Making Paper in a Paperless World: An Interview With Pulp and Deckle

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…

The Value of ‘Free’ Work

While cutting footage, I can’t help but reflect on the many other free projects I’ve done over the years. These days, with all our plebian digital resources, anyone can be a graphic designer or media producer, making it easier to find people willing to do free work for a chance to break into an industry. There are Craigslist postings for social media interns; film shoots where cinematographers are promised a share of theoretical, extremely optimistic profits; businesses looking for college grads to design free websites for “experience.” But I ain’t giving away no secrets. This subject has been covered thoroughly at the ‘fold, and I suspect a large chunk of you readers know all about this.

The Rise and Fall of an Independent Video Store

My video rental store career began in 1999 when I briefly worked in a tiny outlet. It was an awkward experience because I soon discovered that I actually hand’t been hired. Things worked out later after I did get hired at a newly opened Hollywood Video chain, and when I finished college, I snapped up another job at a small town establishment in Western New York run by a wonderful young couple with a baby. I later moved to Portland, where I was hired at a local video store/gym chain called Videorama. Starting as one of the weeknight clerks, I eventually opened a new store and redesigned and managed another in Portland’s hoity-toity Pearl District.

I Was a Collegiate Lab Rat

Some of you may have walked past those bulletin boards covered in red and white notices in search of participants to ingest this, or attach themselves to that. Perhaps you’ve gone so far as to take one of the tear-off tabs home with you. It always comes down to one question: “Can it really be that bad?”

Medical research for academic studies has so many variations and degrees of invasiveness. All of it comes down to one thing: a way to make money that requires no previous skills, education, or experience.

I’ve found myself scanning those flyers and considering the possibilities. Sometime before the winter of 2012, I decided science could have its way with me. I found out that it wasn’t free money, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever been through, either. Presented now are my experiences and reflections. Hopefully, this can help guide you in the future, when you’re standing in front of those bulletin boards wondering, “What if I did this?”