Life in Paper

Life in Paper

My studio space!

After many reader emails and a few insistent phone calls I’ve decided to cave to popular demand and share my amazingly exciting and adventurous daily routine. This semester I’ve starting treating my studio hours and weekly routine at school like my full time job. It takes a bit of a shift in thinking and a seriousness that has proven incredibly productive for me so far. It’s still hard to get out of bed every morning but I find it’s much easier to get to sleep at night.

6:15 AM The first of my 3 alarms goes off. Wake up.

7:00 AM Morning Commute: It takes me about 45–55 minutes to get from my house to school. I’m still figuring out the rush hour flow but I’ve found if I get on the train close to 7am I can still find a seat. One sweet bonus of student life is the CTA U-Pass program allows full time students unlimited rides on CTA buses and trains when classes are in session. There is a U-Pass fee that’s included with student fees, but compared to the cost of fares it’s an amazing deal.

8:00 AM Studio Time: Mornings are a really productive time for me so I try and take advantage of the usually quiet studios and arrive early. There is always a project to work on or think about, I usually start most mornings by writing, sketching, or collaging while listening to music. Even if I only have a couple hours to work before class, just being in the studio environment feels productive.

The amazing paper studio…and look at those windows!

10:00 AM Paper Class: This semester I’m taking a paper making course, it’s an unusual class because it’s 8 hours(!) long and only meets for 5 weeks. It makes for an intensely long day but it’s been an amazing way to learn a new process with plenty of time to experiment with what I’ve just learned. One really fascinating aspect of this class the way our professor, Melissa Potter, has incorporated artist talks from program alumni. Each of the alumni artists that have talked to our class include handmade paper making in their practice. I’ve been struck not only by the amazing quality of their work but also the diverse practices they have each utilized to create a unique career path.

Here are a few of the visiting artist alumni that have given talks so far:

Krista Franklin
Don Widmer
Steve Manicone
Amy Leners
Mary Clare Butler

11:50 AM Lunch: I pack my lunch everyday, mostly because I’m cheap. It’s just easy to heat something up quickly and then spend a bit more time in my studio. But have no fear for those of you that want nothing to do with PB&Js, there are two grocery stores and many restaurants within walking distance of the studios.

Left, Beating fibers that will become pulp. Right, Mixing pigment to make the pulp pop!

12:20 PM Paper Studio: Class is held in the most impressive paper studio I’ve ever seen. We learn the paper making process from plant fiber to drying. We learn the basics of how to beat fibers, pigment pulp, along with how to pull, press, and dry sheets. We also learn more complex techniques like pulp painting, watermarking, and how to use paper making sculpturally. I took a paper making class in undergrad and the facility was literally the size of two closets with no windows. The size of Columbia’s paper studio and the equipment available to students is really remarkable. One of the most amazing aspects of the paper studio is the huge windows that allow in sunlight as we work in our rubber boots and aprons. The paper making process requires setup and a lot of clean up so it’s helpful to have a group willing to pitch in and work together in the studio. Our class consists of six students from four different grad programs. Prepping material and setting up the studio together allows all of us to have time to experiment and test what we’ve learned. I find the flow of an active studio inspiring as people experiment and find their voice.

Almost a sheet of paper!

The beauty of process and the right tools!

6:00 PM Groceries: Trader Joe’s is less than one block from the studios I usually stop by and pick up food on my way to the train. After an productive yet exhausting day it’s nice to just stop in someplace quick to grab a few ingredients for dinner.

6:30 PM Home time: I try and grab a window seat and watch the city fly by while listening to an audio book.

7:30 PM Dinner + Relax + Homework: I try and get all my work done at school, but there’s lots of reading and writing that I end up taking home.

10:30 PM SLEEP!