Happenings: Peace Paper Project

Artists to bring transformative papermaking process to campus

Print of a young girl's face on handmade paper

Detail of a print on handmade paper by participants in the Peace Paper Project

By Billi London-Gray

As an artistic activity, papermaking dates back nearly 2,000 years to ancient China. The process of creating paper by hand — pulping fibers into a watery slurry, then straining the slurry with a screen to form the sheet of paper — has not changed much in the intervening millennia.

As part of the 2012-13 Common Experience theme, “A Global Odyssey: Exploring Our Connections to the Changing World,” Texas State University will help students and the community explore the art of papermaking by welcoming the Peace Paper Project to campus April 11-16.

man and woman smiling and wearing backpacks

Peace Paper Project artists and teachers Margaret Mahan and Drew Matott

Founded in 2011 by artists Margaret Mahan and Drew Matott, the Peace Paper Project operates worldwide in both private and public settings, promulgating the art of hand papermaking to build connections between participants and their communities. Facilitators use lectures, workshops and demonstrations on traditional hand papermaking — as well as bookbinding, printmaking and creative writing — to engage communities in art practices that bring people together, broadcast their stories and transform fibers into meaningful art pieces.

To make so-called “rag” paper, participants bring personally meaningful garments or cloth to slice up and pulp. Workshops and demonstrations cover each step of the papermaking process, from pulping to final product. Once the paper is dry, it becomes the foundation for expressive content: hand-drawn images, text, photographs or prints that tell individual stories.

Woman and man sit at table with papermaking supplies

Participants work on different stages of papermaking at a recent Peace Paper Project workshop.

“There is something about making paper that just feels good to the maker,” Mahan says. “The process is very empowering, as it offers you the opportunity to transform cloth into pulp — this messy slurry — and to pull from this pulp a sheet of paper. The process builds on simple steps, allowing one to feel accomplished and creative.”

The Common Experience invites members of the Texas State and San Marcos communities to attend this year’s Peace Paper Project activities from April 11-16. Attendees do not need any prior artistic experience participate. Public activities will include:

  • Artist Talk on Thursday, April 11, at 5 p.m. in JCM 2121
  • Papermaking Workshop (come and go) on Friday, April 12, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the JCM outdoor fibers area
  • Art Unhitched Pulp Printing on Saturday, April 13, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Hitch (SW corner of Hopkins at CM Allen in San Marcos)
  • Papermaking on the Quad on Monday, April 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Papermaking on the Quad on Tuesday, April 16, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The Peace Paper Project’s visit will culminate in an exhibit of handmade paper, pulp paintings, pulp prints and broadsides (sheets of handmade paper with a printed message on the front). A public reception for the artists and the exhibit will be held Tuesday, April 16, from 3:30 – 5 p.m. in the Gallery of the Common Experience, located in Lampasas 407.

Students watching a demonstration of papermaking

The Peace Paper Project conducted papermaking workshops with students and members of the public during visits to campus in 2011 and 2012.

“Everyone should come to make paper because the process works for all of us on numerous beneficial levels,” Mahan explains, saying it offers a creative jump start for seasoned artists and everyday recyclers looking to learn something new. “For those who have made paper before, or who have even made paper with us before, this year we are teaching some new tricks with pulp painting and pulp printing that you won’t want to miss,” she adds. “We want everyone at Texas State to be buzzing with creativity.”

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