Plugged in and turned on. All paper. All the time.
In the fall of 2011 I was in a pretty rough place. My grandmother was in a car accident that put her in a month-long coma and eventually resulted in her death. I got the call that a friend had killed himself after a lifelong struggle with alcoholism. I was leaving my boyfriend of three years, which involved moving out on my own again. It was in this time of emotional upheaval that I first made a sheet of paper. I’m sharing this as evidence of the healing capabilities of hand papermaking.
When I interviewed Whitney Korstange she said something that really stood out to me. She said:
Few things are as transformative as paper.
I experienced this for myself that fall when I enrolled in a hand papermaking course at Syracuse University. Rhythmic and methodical, forming sheet after sheet was meditative and the idea that I was creating something from essentially nothing was cathartic.
One paper that was particularly therapeutic for me started with a walk on the shores of Lake Ontario. There had been a powerful storm the night before. As I walked I found dozens of monarch butterflies in the cobblestones, probably victims of the strong winds.
I collected them as I walked. Milkweed was growing nearby and I clipped a few seed pods and went to the studio. I learned that milkweed seeds are very resistant to water and it took a lot of blender pulsing to get them broken down. With the help of some homemade okra formation aid I got them dispersed in the water. Then I added the monarch wings, fragile and beautiful, one by one.
Grief is universal yet uniquely personal and I recognize that I cannot fully convey how papermaking worked its healing in my life. When that process was over I had reached an understanding for myself. Death and loss can seem cruel and senseless but memories stay and take on their own beauty. New beginnings are still possible.