At one time in our history paper was regarded as a rare and precious commodity that few could afford. In this age of industrialization machines do the hard work that was once done by hand to make paper pulp from fibrous materials such as trees, papyrus, and rice. Today, according to the E.P.A., Americans consume 25% of the world’s paper products, an astonishing 71 million tons each year. Statistics like this have inspired an age of eco-consciousness devoted to the re-purposing of household goods and recyclables into useful materials as well as works of art. Commonly referred to as “eco-craft” or “upcycling” one of the easiest materials to re-purpose is paper.
It has been ten years since I discovered that paper was more than just a sheet one could write or draw upon; it is an artistic medium with few limitations to the methods by which it can be manipulated. Paper can be cut, folded, scored, woven, molded, stamped, glued, painted, printed, quilted, sewn, and even made into yarn! For practical purposes, paper and cardboard can be made into parchment, boxes, books, cards, jewelry, sculpture, masks, kites, mosaics, rugs, curtains, lampshades, and furniture.
Throughout the years, I have experimented with a multitude of paper craft projects and techniques such as paper recycling, papier mâchè, decoupage, origami, montage, and book binding. By limiting myself to the paper that I have on hand, I have an entire pallet of color and patterns that I can choose from sitting in my recycle bin. I simply place the materials before me and pick the colors and texture combinations I would like to craft with.
Recently I completed a two month long paper art project as a wedding gift for my dear friends. Inspired by their love of the woods and the pointillist paintings of Vincent van Gogh and George Seurat I decided to create a forest scene within a 10 inch by 36 inch picture frame composed entirely from paper polka dots.
Armed with a single hole punch, glue, box board, magazines, and steely-eyed determination I began the slow and tedious work of hand punching thousands of paper dots and gluing each one onto my canvas. The result was labor of love, patience, and persistence. The reward was the completion of such an undertaking and their stunned expressions of wonder and amazement when I presented this gift to them.
With a little resourcefulness and some creativity I believe anyone can create an amazing work of art whether it is large or small. Now that summer is in full swing and the children are on school vacation, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the good weather to do some paper crafting outdoors by yourself or with your favorite young person.
For some inspiring and easy DIY projects that the whole family can enjoy, come and check out the large assortment of paper crafting books available at the Oliver Wolcott Library.
Paper Fantastic: 50 creative projects to fold, cut, paint and weave by Joe Rhatigan and Rain Newcomb
This bright and colorful book has fun projects for everyone. It is filled with detailed instructions on how to make flower bouquets, masks, jewelry, pet silhouettes, butterfly wings, birthday cards and more. The author even includes templates that you can photocopy to help get you started.
Paper as Art and Craft: The Complete Book of the History and Processes of the Paper Arts by Thelma R. Newman, Jay Hartley Newman, and Lee Scott Newman and Creative Paper Crafts in Color by Chester Jay Alkema. These two books are a blast from the past! They both feature a multitude of two and three dimensional paper projects and paper craft techniques including paper recycling, papier mâchè, paper weaving, and decoupage.
Real Life Journals: Designing and Using Handmade Books by Gwen Diehn, Artful Journals: Making and Embellishing Memory Books, Garden Diaries and Travel Albums by Janet Takahashi, and Expressive Handmade Books by Alisa Golden- From choosing the right materials, to utilizing the necessary tools, each book provides detailed step by step instructions on how to bind an assortment of artful books, journals, and ledgers. The hard part is deciding which project you would like to make!
Ultimate Card making: A collection of over 100 techniques and 50 inspirational projects by Sarah Beaman, Artful Cards: 60 fresh and fabulous designs by Katherine Duncan Aimone and Creative Greeting Cards by Sandi Genovese. These three books will teach you how craft your own exquisite greeting cards for every occasion. Each book is filled with creative ideas, colorful examples, and inspiring projects.
Absolute Beginner’s Origami: The Simple Three Stage Guide to Creating Expert Origami by Nick Robinson, Origami Art: 15 Exquisite Folded Paper Designs from the Origamido Studio by Michael G. LaFosse and Richard L. Alexander, and Advanced Origami: The Artist Guide to Performances in Paper by Michael G. LaFosse. These three books will teach you about the art of paper folding, the history of origami, and give you a plethora of projects to choose from depending on your skill level.
-Tricia has already started working on her next large artistic endeavor made from paper yarn.
Tricia Messenger is the Library Assistant and Publicity Coordinator for the Oliver Wolcott Library.