Susanne Clawson

Handmade Paper

Africa II    Handmade paper, 48x29x2


My work is inspired directly by water, its properties, its nature, its movement, how it flows, how it falls. I consider reflections of light upon its surface and reflections made on other surfaces by water. Most importantly, I recognize and revere the absolute necessity of water for the existence of life on this planet, all life.

Water is central to making paper. Making handmade paper involves the use of water in every stage of its process, from growing the plants used to make paper, to cleaning, beating and forming the plant fibers into the paper pulp used to make a sheet of paper. To me, paper is 'dry water.'

Making paper is a constant reminder of environmental concerns for me. Water covers vast portions of our planet's surface in the oceans; water is recycled from the ocean and falls from the sky to provide crucial moisture to all living things, to create streams, rivers and lakes. The human body is about 65% water. Most importantly, water is absolutely necessary for the sustenance of life in all forms on Earth. Life is dependent on water for survival. Along with oxygen, water constitutes the very principle of life on this planet. Now that we have seen how Planet Earth looks from space, I say this is the 'water planet,' and we are 'water people.'

For me, handmade paper also makes an ecological statement about using renewable-resource plants, which can be re grown annually rather than trees for paper production. Trees take decades to grow, and forests are disappearing at an alarming rate.

The handmade paper works I create symbolize water and wave movement and reflections through the use of overlapping flow, depth and placement of the handmade paper as well as the use of metallic fibers to suggest water movement and shimmery reflections.

Papermaking is an ancient art, but we do not think of this in our daily contact with paper in all its forms. I am fascinated by paper as an art medium because paper is something which is all around us and part of our everyday world which we take for granted without thinking of its origins or history as an ancient art.