Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Helen Hiebert: A Weaving a Day

While the start of the new year often inspires us to renew commitments in different areas of our lives, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the turn of a calendar page is arbitrary. Really, it’s never too late to start. Paper artist and author Helen Hiebert began her own creative challenge at the end of 2013, and she shares with us what sparked the idea, the questions she set out to answer, and what it took to sustain her creative energies through the life of her one hundred-day project. 

During the last 100 days of 2013, I challenged myself to create a paper weaving a day. I launched my 100 x 100 Paper Weavings Project on September 23, 2013, and completed it on New Year’s Eve. This was my first weaving:

100 X 100 Paper Weavings #1, 10" x 8", a New Yorker magazine cover & a Hark! Handmade Paper

The seed for the project was planted when the Morgan Conservatory of Art sent me two sheets of handmade paper, which I wove into this piece for their annual auction.

Process shots of a weaving for the Morgan Conservatory of Art
I learned how to weave paper in elementary school, and I’d experimented with it when writing Paper Illuminated (you can get some amazing results when you combine woven paper and light). Making the auction piece got me thinking about how many ways I could weave two sheets together and how many papers there are on the market.

My motivation behind the project was multi-fold:

  • To get myself into the rhythm of creating every day
  • To explore the range of papers that are out there and connect with the makers of both handmade and commercial decorative papers
  • To focus on one technique
  • To create a body of work

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to get sucked into computer time and my daily obligations and sometimes find it difficult to get to my studio. This project gave me a deadline, each and every day, for 100 days in a row (weekends included). In other words, I had to commit, even though I had three trips planned during the 100 days. Thankfully the weavings are small (the average size is 10” x 8”) so I ended up taking papers on my trips and weaving while traveling!

The commitment to this project required also forced me to think about how much time I wanted to spend on each weaving (I ended up spending an average of one hour) and about my self-editing process (in 100 days, I only rejected a couple of weavings and started over).

Focusing on one technique for 100 days gave me time to let my mind wander around in the process: What papers should I weave?  About a year ago, when I was writing my book Playing with Paper, I cut swatches of all the papers in my flat files, as well as a few donations from other paper lovers, and created The Ultimate Paper Swatch Book.

The Ultimate Paper Swatch Book

For the 100 x100 project, I decided to supplement the selection of papers in my flat files by asking papermakers and paper companies to sponsor the project. Through their generous donations (you’ll find a list of donors here) I received many more papers than I could use, but when a donor’s paper was incorporated into a weaving, I mentioned them on my twice-weekly blog to highlight their work and their contribution.

In addition to decorative papers, I used handmade papers, hand marbled papers, an old letter from my father, a magazine cover, office paper, and more.

A letter from my father woven with a decorative leaf paper

What is a weaving anyway? Wikipedia defines weaving as a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. I broke the rules in many ways.

Handmade clay paper by Christine Higgins woven with Steve Pittelkow’s hand marbled paper

Breaking the rules is a big part of my artistic practice, and this is exactly what fuels my work. Now I have a body of work (minus the 20 pieces I sold along the journey).

You can see all 100 x 100 Paper Weavings together on
And if you happen to be in the Vail area later this year, you can see them in person: the 100 x 100 Paper Weavings will be on exhibit at the Alpine Arts Center in Edwards, Colorado in the spring.

Helen Hiebert is the author of Paper IlluminatedThe Papermaker’s CompanionPapermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds, Playing with Paper, and the forthcoming Playing with Pop-ups. She owns Helen Hiebert Studio, a papermaking studio near Vail, Colorado. She teaches numerous workshops around the world, has appeared on Sesame Street, and is currently making 100 paper weavings in 100 days. You can follow Helen on her blog and on Facebook.

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