Artist gains insight in handmade paper in unique WIST course
Hands-on papermaking education at WIST took a new turn recently when hands-on became handmade. After fielding an inquiry from Ann Meyer, an artist in West Bend, Wisconsin, the institute created a one-day course in handmade paper and provided it exclusively to Meyer and her family.
Meyer has been admitted to an artist-in-residence program at a cattle station in central Australia, and that spurred new interest in papermaking. The station, Curtin Springs, makes paper from local, native plants and offers workshops and residencies for artists in papermaking artwork. Meyer will be there in July and August.
“I’m more interested in paper that I can do my ink drawings on, but the fact that the paper [at the cattle station] is made from natural grasses that are grown there is a very interesting component of the artwork itself,” Meyer said.
Meyer found WIST’s hands-on courses with an online search, but realized those classes were geared toward commercial papermaking. She contacted WIST to discuss possibilities for instruction on papermaking on a much smaller scale.
“I knew that when I got to Australia I was going to be involved in paper making, but I wanted to make sure that I was making something that was archival quality, so I was looking for true papermaking experts as opposed to simply a craft-type of class,” Meyer said.
Meyer said she was “amazed” that WIST decided to create the unique class for one student. “And it’s been phenomenal,” she added. “I not only learned about the chemistry, which for me was such an important part of this, but we’ve gone down and done a hands-on lab. It’s one thing to kind of learn the theory but it’s another thing to actually go through the process in a small-group setting.”
Meyer’s husband, Steve, and their daughter, Stevie, decided to attend the class, too. Stevie, 17, is interested in art restoration and was curious to learn about the chemistry of papermaking. And Steve was interested in seeing the equipment needed for the process.
Gerry Ring, instructor for WIST’s series of commercial papermaking courses, said he was happy to create the one-day curriculum as a pilot project. He said he’s had a long interest in papermaking history, going all
the way back to graduate school and tours of the Dard Hunter Paper Museum, which used to be in Appleton, Wisconsin.
“And then when I was teaching freshmen, a long time ago, I always had a section about the history of papermaking,” Ring said. “I always felt that having an understanding of handmade papermaking gave you a good background in what the paper machine had to do.”
Now that he’s run the class once, Ring believes there will be value in offering the handmade paper class again. “It’s going to be interesting to see this course expand,” Ring said. “I think everybody I’ve spoken to anticipates that this will be an in-demand course.
Meyer said she hopes to take her knowledge from the WIST course and her upcoming experience in Australia and create paper from native Wisconsin materials on which to do her artwork. That’s where Steve Meyer and his craftsman skills come in.
“He can cobble together more equipment than anybody I know,” Meyer said. “We’re going to be setting up our own papermaking equipment at home as best we can. We’ve got some really basic information, important information that will help us get that kind of a thing started.”
In top photo, Lindsey Hoffman, WIST laboratory and papermaking project
specialist, shreds cattail fibers for a small pulp cook as students in the handmade
paper class observe. From left, Steve Meyer, Ann Meyer, Stevie Meyer and Hoffman.
In bottom photo, WIST staff teamed up to offer instruction in handmade paper for the
Meyer family. From left: Steve Meyer, Ann Meyer, Farrah Scears, a senior in paper
science and chemical engineering at UW-Stevens Point and WIST student employee,
Stevie Meyer, Gerry Ring, Lindsey Hoffma, Brian Bandow, WIST paper machine and
laboratory specialist, and Joe Kinscher, a senior in paper science and chemical
engineering at UW-Stevens Point and WIST student employee