After graduating college, I pulled together a poetry tour of the East Coast with three friends. We couch-surfed and split small sums from homemade book sales and venue entry fees. Our biggest check—$2,000—came from working with a small city’s public library. That money made it possible for us to break even after a month on the road, but only just. It was a start, we thought.
Years later, one friend is in graduate school for archival science; another is in school to become a Unitarian Universalist minister; and the third works at cash-for-gold stand in the mall. I schedule appointments at the office of a moving company.
None of us have been able to rely on writing as a sole source of income. None of us have jobs in the arts that pay our rent. There was a time when this would have surprised me.
In 2012, Jenn Woodward and Gary A. Hanson started a papermaking studio. Based out of Portland, Ore., Pulp and Deckle manufactures paper and gives workshops and classes about the process. Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with Jenn about her studio.
In a paperless world, you’re making paper. What was the impetus to start such a business? A lot if it came from living here in Portland. There’s a vibrant small business culture, and there’s such an emphasis on “green.” The types of papermaking we’re doing (recycled paper, plant-based paper) is a slow, sustainable art form.
For me, a major part of the appeal is having a connection to how something is made. It transforms your understanding of it. When you go to the farmers market, or go to a woodworker’s furniture store, you’re voting with your dollars to say you want to connect with your food or your furnishings on a deeper level. You want to know who planted it, who carved it, etc. That’s what we’re all about.
I think papermaking is kind of magical. It’s one of those art forms that not many know about. I like showing people that something they take for granted in their everyday environment can be special and imbibed with meaning, beauty and purpose.
How’d you get into papermaking in the first place? I first learned about papermaking while getting my MFA at the Museum School in Boston. I was doing a lot of drawing and mixed media work and got interested in making my own surfaces to work on. I got really into making onionskin papyrus…
New York’s baby techy billionaires aren’t buying art even though they have money to buy art, and the Art People are not happy about that. (“I would expect these people to have more of a fondness for and interest in collecting art, because it’s New York … That’s why you live here. If you didn’t want to be exposed to the arts, go live in the Valley.”)