As a recipient of the Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant for 2020-2021, part of the grant process is working with an artist mentor. My mentor is Ry McCoullough, an assistant professor of art & design at University of Tampa, as well as practicing as an experimental artist influenced by printmaking, creative writing, drawing, sound, and sculpture.
Our first meeting was a great introduction, which inspired me to start thinking about my art a bit differently. Our subsequent meeting was even more inspirational, as Ry took me on a tour of the world of art books and how unique and diverse they could be. Forget about coffee table albums of art. The art books Ry shared with me were pieces of art themselves! This meeting was the catalyst in my new project - creating my first art book.
Once I embarked on the journey of creating an art book, my mind went directly to the foundation of the book. The paper. I have tons of paper in many forms. Fine art watercolor paper, tracing paper, children’s construction paper, rolls of brown paper, a roll of paper from Ikea. But as I looked around my studio, I realized that the paper that I want to define my practice will be recycled with the least amount of energy possible: by me. So, I set out on the journey of making my own paper.
One of the great things about mixed media is that you are reusing magazines, newspaper, books, and journals that may otherwise be discarded. However, it’s impossible to use ALL the pages of this media. I always end up with some paper to ship off to the recycling plant. Recycling is a good thing, but it’s not the best, cleanest, most sustainable solution. Recycling paper myself, however, is. Aside from reusing it, recycling this paper myself is my best, most Earth-friendly solution. So I went to Youtube.
In theory, it’s quite simple, although in practice it’s a bit more difficult. I hand shredded a bunch of magazine clippings and pages, and drowned them in a bowl of water overnight. I added this mixture to a blender and made a paper smoothie. Next I was supposed to spread on a screen and dry it out. This part of the process became a bit more tedious. I was having trouble getting the right amount of water in the pulp to allow it to spread thin without creating holes in the paper. After working at it a bit I found the right consistency. So far, I’ve made several large sheets of paper and some very unique pieces out of my magazine clippings. I love the final product. They are rather stiff, textured grey pages with some tears, uneven edges, and holes. I call these pages ugly paper.
My next step is to start experimenting more with different colors, different textures, flecks of different materials and colors, and other ways to create new and cool looking paper. One thing I realized is that I can create quite a bit of my own recycled paper with the excess clippings I have from my mixed media projects. I will never be without paper again!