Handmade Conversations — Playing with Paper

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013

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Do you enjoy paper as a crafting medium? Between folding, cutting, adhering and other ways of manipulating paper, there are so many ways to make impressive creations from its fibers. Helen Hiebert, author of the book "Playing with Paper," talked with us about her fascination with paper crafts.

Where is your favorite place to shop for unique paper crafting supplies?

I love to visit art supply and paper stores. I have to say that I look for stores that carry paper first: NY Central Art Supply and Kate's Paperie in NYC are two favorites. I also like to order supplies from Talas (a bookbinding supplier), and I can kill some serious time in a good hardware store. I often find cool tools that students bring with them to a class (oftentimes tools that are normally used with other mediums – I love to think about how different tools and materials might be used with paper).
What draws you to paper crafting as a medium?

My first experience with paper was in grade school when a friend showed me a sheet of paper he'd crumpled and uncrumpled repeatedly. I was struck by the new material that he'd created ... something soft and leathery. The paper had been transformed! In college I took a course called Paper when I was on a Junior Year Abroad program in Germany. We made furniture from cardboard, created sheets of handmade paper and transformed paper from two into three dimensions using pop-up techniques.

What do you love about working with paper?

I love the transformations that take place as paper is manipulated in various ways: paper can look incredible when illuminated (on lamps and as window treatments); it holds its own architecturally (in folding screens and room dividers); and the possibilities for creating with handmade paper as a medium are practically endless.

What are some basic paper crafting tools that a beginner should definitely have in their kit?

I guess I'd say an exacto knife, ruler, metal triangle and a bone folder are my basic tools ... nothing fancy! But my studio is full of other tools, such as paper punches, deckled scissors, awls, eyelets, etc.

Some people may think of paper crafting as just making cards or scrapbooking, but your projects go beyond that to incorporate home decor, lighting fixtures and advanced structural pieces. What are some of your favorite ways to use paper to decorate your living space?

I like to think that I take paper crafting techniques to the next level. I have an eye for design and a passion for the potential of paper as an art form. I do love illuminating paper, literally, so I'd have to say that recovering a lamp with a unique paper that looks terrific when the light is on or off is one of my favorite ways to decorate with paper. I was inspired by the Japanese shoji screens (room dividers) on a trip to Japan early in my career, and have used paper panels (wooden frames with paper covering them) to fill spaces ever since. I love the sliding partition in my Brooklyn apartment that I made of paper decorated with onion skins.

What's next for you, Helen?
I just completed the manuscript for my next book, "Playing With Pop-Ups," which will be published in April 2014. I'm excited to share a smattering of projects that were contributed by 15 pop-up artists from around the globe!
Helen Heibert is the author of "Playing with Paper: Illuminating, Engineering, and Reimagining Paper Art" from Quarry Books.
Paper crafters, scrapbookers, origami artists and card makers — we want to see what you’ve been making! Add your project to the CraftFoxes site and we’d love to feature your projects on the blog and social media. Come back next week for more paper-crafting ideas and inspiration!

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