Yesterday we had our first go at making paper in our makeshift home studio. As many of you know last fall we moved from our home of 10 years in Portland, to a house in Oregon City. We had already been eyeing fixing up the space you see us working in as a home studio but never thought we'd need to be using it so soon.
A month ago we were busy with an open house, private workshops with teens and artists, prep for our spring workshop series, and plotting out production papermaking for a book project we are working on with c3:initiative. Everything seemed to be on track. Then things started to abruptly change.
For those that are just getting to know us, we are a husband and wife team who operate a community hand papermaking studio. We began in fall 2012. Over the years we've been in 3 different studios, taught hundreds of students, worked with numerous artists, offered demos and sales at festivals and offsite locations, and rent our equipment and space for fellow makers to access. We had hoped that the studio would one day be our full time focus. After the first few years we realized that this would not be sustainable for many reasons.
The past two years we have both had primary jobs outside of the studio that have brought us stability, personal growth and a steady income. This enabled us to focus on building the studio by doing things we wanted to do, rather than what we needed to do. Most of the time the studio is self sustaining, meaning that we bring in enough income to cover rent, materials, insurance, etc. We don't pay ourselves for the work we do at Pulp & Deckle.
As the world has abruptly shifted, so have our lives. Gary was just laid off from his primary job, meaning our income has been reduced by half. It's a familiar story right now. We're grateful Jenn can work from home in her role as a Project Manager for the non-profit arts org c3:initiative. Without this income, and soon, unemployment for Gary, we would really be scrambling.
Recently we realized that we were going to need to bring our studio home with us so we could continue making paper for the projects we have committed to. Oregon enacted a shelter in place order, and we are taking it very seriously.
In the slideshow above you can see Gary making a cotton rag/abaca blend using denim fabric scraps and unbleached abaca fibers. Jenn is making iris paper from materials harvested in our yard. These papers will be part of an edition of books that c3:initiative received grant funding to make, commemorating the last five years of the papermaking residency program that we collaborate on together. We're making 360 pieces of paper for the project. The rainy conditions, allergies, and cold weather are making this a somewhat slow process, but we'll get there!
Thank you to everyone who has signed up for workshops and has deferred their registration to future classes. We're hopeful we'll be back in our North Portland studio soon.
Until then, if you can support our work we'd be forever grateful! Here are the ways you can do that.
Our commitment to process, hand making, and sharing the craft of paper is as strong as ever. Thank you for helping us keep going! It's a crazy and unpredictable moment in global history. Be kind to yourself and to others. There's no way to know what tomorrow might bring, but for today we can do what we need to to help ourselves and each other.
We find ourselves staring down the end of the calendar year, taking stock of this moment in time at the studio. It's been a year of change, growth and gratitude. Here's a look back.
Overall these experiences have felt grounding, yet with every step forward we've felt some nervousness around the financial impact of our growth. We've chosen to see it as an investment in what we can provide. As we look to what next year might bring we hope to continue building a community around the art and craft of papermaking.
In January we're excited about the opening of the c3: Papermaking Residency exhibition that will feature the 4 artists we've worked with over this past summer. Be sure to visit c3's website for information about the exhibition and its associated programs. We'll also start reviewing applications for the next round of residency artists at the end of January, with the residencies occurring at our studio from May through August. We'll follow the same flow of workshop seasons in the spring and fall, and will fit in private workshops, membership rentals, demos in the community, and custom orders around the classes. In many ways we hope 2019 mirrors the ebb/flow of this year, creating a stable platform for our studio and for what we are able to offer.
As we move into our sixth year of operations please consider making a gift to help us keep on top of studio improvements and general overhead. We have fiscal sponsorship via Fractured Atlas and you can make a gift to us via their website. We have a wish list of items we're hoping to purchase with donated funds, and that list is on our support page. And of course we would be happy to take a direct donation of items from our wishlist, just send us an email to discuss.
Many thanks to everyone who has engaged with us this year!!! Your support and interest keeps the studio thriving.
L O N G L I V E P A P E R M A K I N G!
Over the past year or so we've seen snowballing change in Portland. The city is struggling with growing pains that have resulted in a housing crisis, the shuttering of iconic businesses, and the displacement of artists. Yesterday the IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center) announced the need to move as their rent was increased by 300%. They've launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their move (we saw the announcement right as it went up and were proud to be the first backers.) This is the most recent in a growing trend of art spaces that are no longer affordable for their tenants. While we recognize the need for new construction to help ease real estate costs, we also see the need for alternative spaces to be available for creative use, such as the 7 acre eco-industrial park, Green Anchors.
Doing a google search for "art spaces displacement artists Portland Oregon" it's easy to see that artists and art spaces are struggling. Here's a list of articles from the past several months;
And last year artist Carye Bye wrote a very personal account on why she could no longer stay in Portland that was published by Willamette Week.
Looking at this, you might think we're feeling pessimistic about Portland's future. While it would be foolish to not be concerned, we are choosing to be optimistic. We love Portland. We choose this city, warts and all. No place is perfect, but there is so much that is good about Portland that we don't want to give up on living here. Our hope is that the new growth will shine a light on problems so that we as citizens can try to do something about them. If Portland wants to have a diverse (racially, culturally, and economically) populous we need to find ways to shape the future beyond the pull of market forces.
How can we do this? One way is to support the artists, orgs and small businesses that draw people to want to be here. If you don't patronize them, they will go away. Even large institutions that might seem like they could withstand tough times are not immune, as we saw with the recent closing of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. One of the major reasons cited for the closure was that the museum had been operating on a deficit for several years. While it can't be said for certain that increased attendance and donations would have saved the museum from closing, it certainly would have made it less likely.
Another way is to help out when help is needed. If you can't give to a kickstarter or other fundraising effort, then share their message so it reaches people who can give. If you have more time than money consider volunteering. Go see art, dance and theater exhibitions, especially when it's free to do so. Many artists and orgs get RACC and other grants funding and high attendance reports will help ensure that the projects you want to see will get funded in the future.
It may seem like the problems are too big for any of us to make a difference. That's why we have to come together. Resource sharing is something we've had the benefit of over the past several years, during our time in the c3:initiative creative business incubator. This is not a new way for artists and small businesses to survive, but it is an increasingly important one considering Portland's increasing real estate costs. A recent example of resource sharing is the XOXO Outpost, a pay-what-you-can shared workspace founded by graphic designer Andy McMillan and Andy Baio, who helped found Kickstarter. The more we can come together and pool our resources, the more we can accomplish.
This brings me to our future in Portland. This fall our incubator term is ending. We've known that we would need to find a new space for the studio, and have been looking. And the conclusion was that in order for our business to grow and survive, we have to change our business model. So we are buying a food truck and turning it into a mobile paper studio. Rather than have all our money go towards paying rent on a physical space we are seeking out more partnerships with schools, businesses, artists, and creatives. The truck is small enough that we can park in most driveways, so we can pull up outside an artist's home and they could rent the studio from us for the day. Or we can drive out to a farm on Sauvie and teach a class using agricultural waste to make paper. Or we can set up in a parking lot outside a school and have a pop-up class.
While the mobile model is not a good solution for everyone, it is a good solution for us. And it's becoming a more popular solution for other creative businesses and orgs too. The Portland Opera just unveiled their "Opera a la Cart" truck, a mobile performance venue that you can check out around town this summer. One of the inspirations for our mobile studio came from another notoriously expensive place for real estate, New York City. The ArtBuilt Mobile Studios are using the mobile studio as a platform for publicly engaged art making (something we strongly support!)
We won't lie, we've had many a conversation circling around the idea of leaving Portland and setting up a studio on some acreage near the coast, or in the gorge. We've felt the squeeze of rising costs and increasing debt, like so many others. This is one of the primary reasons why we're crowdfunding for our mobile studio, rather than taking out a business loan. Adding to our student loans, mortgage and credit card debt, health care costs, etc. will make it even more difficult for our small business to survive. Beyond the practical financial concerns, we want to know that the community supports us and wants us to be here.
Since starting our business in the fall of 2012 we've taught hundreds of students and founded an artist residency program, in addition to creating custom orders and retail goods. We've had a lot of positive feedback, and now we need our supporters to take action and help us evolve. Together we can help keep the ART in PoRTlAnd.
Share and contribute to our kickstarter HERE. Thank you!!!
Over the past week both Gary and I have had colds so studio work came mostly to a halt. I'm feeling a bit better today so thought I'd take advantage of my convalescing time to catch up on the trajectory of leaving my day job back at the end of June and how things have gone thus far.
I'm not going to lie, it's been a bumpy ride. Orders and students have come in fits and starts. While the overall pace of things has definitely picked up over the last several months, the money side of things is still very uneven. I knew that being self employed would come with no financial guarantee, so had prepared myself as much as possible. I do my best not to let a sense of desperation take hold if things are looking tight, but to try and problem solve about how to make the money come in a natural and unforced fashion. Figuring out how to best get the word out about our classes and custom order offerings can be a challenge when you don't have a marketing budget and are an introvert. Our best way to reach people is word of mouth, so if you've taken a class, or bought our paper, please tell people you know. And for all of you who have helped spread the word- THANK YOU! It means the world to us.
Over the last month Jenn had the pleasure of working with artist Mami Takahashi in our studio as our first participant in our Combined Studio Residency with the c3:initiative. Having had a bit of experience with papermaking, Mami dove right into an exploration of fibers, trying out cotton, crocosmia, overbeaten abaca, Thai Kozo, and Japanese Kozo. Over the course of about 40 hours Mami honed her understanding of these types of fibers and how they can be incorporated into her art practice. We can't wait to share Mami's completed work with you next year and will keep you posted on when/where you can see her art around Portland and beyond.
Last Thursday marked a big occasion for our studio- it was Jenn's last day at her day job! After 5 years as the HR & Office Coordinator for the non-profit classical radio station in Portland, it was time to move on. Here are some of Jenn's thoughts on the transition.
This is going to be pretty long, so if you're looking for something breezy and succinct, this isn't the post for you. In a sea of inspirational internet blogs about quitting your day job, I don't have all the answers. All I can offer is some insight into how I got to this place, and maybe that will help someone else feel a little less alone in their struggles. Or maybe it will help you understand why our paper studio is bigger than a small business, it's huge to us. It's a radically different way of life. It's a choice to move towards investing in our hopes and dreams and to have the privilege to share them with others.
At the end of the year it seems everyone is taking stock of the past 12 months and thinking about what tomorrow will bring. More of the same? Something fresh? Likely a mix of both. We'll jump into the melee and share our recap of the year and what we are looking forward to in 2014.
2013 was the first full year of Pulp & Deckle being in existence. We honed our teaching skills, took a 5 week small business workshop via the PSU Business Outreach Program, particpated in 2 farmer's markets and 3 days of Art in the Pearl (doing demos), were vendors at the St. Johns Bizarre, competed in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, were interviewed for a video currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, participated in Little Boxes, and hosted several open house/demo. events at the studio. It seems fitting that as the calendar year turns over we are pulping away at the studio, working on a custom order of 820 papers for a unique book project (more on that soon!).
It's been a year of victories, firsts, failures and many, many learning opportunities. While we're not quite as far along as we had hoped we'd be in terms of being employed full-time by ourselves (we both still have day jobs to pay the bills), we do recognize what we've accomplished. We're still volunteering our time at the studio, and unfortunately did not qualify for a small business loan, but we're not going to let that keep us from charging ahead.
A few things that we're looking forward to in 2014 are giving a talk/demo./family activity at the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Feb., and teaching a watermarks workshop at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in July. We're also excited to formally launch our line of custom wedding goods (designs coming in late Jan.)
As we look to the new year, we're honing our business plan to identify the kinds of partnerships and programs we'd like to develop. Our studio is dedicated to the creation, promotion and preservation of the handmade papermaking process. As such we'd like to put more of an emphasis on developing community engagement projects that connect people with handmade paper in a meaningful way. We've got an idea cooking for a Valentine's Day related project (details coming soon!), and are also looking at ways we can have drop-in workshop nights. We'd love to do more demo. gigs, and teach workshops (and take workshops!) around the globe (so get in touch if you have a collaboration you'd like to do with us). And we will be placing an emphasis on creating papers from locally harvested plants like iris leaves, sitka spruce bark, gladiola stalks, cattails, and crocosmia, just to name a few. There's a lot of room to grow and learn and we welcome the new year with open arms!
Happy New Year! See you on the other side.
marbled papers recycled papers seed papers vegetable and fruit papyrus beer paper cotton rag paper bamboo paper papers made with wedding flowers eastern style papers (mulberry, banana) mobiles seed paper confetti invitations bookmarks stationery custom postcards for local businesses menus coasters party backdrops nightlights journals masks ornaments banners thrown pulp sculptures posters buttons sewn items typed on items drawings prints
A couple of weekends back we went to Arch Cape, OR for the weekend to celebrate Jenn's birthday. While there we decided to collect seaweed on the beach (good thing we brought our rain boots!) The weather was pretty stormy and we had a limited window of opportunity for scavenging, but we estimate that we collected about .5 lbs of wet material.
As we couldn't get to the studio right away, we stored the seaweed in a lidded container with water in our basement.
Once we were ready to bring it over to the studio we rinsed it off, and put in a large pot with a bit of soda ash to cook for about 2 hours. We checked about every 30 mins. to see how the plant was when we gently tried to pull it apart, and once it started pulling without resistance we figured it was done and ready to be rinsed.
When disposing of the water that the plants were cooked in, we made sure to add in some vinegar to neutralize the toxicity of the water/soda ash before disposal. Here we are rinsing the seaweed with water and vinegar, and collecting it in our large strainer.
After straining the seaweed we decided to try putting it in our "critter" beater for about 1.5 hours. While there were some stubborn ribbon-y clumps, most of the material broke down well into semi-short fibers. We might have been able to beat the material a little longer to get the fibers to be less clumpy. Next time!
As this was our first time making seaweed paper we weren't really sure about the quality of the plants we collected. In hindsight I think it would be best to collect longer strands that are more grass-like. Much of our seaweed had nodules, and heck, maybe isn't even seaweed but some other ocean plant life. In the future we will also collect more material. We had to couch 2-3 layers of fibers to make a solid sheet without holes.
Once the seaweed was dried for about 48 hours in our restraint drying box, we discovered it really did not want to release itself from our cotton blotters. We decided that rather than trying to peel off the super thin sheets, we'll leave them on the blotters and make some art of them. Printmaking anyone?
So yes, in the future we'll be doing some things differently with our seaweed papers. Hopefully we'll end up with a more successful end product next time around. Anyone out there got any tips for us? We'd love to hear them!
...a papermaking studio! Since our last post we've made some progress, and still have a last minute home stretch to get the studio up and running at full capacity.
Our Mark Lander Hollander "Critter" Beater arrived- and she's a beaut! After getting an electrically savvy friend to help us wire up the motor (many thanks Alex!), and us wheeling the whole thing over to a local auto parts store to get the perfect fitting belt (the auto parts salesman was confused but amused), we fired up the Critter this past week with great success! Below is a video of our first batch of pulp in the Critter.
We beat cardboard and recycled paper junkmail for about 6 hours. The photo of Jenn below shows the first sheets of paper from the batch as it's air drying. Due to its thickness, and our current lack of a press, it's taking a few days for the papers to dry. We'll be making these papers into postcards for some of our Kickstarter backers.
These will become postcards
That brings us to this coming Fri. when our 12-ton Aardvark Press will arrive from Carriage House Paper in Brooklyn, NY, along with some highly anticipated supplies like pulp pigments, pulp fibers (kozo and bamboo!), formation aid, etc. Once the press is here it will greatly assist in our ability to produce larger, more consistent runs of papers. We're also anticipating the arrival of blotters and double walled cardboard sheets for the restraint drying box we built last weekend. With the beater, press, and drying box in place, we'll be papering up a storm!
Another view of the studio set-up in progress.
On Sat. Dec. 1st we'll hold our first workshop. We're super excited (and a little nervous honestly), for our Papermaking for Kids! class. We have 1 student registered so far, and would love to have some others join in on the fun. So if you know any kids aged 6-10 that like to get crafty and messy, send them our way. Click here for more info. on upcoming workshops and to sign-up.
Also, look what we picked up this past week- our TEAM PAPER shirts for Kickstarter backers! They look so great, and it was a great experience working with the local screenprinting company, Little Red Press. We'll be sending out the shirts in the coming weeks as we package them up with other rewards, like buttons and postcards.
For those Kickstarter backers that chose seed papers as rewards, our production schedule is a little backed up and we will likely not be mailing them out until Jan. 2013. If you were hoping to have your seed papers to give as gifts during Dec. please shoot us an email at email@example.com so we can put a rush on your order. Thanks for everyone's understanding and patience, and our apologies for the delay!
Making 285 sheets of seed paper of various colors with varied seeds, takes a bit of time.
And for anyone wondering about the glue we found on the floor of the studio after taking up the carpet, after doing some experimenting and cleaning, it looks like over time the glue will take care of itself because it is water soluble. As the floor of the studio gets wet while we're working, we can squeegee the glue up bit by bit. We'll also be using anti-fatigue mats in areas where we and our students are working, and this should keep things comfortable for everyone.
If you want to stay up to date on our latest classes, events, products, and when we'll have our Grand Opening Party (date TBD), sign-up for our monthly "Paper Free Paper Notes" email newsletter.
That about brings us up to date! Here's a link to our most recent press release that we'd love for you to share far and wide so we can get the word out about our workshops. After we wrap up production of our kickstarter rewards we'll start working on products for our online retail store. Any special requests?
P.S.- the paper lamb we worked on in our last post was a bust. I think we missed a couple of important steps in the process to keep the paper in a solid shape. We'll play around some more with sculptural projects like this and report back!
Pulp & Deckle is a handmade papermaking studio located in Portland, OR.