Books On Books Collection – Helen Hiebert

Alpha Beta … (2010)

Alpha Beta (2010)
Helen Hiebert
Lantern-structure book in open-sided box. Closed, H158.75 x W114.3 mm; opens out to 2971.8 mm. Box size: H171.45 x W114.3 x D133.35 mm.Edition of 25, of which this is #22. Acquired from the artist, 17 February 2021.

Each panel displays an alphabet letter cutout casting a shadow against a second layer of handmade paper. Appropriately, the letters follow in the Arts and Crafts style font designed by Dard Hunter, “the father of hand papermaking in 20th century America”, renowned scholar and author of Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft.

The book’s flexible hinges between the panels allow it to be set up in a variety of ways. As can be seen above and below, the right-reading alphabet appears on the less colorful side of the structure. When viewed from the more colorful side, the letters show in reverse, which is, of course, more evident with C-B-A than Y-X-W. The swirling strokes that shadow the right-reading letters reveal themselves on the more colorful side as asemic characters watermarked into the handmade paper. A fusion of paper, letters, form and meaning.

On the reverse side: C-B-A and Y-X-W.

The Secret Life of Paper: 25 Years of Works in Paper (2016)

The Secret Life of Paper: 25 Years of Works in Paper (2016)
Helen Hiebert
Artist-made paper covers sewn over two signatures with an original string drawing in the center. H282 x W218 mm, 22 pages. Acquired from the artist, 4 April 2016.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Catalogues like this are works of art about works of art. It came about as a result of an exhibition held at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center and the Waldo Emerson Library at Western Michigan University. The catalogue contains an illustrated chronology of the artist’s art and career up to 2015-16. Not only does it contain that work of string art in its center, its cover is hand bound and features a pulp stenciled handmade paper.

Curated Paper Collection #1 (2021)

Hiebert has begun a series of curated collection of papers from around the world. The first collection contains eleven papers. The largest sheet comes from Laureli Spokes: a handmade recycled rag paper from India (100 gsm), 357 x 502 mm. It features an exclusive retro two color silkscreened design that features a retro two-color silkscreened design. The smallest sheets are ten 200 x 200 mm squares of Kite Paper at 42 gsm in brilliant colors. Similar to waxed paper, it is translucent and folds well.

In material and process, the two most interesting papers are Tangram Watermark (100 gsm with thinner watermarked areas, 310 x 460 mm) and Portugese Cork Paper (140 gsm, 255 x 255 mm). Handmade with 100% bleached flax fiber and deckle-edged on all four sides, the Tangram Watermark comes from the Helen Hiebert Studio. The first image below shows the deep impression left by the watermark design cut out of a thin vinyl material and adhered to the papermaking mould. The second image, created with the sheet held up to the light, shows more clearly the tangram design left as a sheet is pulled. The cork tree sourced is highly renewable and organically grown. Handmade in Portugal from the tree’s outer bark, the naturally water-resistant sheet consists of thin layers of cork laminated to a coated base paper. The cork is acid free, but the backing paper, shown in the last image, is not.

The next two curated papers show similarities and differences arising in the Japanese and Korean traditions. The Nanohana Washi (48 gsm, 315 x 470 mm) is a “nature paper” from Awagami Factory in Tokushima, Japan. The images show the changes under different light and from views of different sides. Traditionally, Japanese washi (like Korean hanji) is made from mulberry plant fibers. Here, Awagami has used the nanohana plant (related to broccoli). It grows along the local Yoshino river, and Awagami collects the florets each Spring to mix into these sheets of washi, resulting in the green and yellow flecks. The lightweight hanji (15-19 gsm, 325 x 490 mm) is made from 100% dak (mulberry) fiber, grown and harvested in Korea by Seongwoo Jang, a fourth generation papermaker at Jangjibang, a hanji mill in Gapyeong, Korea. Hiebert notes, “The sheet was formed using the traditional Korean technique called webal or heulim ddeugi, where the slurry flows onto and off the frame in multiple directions, resulting in a strong sheet without a prominent grain direction”. The images in the middle row aim to show this with the sheet laid atop dark art paper in full sunlight and draped over the hand. The detail of the corner in the last row shows the two-ply of the sheet, where — in another interesting difference between the washi and hanji –two thin layers were couched together to form a single strong hanji sheet.

The next two papers are paired for uses and decorativeness. The silk-screened, matte-finish Italian Carta Varese Origami Paper (100 gsm, 350 x 500 mm) is heavier than traditional origami paper, it has a smooth surface and creases well with crisp folds. Smooth-surfaced and creasing well for turned in corners, this sheet with its red scroll pattern would serve well for endpapers. Debra Glanz designed the next set of papers — Paper Assembly (28#-32# text weight, 305 x 305 mm) — with that use, among others, in mind for book and paper artists.

The next two papers demonstrate the curator’s attraction to painterly surfaces. Silkscreen printed by hand with a lacquer-like ink, the Red and Blue Dragonfly Pattern Japanese Lacquered Yuzen Paper (140 gsm, 330 x 485 m) has the depth, texture and glow Japanese lacquer ware, which the first three images attempt to convey. The painting base consists of kozo and wood sulfite. The sheet of paste paper (230 x 305 mm) in the last image comes from the late Louise Lawrence (Larry Lou) Foster. It has an op-art feel to it. More of her unique papers painted with pigmented paste can be found in the limited-edition book The Paste Papers of Louise Lawrence Foster and in the Metropolitan Museum’s Thomas J. Watson Paper Legacy Project.

A blend of abaca fibers and cotton rag, Bistre Mixed Media (150 gsm, 280 x 360 mm) from Kelsey Pike’s Sustainable Papercraft in Kansas City, Kansas, is at once hard, resilient, durable, bulky, thick and soft. The images below attempt to show the sheet’s homogeneous surface and smooth, fine grain texture, intended as the name suggests for all fine art media – pencils, charcoal, conte, pastel, acrylic, watercolor, ink, gouache, etc.

For the Books On Books Collection, Curated Collection #1 presents a challenge for display and storage alongside Fred Siegenthaler’s Strange Papers and the Gentenaar-Torley’s first seven books of the Rijswijk Paper Biennial. Helen Hiebert’s contribution to book and paper art warrants that place.

Curated Paper Collection #2 (2021)

Hiebert’s second round of curation comes with a helpful printed cheat sheet (although it was challenging fun to identify the samples in #1 without the initial help). With inclusion of a video link for creating a “butterfly” book, the cheat sheet also recalls Hiebert’s bustling business in lectures and workshops as well as tempts a collector to raid the collection with a ham-handed attempt.

The first paper in the curation comes from the Fujimori family business. According to its website, 6th generation Minoru Fujimori took over in 1945. In 1970, he was designated an “Intangible Cultural Property of Tokushima” in recognition of his skills. In 1976, Awagami washi was designated as a “Traditional Craft Industry”. In 1986, Fujimori-san was further honored as Master Craftsman and awarded the “Sixth Class Order of Merit, Sacred Treasure” by the Emperor.

Naturally the flecks of onion skin show up differently on the two sides of the sample, and the density almost completely disguises the lines of the mesh. The way the color varies in the light at different angles accentuates the supple drape of the paper.

Awagami Onion Skin Paper, 48 gsm

Like Minoru Fujimori above, Iris Nevins is a cultural treasure. Specializing in the reproduction of early marbled papers, she has delved into its past prior to the advent of marbling machines during the Victorian era and creates her “own marbling colors using, where possible, the same pigments used during the period”. On what shelves and in what crusty containers do such pigments reside?

As of August 2021, her work is still being accessioned by the Paper Legacy Project, a permanent collection house in the Metropolitain Museum Of Art, in The Thomas J. Watson Library.

Iris Nevins Marbled Paper

Madeleine Durham’s paste paper is also part of the Watson Library Digital Collection. In her artist’s statement, she refers to samples “representative of my landscape artwork”. With the sample that follows, dunescapes and seascapes come to mind.

Madeleine Durham Paste Paper, 129 gsm

This green banana paper comes from a company of the same name based in Kosrae, Micronesia. Among its products is the Green Banana Paper Wallet. The pictures cannot do justice to the toughness and almost slick feel of this paper. A raincoat or wallet made from it would keep a person and valuables dry and safe.

Green Banana Paper, 180 gsm

Dó paper is a traditional Vietnamese hand-made paper dating back to the 3rd century BC. Made from the self-stripping bark of the Rhamnoneuron balansae tree, Dó paper appears to be headed toward the state of papyrus. Urbanization leading to scarcity of the tree, the narrow seasonality of the bark’s availability (between August and October) and incursion of industrial paper production pose sharp challenges to its survival. The sample below may become a rarity.

Vietnamese Dó Paper, 15 gsm

This piece of translucent unbleached abaca is best appreciated alongside Hiebert’s video “Making a sheet of abaca” (15 August 2020).

Translucent Unbleached Abaca, 75 gsm

Like Shibori, this paper below is thin or tissue washi that has been folded and dyed. The dark, irregular lines where the dye has accumulated in the folds create a sharp contrast with the translucence of the laid lines and chain lines imprinted by the mesh in the papermaking frame.

Itajameshi, 35 gsm

Manohir Upreti discusses lokta paper, “the King of Nepalese paper”, in the Geest van papier = Spirit of paper (2004), one of the Rijswijk Biennial volumes put together by Peter and Pat Gentenaar-Torley. Upreti’s sample and this one below from Hiebert’s curation demonstrate the dramatic patterns possible with this paper.

Nepalese Lokta Paper, 60 gsm

Tony Carlone‘s cattail paper reflects his artistic aim to source material “in a proper and sustainable manner”. His output includes sculptural pieces formed by spraying, pouring and casting processes, large-scale pulp paintings, and straightforward flat sheets for print processes. The cattail paper appears heavy but is actually light and supple.

Cattail Paper, medium weight

Nicholas Cladis is an American-born interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. An active researcher and practitioner of traditional and non-traditional papermaking processes, he makes the paper elements of his work in Echizen—an area with over 1,500 years of papermaking history—and is also an international liaison for the papermaking community there. The contrast of the Coral paper’s two sides invites standing a window and turning the sheet over and over against the light.

Coral Paper, 45 gsm

Patty paper, as in waxed paper for food patties, makes its way into Curated Paper Collection #2 for its properties of translucence, proportions suited to origami and challenge as a printing surface. While a butterfly book might make result in an interesting use of this paper, a White Ermine Moth book would respond to all three features.

Patty Paper, lightweight

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“, Books On Books Collection, 31 March 2020.

The First Seven Books of the Rijswijk Paper Biennial“, Books On Books Collection. 10 October 2019.

Fred Siegenthaler“, Books On Books Collection. 10 January 2021.

Baker, Cathleen, and Frank Brannon. 2009. The Paste Papers of Louise Lawrence Foster. Whittier, North Carolina: SpeakEasy Press.

Hunter, Dard. 1978. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, 2nd ed. New York: Dover. Republication of the second, revised and enlarged 1947 edition.

Hiebert, Helen. 2012. The papermaker’s companion: the ultimate guide to making and using handmade paper. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Kurlansky, Mark. 2017. Paper: paging through history. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Müller, Lothar. 2016. White magic: the age of paper. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Ta, Ren. 8 April 2019. “Dó paper”. Green Course-Hub. Accessed 10 July 2021.

Books On Books Collection – Gerard Unger

A Counter-proposal (1967)

Een tegenvoorstel/A counter-proposal/Une contreproposition/Ein gegenvorschlag (1967)
Gerard Unger
Pamphlet. 250 x 250 mm, 4 pages. Acquired from Antiquariaat Frans Melk, 27 April 2021.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

A few months after Pieter Brattinga issued Wim Crouwel‘s New Alphabet (below left), he followed up with this single-fold riposte from Gerard Unger, invited in fact by Crouwel.

Left: Crouwel. Right: Unger.

Unger urges designing or teaching machines to accommodate “human-readable” letterforms rather than inventing new fonts for machines. Given advances in digital type and artificial intelligence, Unger’s point may have been prescient, but there is still something to be said for the artistic stimulus of machine constraints.

Brattinga extended the dialogue later to include Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans in 1970. If, as it did, the Epps/Evans alphabet led to LINE UP by Raffaella della Olga and Three Star Press, what other works of art have benefited from similar alphabetic and typographical dialogues?

Alphabet (1970), Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans; LINE UP (2020) Raffaella della Olga

Jeffrey Morin and Steven Ferlauto‘s Sacred Space (2003) has its roots in Ferlauto’s historical research into Roman capitals. Jennifer Farrell‘s The Well-Travelled Ampersand (2019) has its roots in the letterform and design thinking of Adrian Frutiger, Frederic Goudy, Dard Hunter, Edward Johnston and Russell Maret, among several others. Inclusion of source material like that by Crouwel, Epps and Evans, and Unger in the Collection offers paths to increased appreciation of those works of art inspired by them. Something for the future history of book art.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“, Books On Books Collection, 31 March 2020.

Wim Crouwel“, Books On Books Collection, 12 May 2021.

Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans“, Books On Books Collection, 26 April 2021.

Russell Maret“, Books On Books Collection, 20 September 2019.

Jeffrey Morin and Steven Ferlauto“, Books On Books Collection, 23 April 2021.

Raffaella della Olga“, Books On Books Collection, 8 December 2020.

The Last Word on the Ampersand“, Books On Books Collection, 27 June 2020. See for Jennifer Farrell.

Olocco, Riccardo. “The inner consistency of Gerard Unger“, CAST: The science of type, its history and culture, 18 May 2017. Accessed 10 May 2021.

Perondi, Luciano. “‘The digital wave’ by Robin Kinross“, CAST: The science of type, its history and culture, 17 March 2020. Accessed 10 May 2021.

Books On Books Collection – Taller Leñateros

Incantations (2005)

Incantations (2005)
Mayan Women
Fathermothers of the Book: Ámbar Past with Xun Okotz and Xpetra Ernándes
Casebound, glued. H250 x W250 x D50 mm, 194 pages. Acquired from Taller Leñateros, Chiapas, Mexico, 23 July 2020.

Acquisition of this anthology of magical songs and ritual paintings of Tsotsil women from the Highlands of Chiapas came primarily from an interest in its “paper”. The artists and craftworkers at Taller Leñateros keep alive the tradition of amate (or huun in Mayan) making. It is a substrate formed of macerated bark fiber pounded until the required thinness is reached. If the term “paper” applies only to material made from fiber macerated until each individual filament is a separate unit, then mixed with water, sieved with a screen and drained to generate a thin layer of intertwined fiber (Dard Hunter, p. 5), amate is not paper. Only the endpapers of the book appear to be made of amate. The text block is a combination of recycled office paper and off-white art paper.

Also of sculptural interest was the book cover, a paper mask in high and low relief cast from recycled cardboard, corn silk, and coffee. Arriving tightly enclosed in a brown cardboard clamshell box, painted and stenciled in black, lined with the same black endpapers used in the book, it made a startling entrance, enhanced by the firm prying to free it.

Even once free, Incantations resists the reader. So tightly glued and bound to its spine, the book block must be prised open. Small flakes of the paper mask cover fall. Repeated use would surely break it down. At first, disheartening, the resistance begins to play to the strength of the text and illustrations. Non-Mayan eyes and fingers seem to be intruding in an occult space.

La Jicara (1998)


La Jicara (1998)
Leñateros Workshop
Double-sided accordion journal made of sheets of brown kraft paper joined to create 56 double-sided pages, wrapped with a string threaded through a carved gourd. Acquired from Taller Leñateros, 23 July 2020.

In contrast to the Incantations‘ European codex, La Jicara presents the pre-Hispanic accordion-fold codex. Including envelopes with enclosures, tipped-in artwork, foldout pages, inserted books and cards, a full-size news sheet and inserted postcards — almost all socially and politically charged — the journal invokes the brutal internecine and Hispanic destruction of first the Mayan and then the Aztec print legacies. The original story has been recounted, forgotten and recounted for centuries — one recent recounting embedded in The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library (2019) and its forgetting reflected in the absence of any chapter recounting it in Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Great Book Collections since Antiquity (2004).

Dancers #51 and Aztec Warrior #53

Dancers #51 and Aztec Warrior #53 (N.D.)
Cristobal Vazquez
Woodcut serigraphy. Acquired from Taller Leñateros, 23 July 2020.

Further Reading

The First Seven Books of the Rijswijk Paper Biennial“, Books On Books Collection, 10 October 2019. See René Teygeler’s essay in the fifth book The Spirit of Paper (2004).

Hunter, Dard. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (New York: Dover, 1978).

Matthew, Heather. “Hand Papermaking in Mexico: Amate Paper & Traditional Mayan Techniques“, Paperslurry, N.D.