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.

Artist of the Month: Esteban Martinez December 12 2013

We didn't have to look too far to meet our next Artist of the Month: Esteban Martinez. How close? How about a next door neighbor! Rhode Island has a reputation for being small, where there exist three degrees of separation, with those degrees going down as the art scene in the Ocean State only gets stronger. As Mr. Martinez answers our famous questions, perhaps you can think of reaching out to a neighbor, business or otherwise, and see what kind of connections you can make: it's amazing how much in common we have, simply by asking. PCI: Tell us a little about yourself and your work, Esteban. What kind of artwork do you do? What or who influenced and inspired you? EM: Shodo, Japanese calligraphy. My main inspiration was my late Aikido teacher Fumio Toyoda Shihan. I also get inspiration from classical Zen calligraphers and martial artists.
Ordinary Mind by Esteban Martinez Ordinary Mind by Esteban Martinez
PCI: What attracts you to working with paper? EM: Well, 50% of good Shodo is having good paper. The other 50% is skill and ink. So paper is important. How paper reacts to ink, quality, size, will all affect the end result. PCI: What do you like best about working with paper? EM: How it reacts to the ink, and the effect it produces, whether it is dry or wet spots. It all gives the calligraphy a unique feel.
Esteban choosing papers at our warehouse. Esteban choosing papers at our warehouse.
Kihosen Kana  in bolts Kihosen Kana in bolts
PCI: In turn, which your pieces manifest. How did you hear about Paper Connection International? EM: Lauren is my next door neighbor! PCI: So who says good fences make good neighbors? How much knowledge did you have of washi before using our papers? EM: Just the basics of Japanese "rice" paper for calligraphy. I didn’t really got my hands on real handmade until Lauren gave me a piece of a beautiful paper called Kihosen Kana. PCI: A popular misnomer that Asian papers are made of "rice" materials. We are so glad you were introduced to that gorgeous paper, made out of kozo, or Japanese mulberry. How did Paper Connection help navigate and inform you about Japanese paper? EM: Through Lauren I have been learning the differences between machine made and hand made paper, and why handmade quality paper is so much better. IMG_8360 PCI: So what papers do you use of ours and for what process? EM: I got a whole block of Kihosen Kana handmade paper.
Kihosen Kana Paper Kihosen Kana Paper
PCI: What did you like about those papers that enhanced your creative and technical process? EM: The sumi ink flows beautifully in it and I really like how the calligraphy looks on it. PCI: Please explain some of the differences you have discovered between our papers and others you have worked with. EM: You can tell that the paper from PCI has been carefully sourced from the best places. The rest feels generic and poor quality. PCI: Based on your experience so far, what papers would you recommend to a fellow Shodo artist? EM: I like Kihonsen Kana paper for Shodo or Sumi-e because it has a beautiful texture and the sumi_ ink flows perfectly on it. PCI: I can envision the tranquility of each brushstroke as you describe that. Our famous bonus question: If you could have a conversation with any artist present or past, who would it be? And would you talk about paper? EM: I would like to have a conversation with Yamaoka Tesshu. He was a master swordsman and Japanese calligrapher. I would ask him how did he choose his paper and how he mounted them on scrolls. PCI: What a combination of skills! Surely that would be an enlightening conversation. Thank you so much, Esteban, for your time, and your support of Paper Connection International. We really appreciate it. And thank you for being such a nice neighbor! To find out more about Esteban Martinez, please visit his website: Gohitsu Shodo Studio, where you can also fan his Facebook page and see what he's up to on YouTube. I totally chilled to the background music while watching him at work. A great way to get inspired!

A Most Gracious Host August 31 2012

Last month, I visited a very special Japanese calligrapher (書道 shodō artist), who is not actually from Japan. The lovely Rona Conti maintains her studio in Belmont, MA. Rona is gracious, inviting, and informative, besides very talented! It was relaxing and so contemplative to watch her hand dance on handmade paper; each masterful stroke is the result of the eternal process of learning, passion, and patience. To say Rona is a Japanophile would be perhaps an understatement. Specifically, Rona embodies the Japanese aesthetic in her daily life; whether it is the tatami mats under her feet, the ceramics adorning her studio, and most importantly, the discipline she embraces as she approaches her work. See for yourself not just in the studio, but in her pieces as well: Rona's did a fabulous "MU" character on our vintage shikishi boards with a wisteria design shown in the previous slide show. I loved the way the black sumi ink softened the floral design to a brocade effect. Feel free to call Paper Connection for more information about shikishi and other fine papers for sumi-e and shodō .