Amate: Surviving Tradition of Ancient Mexico September 22 2016

Papel Amate (or amatyl) although it comes in sheets, is technically not formed the same way paper is. It is referred to as "bark cloth", "paper cloth" and as "paper", depending on who you talk to. The most significant fact is that the oldest codex known was made from amate in the pre-columbian era. The fibers are are scraped, cooked and beaten very much like you would to hand-make a piece of paper, even though the pulp is not poured into slurry and sheets are not pulled through a screen. Instead fibers are pounded together with a stone; creating an irregular, luscious sheet. Papel Amate has been made for centuries by the Otomí Indians in the states of Puebla and Vera Cruz in Mexico. Traditional fibers still used today are the outer bark of the ficus tree and the inner bark of the mulberry bush.

ADVENTURES IN PAPERMAKING guest blog by Heather Matthew. Heather is a paper artist living in New South Wales, Australia. A longer version of Heather's blog was first re-posted on the PaperSlurry blog.

A hot afternoon in the clear mountains of central Mexico. I was off to visit the home studio of amate paper artist Julio Chichicaxtle on an investigation into traditional Mayan papermaking techniques. I had read about amate paper, the bark paper on which the Mayan codices was written and encountered Julio at the Feria Maestros del Arte in November 2011.

At his invitation, my husband and I were to visit his studio before the cold mountain mists rolled in and he stopped paper production until spring. After a series of memorable bus journeys from Mexico City to Tulancingo, and from there on a rattling old locale bus…we arrived at San Pablito via taxi on a crowded market morning. The taxi dropped us off with our backpacks to walk the length of the crowd selling vegetables and clothes. No one spoke English, and we didn’t know Spanish (let alone the local dialect) but were confident we would find the big yellow house where our host Julio lived.

After a ride in a policeman’s car up a hill to a tourist paper and jewelry shop, then a walk down to a small gallery, it was Julio’s father-in law who eventually led the way to Julio’s flat roofed house. He had been waiting for us, and while tortillas were cooking on the traditional oven, he led us upstairs to his papel amate studio, the rooftop terrace where he pounds and weaves bark fibre to make his extraordinary paper paintings.

amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Bucket of amate bark soaking
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Laying out amate fibers
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Julio weaving strands of amate fiber together
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Julio Chichicaxtle pounding the amate fibers
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Julio's peeling off the pounded amate artwork
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Close up of Julio's amate artwork
All photos provided by papermaker Heather Matthew.

Neutral colors of 3 styles of Amate now stocked at Paper Connection. Liso (plain), perferado (grid), and circular (overlapping circles). Please email us for more details:

Lokta and Letterpress September 17 2016

We received this set of lovely photos from one of our customers, Fernanda Rivera, who took a letterpress class taught by Macy Chadwick. It just goes to show how handmade, eastern papers can work so well with the letterpress technique, to create such beautiful results. Thank you so Fernanda, for your wonderful work that is both inspiring and insightful!
courtesy of Fernanda Rivera all images courtesy of Fernanda Rivera
FR2 FR3 FR4 FR5 Book pages were made from dyed lokta paper from Nepal. Lokta is great for book arts, even box making, and as you can see it prints really well! Paper Connection stocks a plethora of colors- click here to view. We now stock amate from Mexico. Who knows, perhaps we'll encounter a Nepalese artist who creates a book using amate!

Artist of the Month: Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord April 28 2015

We here at Paper Connection International have come out of hibernation, finally, after a long, New England winter. Of course the snow has been long gone, but it seemed like cold weather would just never end, and all the elements with it-curling up in our sweaters and scarves, cradling our teas, looking for inspiration in a sunny day. Where inspiration can always be found is in our vast support from artists who not only buy our paper but regularly let us know how well it works in their processes. This month features Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. SG_bokalokta2We have always admired her work, and are thrilled she ushers in May with her unique perspective. The weather may seem like it's a month behind, and perhaps we are too with our AOM, but Susan is worth the wait. PCI: What kind of artwork do you do, Susan? SKG: I make artist's books that I have named them SPIRIT BOOKS which combine natural materials and handmade papers to celebrate the spirit of nature. Here’s a statement about them: The Spirit Books bring together my love of the book and my response to the natural world that we see and the invisible one that lies behind it. I feel a deep connection to older powers as I gather twigs, branches, vines, and roots. Using them to cradle books, I link them to the longstanding tradition of books as testaments of faith and belief. Each page is a meditation that echoes nature with both repetition and variety. “Reading” the book is meant to be a contemplative experience that takes the reader out of the everyday world and into a state of gratitude and reverence.
Illuminating Grace Lokta paper pages from PCI; stitching with gold thread and rose thorns,  amate paper cover Illuminating Grace
Lokta paper pages from PCI; stitching with gold thread and rose thorns, amate paper cover
PCI: And we certainly do need to be taken out of the everyday world at times. What is the source of your inspiration? SKG: I think the above statement describes my inspiration from nature and the book. I’d also like to honor the person who I consider my mentor, the late Jenny Hunter Groat. She was a modern dancer, a calligrapher, a painter, a Zen Buddhist, a deep thinker, and a kind and generous soul. She wrote to me: “Follow where your passion lies. It has never been false to me. It will not mislead you. Have faith in your 'rightness' and mystery.” PCI: When did handmade paper come into play? SKG: I began my work in the visual arts with calligraphy. At that time I saw paper as a surface to write on. In my first books, paper was again the surface for words and imagery. When I began making the Spirit Books in 1992, paper took on a new significance. It became part of the core and meaning of the book. The paper is enhanced with small twigs, vines, beads, sew stitches, woven paper, and punched and pricked holes.
 Truth Guardian Lokta paper pages from with brass beads and pinpricked and punched holes, amate paper cover Truth Guardian
Lokta paper pages from with brass beads and pin-pricked and punched holes, amate paper (Mexican bark cloth) cover
PCI: What do you like best about working with paper? Have you ever made paper? SKG: I love the texture and feel of paper. I love its history. I like how I am linked to a long tradition of craftsmanship when I use it. I did take a papermaking class, but decided not to pursue it. I work very slowly and felt that if I added papermaking to the art making process, I would never get anything finished.
Creative Generosity Lokta paper pages with glass seed beads and gold thread Creative Generosity
Lokta paper pages with glass seed beads and gold thread
PCI: How did you hear about our company? SKG: I first met Lauren in the late 1980s when she worked for a Japanese paper company that had a showroom in Boston. The papers were beautiful and she was always so knowledgeable. She taught me a lot about paper and was such fun to talk to. A few of the first Spirit Books used Kosei paper from Japan that I purchased in Boston. Now many of them use Paper Connection’s lokta paper from Nepal. Because I want the Spirit Books to look and feel as organic as possible, I always tear the paper for the pages rather than cut it. I like the edges that I get from the strong and supple fibers of the Lokta paper. I always choose earth-toned papers to blend with the sticks, vines, driftwood, and other natural material.
 Beseeching Beads Kyosei paper pages from Japan with brass findings, beads of brass and glass, and assorted papers amate paper cover Beseeching Beads
Kyosei paper pages from Japan with brass findings, beads of brass and glass, and assorted papers amate paper cover
PCI: What paper do you like to use and why? SKG: I still do some calligraphy with pen and brush. One of my favorite papers to write on is gampi. The surface is silky and smooth and takes ink beautifully.
Close up of Susan's work Close up of Susan's work
PCI: Thank you so much, Susan, for your time and insight.
Detail of one of Susan's works. Detail of one of Susan's works.
Courtesy of Susan Kapunscinski Gaylord Courtesy of Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
For more on Susan please visit her website: To purchase a book on Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord's pieces, including her new " THE SPIRIT BOOKS CATALOG", please visit her etsy shop here.