by Amanda Degener 2010
My work explores the inter-relationship between environment in both the material and spiritual world. Handmade paper is my life's work. I sometimes travel the US and abroad to teach hand papermaking, collaborate with other artists, and often write and publish articles about art made with paper. I make and sell sheets of paper, and I exhibit artwork made with my own handmade paper. As an artist the versatility of working with handmade paper is very motivating. Fibers can cast tightly around armatures; they take color and hold light beautifully. Depending how the fiber is prepared it is capable of looking like fragile translucent skin or it can appear massive without being heavy. Paper’s lightweight quality allows me to make large-scale work in defiance of gravity.
Another incentive to work with handmade paper is because it feels like I am in collaboration with nature without mechanizing her. I am not simply gazing and enjoying her, though I do that too, but actively learning from her. The plants and colors I process are a mixture of fiber, sun, soil, and rain; this natural world has a value and life of its own. Through touch, while I process the materials, I have a conversation with them. During this dialogue I cook, beat, color, mould, press, and dry what started as a plant. As my ideas are being realized my spirit and heart get infused into the work. There is a spiritual connection with being present in the natural world.
I am trying to step lightly on the planet, it is important to me that all my work is eventually biodegradable. My public art pieces are like theater, up for a certain period of time and then gone. They have a real or physical existence and after the exhibition they are often reincarnated into new work or left outside to return to the earth. These works are ephemeral, more like dimensional poetry than traditional sculpture. The editioned prints and artist's books, and the one-of-a-kind screens are tangible work that can be shown in galleries. The handmade paper that I make for sale is not "done" until it gets used. Most of our customers are bookmakers. I am thrilled to know that these archival sheets of handmade paper will be used in books that live in private collections and libraries and touched by hundreds of people over time. All of my work draws attention to nature and it evokes feelings towards the environment that we more typically reserve for other humans: love, empathy, compassion, and care.