discovery. I thought I was buying the white Fabriano Ingres I like to use for handmade envelopes, but its true identity was revealed when I noticed the watermark while photographing it. I did a little research and found that this acid-free half-cotton paper is very versatile, inviting the use of watercolors, acrylics, wax, ink, printmaking & more. I have yet to experiment, but am sure it will (at the very least) make beautiful envelopes.
This is a 160g creamy Fabriano with a nice laid texture, and often appears as the pages of those beautiful marbled-paper & leather bound journals that are for sale in local stationery boutiques. I have used it for some of the components of an artist's book, as well as for personal journals and the mini accordion books offered in my shop.
Even this fairly basic 192g Epson Enhanced Matte inspires me. I've started using it for my calendars because it reproduces photos well and is sturdy but not prohibitively expensive for something that requires thirteen pages. And, when these leftover strips caught my attention one day, they ended up giving me a direction for my alphabet for A Letter a Week 2013, in which I am creating sleeves for little boxes containing the word 'peace' written in different languages. I know it will do justice to the color combinations I'm hoping to use for the various letters, and the slight stiffness provides just enough structure (as long as it's not left in the sun, which causes the curling seen in the photo below).
And this next one is a roll of 265g HP Hahnemühle Smooth Fine Art, which is my favorite photo paper; I came across it when I used an HP printer for my prints, and still haven't found an Epson paper that I like as much. It's smooth but still has a light texture, is bright enough for luminous photo reproductions but has a hint of warmth, and is just the right thickness for book pages that feel good to the hand. To me, the texture is 'velvety'...more what I had imagined finding in Epson's Velvet Fine Art Paper, which actually reminds me instead of watercolor paper. Even on the roll I find the Hahnemühle to be beautiful, and I love the effect of the loosened 'curves'. The different angles I shot it from gave the last few views a warmer cast, while the first ones make it appear a little starker than it is. In any case, these photos are more about the appealing curves.
All of this talk of paper has made me want to get over to the studio table and do some folding, cutting & making. In the meanwhile, I'd love to hear about your favorite papers if you're so inclined...