The One World Many Papers Project Narrative
History and Mission
More than twenty years ago, in a tucked away, unheated basement of an old warehouse in Minneapolis, the artists Amanda Degener and Bridget O’Malley founded a production hand-made paper mill, called Cave Paper, that is dedicated to making decorated and unusual sheets of high quality for use by artists, bookbinders, calligraphers and anyone with a desire for fine paper. Using natural fibers and dyes, and pulling sheets using traditional, environmentally friendly hand methods, these two craft artists have gained a national and international reputation for their work. Amanda and Bridget’s primary mission is to bring attention to the traditional craft of each sheet of paper that leaves their studio even as they support artistic and creative innovation.
Cave Paper has also long pushed the creative potential of paper by collaborating with respected and internationally known artists, and it has fostered and promoted the underappreciated craft of handmade paper by offering an influential training program to more than 100 interns. Today, to further explore the great potential of handmade paper and its use as a medium in creative, collaborative projects, these two artists have launched a project called “One World Many Papers.” This project’s mission is to continue celebrating and teaching the traditional craft methods of hand papermaking; to expose the wider community to the various traditional craft and creative uses for handmade paper; and, to support artistic innovation by collaborating with renowned fine artists and artisans and teaching emerging craftspeople.
Over the twenty-plus years that Amanda Degener and Bridget O’Malley have operated Cave Paper, they have maintained the highest standards and followed the ancient traditions of their craft. Amanda Degener originally came to papermaking while a graduate student at the Yale School of Art, where she began to experiment with handmade paper's application to large-scale sculpture. In 1985, she co-founded the magazine Hand Papermaking and moved to Minnesota, as the first artist-in-residence at the fledgling Minnesota Center for Book Arts. She has lectured and taught widely, and she has exhibited her work around the world. Bridget O’Malley first met Degener in 1985, working as an intern at Minnesota Center for Book Arts where Degener taught her how to make handmade paper. After studying printmaking, book arts, and papermaking at the University of Iowa, O'Malley apprenticed with the 2009 MacArthur Fellow papermaker/scholar Timothy Barrett at the University of Iowa Center for the Book Paper Facilities (UICB), where she gained experience producing a standard line of hand-made papers. Amanda and Bridget opened Cave Paper in 1994
Today, the two artists make their own artwork and produce thousands of sheets of handmade paper each year that are used by artists, craftspersons, hand bookbinders, interior designers, letterpress printers, conservators, and enthusiasts across the nation and around the world. Their finished papers, even the plain white fine text papers, are works of art in themselves, exhibiting tactile textures and soft finishes on thick, crisp sheets. As a result of the skill and craft of these two artists, projects that use Cave Paper are housed in public and private collections, everywhere from contemporary art museums to the Library of Congress. Amanda Degener and Bridget O’Malley regularly work with artists around the world, bringing their technical know-how and creative insight to numerous projects. They often are approached for custom designs, and their individual sensibilities and approaches to problem-solving take full advantage of their different experiences and skills, making Cave Paper a true “collaboratorium.”
The project “One World Many Papers” seeks to further Degener and O’Malley’s goals of celebrating the traditional craft of hand papermaking while exploring its modern use as a creative collaborative medium for all sorts of projects. For the next four years, the two artists of Cave Paper will take the lead in bringing a select group of nationally and internationally renowned designers, illustrators, and artists to Minneapolis to collaborate with them. These visiting artists will also present their knowledge and work locally by offering workshops and lectures to anyone interested in the possibilities of paper and by exhibiting their collaborations at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Using a deliberative process, One World Many Papers has already chosen the visiting artist for the 2016-17 season: The world-renowned Chinese book designer and illustrator Lu Jingren.
A contemporary artist who is also a master of the ancient traditions of Chinese book design and runs the Jingren Art Design Studio in Beijing, Lu is renowned not only for his prolific creative work and his cutting-edge design sensibilities but also for his dedication to fostering an appreciation of the book as an art form. He is also a recently retired professor of book design from Tsinghua University in Beijing, and is known for involving young artists in every aspect of his work and social life in China. Lu Jingren has committed to visiting Minneapolis in February 2017 in order to collaborate with Cave Paper, give a public lecture and workshop at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and participate in collaborative project exhibitions with Amanda and Bridget and other program participants. With a burgeoning, very culturally active Chinese community in the Twin Cities area, this initial One World Many Papers program has great potential to create new connections and collaborative relationships in the book arts and artists communities in Minnesota.
Artistic success for the “One World Many Papers” project will be measured based on several factors: The vibrancy and cutting-edge quality of the work that is produced through collaboration between Cave Paper and its visiting artists; the extent and diversity of the public involvement in the programs’ public lectures and workshops; and the quality of the final exhibition(s) produced through the One World Many Papers project. Additionally, in keeping with Amanda and Bridget’s long-standing dedication to fostering knowledge of their craft by educating and training, they will run two separate One World Many Papers educational programs. The first, open to diverse audiences of people curious about hand papermaking, will be a series of public lectures and workshops that involve the collaborating artists. These lectures will be offered to the public cost-free at space generously provided by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, a collaborating partner on the project. The resident artist workshops will focus on subjects chosen by the visiting artists and be open to the public. The second educational program, offered to fledgling paper artists under the age of 30, is the One World Many Papers Special Intern Program. For this, One World Many Papers will work with its advisory partner, Hand Papermaking magazine, to identify and select one or two deserving young artists for whom contact with master artists and craftspeople would be a career boost. The special intern program is open to all, and chosen interns would have travel, a stipend, and lodging costs covered for the duration of a 3–6 week, focused internship experience.
With so much shifting and changing in our click-through world, nearly everyone wants to be thought of as calm, capable, and highly skilled today. It makes sense then that people from all walks of life—football players, Hollywood actors, pulp fiction writers, beer brewers, rock musicians, scientists, even ordinary business people—often express their admiration for the idea of “craft.” Though this is also ironic, since in our sped-up age we often forget that true craft requires long years of focused toil. With hand papermaking, for instance, artisans learn a highly refined small-scale production process. First, natural fibers are collected and boiled in a bath of filtered water, then run through a Hollander beater, a device that was first developed in the 1400s. Sheets are then carefully pulled from the resulting fiber pulp using a classic wire mold and deckle (frame), and set then out to dry on specially designed racks. While mass-production paper mills measure their daily output in hundreds of tons, Cave Paper measures production in the dozens per day. But the difference between an industrially produced sheet of paper and one made by hand is night and day, akin to the difference between a fleeting electronic text and a keepsake hand-written letter.
The two master craft artists of Cave Paper have practiced their demanding craft daily for well more than twenty years, a milestone that is exceedingly rare in this day and age, and today they are interested in teaching others what benefits can result from practicing a traditional craft. One World Many Papers, then, is an attempt to reveal to the widest possible local audience the possibilities of handmade paper both as a demanding and aesthetically rewarding craft form and also as a culturally resonant and dynamic ground for creative collaborations. The project’s artist collaborators, chosen for the quality of their work as much as their ability to work with and inspire the public, will serve as ad-hoc “ambassadors” of hand papermaking, revealing to diverse audience throughout greater Minnesota the beauty, vibrancy, and creative possibility of paper as an art form.
Drawing on their long practice of collaborating with a range of artists, Amanda and Bridget will also bring their refined sense of aesthetic possibility to all of the One World Many Papers collaborations. Additionally, the donated space and publicity by project collaborator the Minnesota Center for Book Arts will promote the project’s relevance to local audiences and participants. And finally, the exquisite talent and skills of collaborators like Lu Jingren will help engage and stimulate diverse local audiences who might otherwise never be drawn to handmade paper.
Over the twenty-plus years that Amanda Degener and Bridget O’Malley have operated their paper mill, they have each established many collaborative relationships and lasting creative connections in the local, national, and international art communities. These connections and relationships have already proven crucial in the planning of One World Many Papers, and they will continue to be critical in the eventual execution of the various stages of the project.
For instance, the process for choosing collaborating artists has been developed in collaboration with Hand Papermaking magazine. Starting with discussions to identify initial candidates, Amanda and Bridget then have carefully vet that initial list to ensure a focus on high-quality candidates with diverse backgrounds and positive experience working both collaboratively and with the wider public. In the end, the two will conduct interviews with top candidates to determine a final list of five or so artists who are truly suitable for participation in the project.
Timeline-wise, the One World Many Papers project will kick off in the fall of 2016 and last four years, ending in 2020 with a culminating group exhibition at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts’ main gallery of work made by all collaborators. (An additional adjunct exhibition of work by all One World Many Papers’ special interns is also being planned to run in the second floor Open Book Gallery, giving these young artists some important exposure for their own developing work). In mid-February, 2017, Lu Jingren will come to Minneapolis to begin his collaboration for the One World Many Papers residency. During his visit Lu will work with Amanda and Bridget and special interns at Cave Paper and Minnesota Center for Book Arts on an artistic project that will become an edition. He will also conduct a two-day, open-to-the-public workshop titled “The Relationship of Book Design and Folding Methods” at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and then present a free, open-to-the-public lecture on both his work and the work of contemporary book designers in Bejing at Target Hall at the Open Book Center. Eventually, in the summer of 2020, Lu Jingren will participate in the culminating One World Many Papers exhibition at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. In addition to the Lu Jingren visit, in 2016-17 Amanda and Bridget will begin planning the second of five planned collaborative residencies as part of the four-year One World Many Papers project. Though no events or dates have yet been finalized, the second collaborative artist has been chosen: Renowned calligraphic artist Jan Owen. After each visit by a collaborating artist, Amanda and Bridget will evaluate the success of each stage of the visit based on the goals listed above (size/diversity of audience, participation in educational programs, aesthetic quality of work). The intent over the course of the grant-funded year is to host Lu’s residency, evaluate its outcomes, and complete planning for the next residency, which will likely begin sometime after Fall 2017.
In promoting the activities and events of One World Many Papers, Amanda and Bridget will rely on various resources, including their own long list of collaborators and customers, as well as the lists and resources of the project’s collaborative partners: The Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Hand Papermaking magazine, and the collaborating artists-in-residence. Additional special outreach will be made to select groups and organizations depending on the collaborating artists. For instance, for the Lu Jingren residency connections have already been made with the San Francisco and local branches of AIGA, the professional association of designers, who are interested in promoting and marketing the visit. Some outreach has also been made to local (Minnesota) Chinese cultural groups who have expressed interest in Lu Jingren’s work and visit.
The One World Many Papers project will serve a wide array of accomplished artists, fledgling artists, and curious members of the public. By design, the project will attract a select number of nationally and internationally renowned creative artists to Minnesota for a one-of-a-kind creative opportunity to collaborate and make new, innovative work. In addition, the project is also designed to involve fledgling young artists eager to interact with and learn from these master artists. Finally, the project’s focus on public lectures, educational workshops, and exhibitions is designed to benefit a diverse and curious local audience, including some underserved communities that will be interested in the diverse participating artists.
Since it is the goal of One World Many Papers to expose the aesthetic, creative, and collaborative potential of handmade paper to as diverse an array of people as possible, careful consideration will be made in choosing participating artists to take into consideration factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, age, special needs, and geographic origins.
In terms of practical access, the One World Many Papers project is fortunate to have as a collaborating partner the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, which will provide the location for the majority of the project’s programs and events. The Minnesota Center for Book Arts, located at the Open Book Center in Minneapolis, is a leader in promoting the value of book arts like hand papermaking through promotion and by providing access to diverse communities across greater Minnesota.
According to its general policy statement on access, the “Minnesota Center for Book Arts is dedicated to ensuring accessibility and inclusion in its programs and facilities. In keeping with the goals of the ADA, Minnesota Center for Book Arts:
- Does not discriminate on any basis upon the employment or the volunteer services of any person with disabilities.
- Does not discriminate against any person with physical or mental disabilities.
- Ensures that its programs are accessible to the broadest range of Minnesotans with disabilities.
- Strives to make its venue, public amenities, and workplace accessible and an enjoyable experience for all.”
One World Many Papers’ potential for fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration, connection, and creative innovation is already evident in the ample community support for the project. This includes advisory and logistical support (from Hand Papermaking magazine), logistical and in-kind material support (from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and AIGA), some initial financial support (by Cave Paper customers who have donated to the project), and promotional support (from AIGA and the Chinese cultural community in the Twin Cities). One World Many Papers will benefit the local community by exposing them not only to the fine craft and traditions of hand papermaking, but also to the talents, skills, and expertise of artistic living treasures such as Lu Jingren. As a connective, collaborative project that will by design branch multiple and diverse cultural and artistic traditions, One World Many Papers provides a low-stress, potentially high-impact opportunity to expand the public’s artistic and cultural knowledge. The program also allows more artistically curious people opportunity to gain, through workshops and an apprentice program, knowledge and expertise in various and diverse cultures and craft forms — such as Chinese book arts and book design traditions, the various traditions and creative uses of handmade paper, the forms and practices of calligraphy around the world, and so on.
The practice of craft is a great connector. As is implicit in its title, One World Many Papers project seeks to take advantage of the general connective potential of craft and of the particular ability of handmade paper to serve as a ground for collaboration, connection, and innovation across various cultural and artistic traditions. This project, then, will draw diverse audiences and participants in two distinct ways. First, in acknowledgement of paper’s unique characteristics, One World Many Papers will make new connections and audiences for paper through the involvement of artists from diverse geographical, racial/ethnic, cultural, gender, and economic backgrounds. This intention is already clear in the initial artist participants in the project: A male artist from mainland China who employs his culture’s ancient artistic traditions in his work, and a female artist from Maine who practices calligraphic techniques inspired by medieval and Asian traditions. Through its diverse collaborators, One World Many Papers will connect with diverse audiences curious about paper.
Second, owing to the pressing need for craft forms to find and foster new involvement in order to keep their traditions alive and vibrant, One World Many Papers will focus on attracting artists under the age of 30 from diverse backgrounds to its educational programs. This will include efforts to promote its free, readily accessible lectures to youths from diverse cultural, racial, and economic backgrounds. In addition, several workshop scholarships will be set aside for any students of need who want to attend. For its special internship program, every consideration will be given to any candidate from an underserved community. And finally, One World Many Papers will continue to work to build partnerships and advisory relationships — such as it has built with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Hand Papermaking, and Chinese cultural groups — with groups that represent people of varying and diverse backgrounds.
As with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Hand Papermaking magazine, the vision of the One World Many Papers project is to foster the creation and appreciation of a particular craft form: handmade paper. For this reason, the program by design is highly focused on offering full and complete access to as many people possible to its various programs and events. In fact, Amanda Degener and Bridget O’Malley already have a long history of working with diverse students in the vibrant intern program that they run at Cave Paper. Cave Paper interns have ranged in age from 15 to 65 years, and they have come from countries such as India, Thailand, and China and have had diverse backgrounds such as Hispanic and Filipino.
To foster the natural cultural diversity of interest in paper, the One World Many Papers project will provide access to all in several ways. First, its programs will be either free or low-cost and open to all, with particular focus on involving diverse communities. Second, the project will make use of the access policies of its collaborating partner the Minnesota Center of Book Arts, where the majority of project events will take place. This partnership will ensure that, from the project’s planning and execution stages, people with disabilities and diverse backgrounds will be able to participate fully in all programs. Third, One World Many Papers will take every opportunity to use the connective qualities of the craft of paper to reach out to diverse communities and cultures that may have natural interest in the project’s visiting artists. Fourth, the project will set aside internship funding and workshop scholarships to ensure that there are no barriers for anyone interested in participating in the projects programs. And finally, the final exhibition, which will run at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in 2020, will include didactics that explain the history, cultural relevance, and collaborative process in the work that is produced through the One World Many Papers project. These didactics will be enhanced by the fact that many of the participating artists — including Amanda Degener, Bridget O’Malley, Lu Jingren, and so on — are professional educators with a particular interest in fostering a lively and relevant discourse about their crafts with people of all ages and background as a way of preserving their traditions well into the future.