How do you make your paper gems?

I learned how to work with paper when I trained in printmaking and book arts as an undergraduate and graduate student. Actually, I learned a lot from a book I had as a kid about constructing things out of paper too. As an adult, I figured out how to make the faceted gem-forms I use in my work around 2000. With my accumulated knowledge of paper, and a lot of experimentation, I discovered I could make paper tubes, very similar to old-fashioned straws. Using these, I can assemble skeletal structures with chenille stems, and then glue into each open area a separate piece of paper. I use many different kinds of paper, with varying degrees of translucency, but I use one kind of glue almost exclusively: PVA white glue (sometimes known as "Jade Glue")

 

What are your sources of inspiration?

When I originally started using paper to make sculptures, I was thinking a lot about the subjective quality of what is considered precious or valuable. I had just moved to New York, to Brooklyn, and saw the economic gap between the working poor and the wealthy in a new light. These ruminations resulted in work that expressed longing, and also ambivalence, using gem-forms to connote riches. Some years down the road, I became interested in the interplay between the natural world and manmade structures, including jewelry, furniture and architecture, as an extension of my thinking about the physical world, and what we humans value in it. Later still, I was focused on the stylization of nature common in the decorative arts. This came to represent to me the taming of nature, a constant process we have been involved in since the beginning. Artists are sort of automatically involved in this taming of nature, as physics dictates what we can and cannot achieve in the physical world. I am always fascinated by the most ingenious contrivances to convince materials meant for one thing to do another job. I continue to look at historical handiwork of many sorts, inspired by the ingenuity of people who had less, but did more, with clever hands and patience.

 

Why did you start using recycled materials?

After using white paper for a good number of years, I simply wasn't that excited to work with it anymore. I began to like the challenge of using materials that I even considered ugly, patterns on old wrapping paper I wouldn't have chosen, for instance. Initially, I had friends save used wrapping paper, and used business envelopes, but I also began to buy old wrapping paper (sold in lots) online. Many people used to save paper diligently, a habit that echoes the reflexive reuse born in the Great Depression. I also started to make work from found objects; I would collect discarded materials, and also buy used items in thrift stores and online. It has been an enjoyable challenge to use old papers and all kinds of objects in my work, getting them to coalesce into unified forms. I am very concerned about my contribution to the big pile of trash we humans are making. I am eager to subtract things from that pile by making art out of them.