Five Fun Facts about Paper
Did you know that the first paper mill in America was established by William Rittenhouse near Germantown, PA in 1690? Or that paper doesn’t just come from trees – it can be made from any fibrous material including linen, cotton, bagasse, straw, cornstalks, hemp, bamboo, and the list goes on and on (Rittenhouse originally used flax and rags).
This fall we’re offering two adult classes that focus on paper as both medium and artform: check out Sketchbook DC and Creative Collage and Paper Art. To get you excited for all that paper has to offer, we’ve scoured the internet for five fun facts about paper!
1. You might be surprised to learn that the first paper was made from recycled materials. While paper is used worldwide today, the Chinese kept it a secret for hundreds of years after its invention in 105 A.D. At the time scrolls of silk were used for books, which wasn’t very economical. So, an official from the royal Chinese court figured out a way to make paper from old rags and fishing nets.
2. The art of folding paper, Origami, was invented in Japan in the 6th Century but strictly reserved for ceremonial purposes. It was more than 1000 years later in the 17th Century that Origami began to be done for entertainment, which quickly spread in popularity to the rest of the world.
3. Paper has teeth! Or to be more accurate, tooth. The tooth of a paper is the surface feel, how rough or smooth it is. This affects how certain media looks on the paper, and how an artist might use paper or choose paper. Paper processing and production determines tooth.
4. Paper also has a weight. The weight helps an artist determine how much manipulation it can take. Heavier weight paper can take more wet media like watercolor or acrylic, whereas lighter paper (like newsprint) won’t hold up to a lot of heavy mark-making and erasing, but is great for sketching.
5. Paper isn’t just a vehicle for charcoal, ink, or watercolor, it can also be the art. Contemporary artist Yulia Brodskaya‘s work can be seen around the world with clients such as Target, Sephora, and the New York Times! Using a centuries-old technique called quilling, she creates intricate designs and swirling shapes of colors through her all-paper pictures to create dazzling advertisements around the world.
Bonus Fact! (Not really a fact, but an interesting observation)
Paper is a part of our lives that we might not think much about, but for artists and art lovers it’s not only a medium with immeasurable variety, but it can also be source of fascination and frustration. Our resident artists have been challenging how we look at paper through their exhibition Yes, and, on view in the Upper Level gallery until Oct. 11.
Paper is the vehicle of literature and art, because it is, first and foremost, a product. The duality of paper as both a commodity for commercial use and a backdrop and medium for expressive works of art are the focus of two artworks currently on display at AAC by resident artists. Austin Shull’s Arches, The Artists Choice Since 1492 explores the complex relationship the contemporary artist has with the paper industry by working without ink to highlight the “obscure relations between labor, modes of production, and commodities.” Ironically, right next to Austin’s piece criticizing the mass usage of paper is a piece by artist Pam Rogers which uses Arches paper as the backdrop for her work.