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: Joan Son March 11 2014

Her name evokes light, bright, warm light to me, and when you see her AMAZING works, (yes, that is all in CAPS for a reason), you will feel the same light too: paper transformed into creatures and works that come alive, and feel like they can float away, tempting you to put your fingers on them, feel the fiber that encases them, and even wear them. Meet the one and only Joan Son. I have had the privilege of giving 2 presentations with Joan Son and have been to her studio/residence several times in Houston, TX. Joan is a most gracious host. I cherish her warmth, kindness and years of friendship. Joan's glowing personality is truly manifested in her incredible talent of transforming paper into life-like sculptures. I hope you enjoy reading her perspective on paper as much as I did. PCI: What kind of artwork do you do? What or who has influenced and inspired you? JS: I am an artist working in the medium of paper based in the discipline of origami. For the past 21, years since my debut in the windows of Tiffany & Co. (Houston Galleria), I have devoted my career to the exploration of contemporary origami as fine art. My art has developed into finely crafted gift items for museum shops beginning at the Smithsonian in 1995; larger commissioned works for public and private venues and origami instruction nationally at Origami Conventions and in Houston at numerous educational facilities.
Bamboo Bamboo
PCI: What attracts you to working with paper? JS: I have always loved paper. My first love was designing paper doll dresses when I was 9 years old. So even my mother’s typing paper, lined school papers and tissue paper were attractive to me from very early on. I was totally intrigued making carnation like flowers with tissue paper. Even now when paper towels or napkins are on my grocery list I get excited wondering what patterns will be available. The commercial stuff is always changing. zooslide PCI: What do you like best about working with paper? I'm so curious as you have such a literal hands-on approach. JS: I like to say that paper is sculptable and forgiving. I love that about paper. It works into to all of my art pieces. It is much more durable that most folks think. PCI: I love the choice of words "forgiving" and "durable", it's almost like you are describing an amazing person. Please share how we met. JS: Your wonderful papers were represented by a commercial paper company (Clampitt Paper in Houston, TX). Their representative gave me your contact information and I have been passionate about your papers through all your evolutions. Since 1993 when I was working in a design firm, creating brochures, annual reports… and dabbling in my own creative process, I've been using them for everything from butterfly pins, collage works, to 8-foot tall paper Kimonos. PCI: Hopefully I've been evolving in a progressive way! And our papers reflect that. We are so happy that we have such a long-term solid relationship. It's reliable artists like yourself that help small business keep going. Did you have much knowledge about Japanese papers before using our line? JS: Very, very little… only Origami papers. PCI: In what ways did Paper Connection help navigate and perhaps inform you about Japanese paper? JS: In every way. You and I did a presentation together for Texas Art Supply here in Houston a few years ago. It was fascinating to see and hear about your travels in Asia and all the details and nuances of these exquisite papers. PCI: What papers do you use of ours and for what process? What did you like about those papers that aided in your creative and/or technical process? JS: Japanese Yuzen and Katazome paper are delicious, the Laurelai design papers, (see the Yoga Garden Robe), are fun and add a distinct personality to my designs. Looking through the catalog now I see there are so many more I still have to work with. I can hardly wait! I use your papers for many of my collage pieces, origami pieces and display.
paper sculpture Yoga Garden Robe by Joan Son, using several of the Laurelai papers
The Robe Series by Joan Son The Robe Series by Joan Son
PCI: What are some of the differences between our papers and others you have worked with? JS: Paper Connection always has the highest quality papers. PCI: Thank you so much! We really try to represent the best in handmade papers for those like yourself who truly appreciate them. Word game for you: fill in the blank, if you had to recommend a Paper Connection paper for a particular application: JS: I like Daitoku papers for their simple gold touches and natural beauty. Plus they have saved my life on two projects where I needed a very large sheet. These measure 37 x 72 inches. Perfect!
bookmarks, Laurelai Designs Laurelai bookmarks by Joan Son
money holders, business card holders Joan loves the Laurelai papers for many things, including bookmarks and wallets.
PCI: That paper is an oldie but goodie. 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? JS: PATTI SMITH. As I strive to make my work more deeply meaningful first to myself and that it be illuminating for others… this veteran rock and roll artist transcends all levels for me. She continues to inform our world with her tenderness and fury. And that she continues to evolve her art into all the years of her life. I think the conversation of paper would come up easily with Patti. I’m sure we would be tearing it or making it into butterflies right away. PCI: Yes! A musician! To say the least. A poet. You surely would. Can I dance along? Thank you Joan, for all you do for Paper Connection and the paper world. Check out this BIG NEWS for Joan! She opens a new body of work in Houston at the Jung Center Gallery in April 2014. We have included the Press Release:
looking back to move forward
a retrospective
a coming full circle
a beginning
When: Opening night Saturday April 5, 2014 Where: Jung Center Gallery 5200 Montrose, Houston, Texas 77006 Time: 5:00 to 7:00 On view through April 29, 2014 If you are in the Houston we highly recommend you attend. We wish we could be there ourselves.
Joan Son is an American artist who has devoted her career to the exploration of contemporary origami as fine art.
Now, through an Individual Artist Grant from the city of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, she shows a side of herself that has been hiding for 50 years.
TIME TRAVELERS brings her art full circle with paper doll dress designs she created when she was 9 years old. From these early paintings (that luckily her mother saved!) Joan is constructing full size paper dresses that will be displayed on lighted 6 foot plexiglass cylinders suggesting portals of time. Her story is inspired by this quote from Carl Jung...
“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.” Joan raised additional funds through her Kickstarter campaign and may be best known for her origami art that debuted in the windows of Tiffany & Co. in 1993. During the past 21 years she has developed her art as gift pieces for museum shops around the country beginning with the Smithsonian in 1995, been commissioned for larger art works both public and private and worked as an instructor of origami nationally and locally.
Much more of the story here on Kickstarter...
paper dresses
paper sculpture
Time Travelers. These 2 dresses use very common onion skin paper and letterhead papers on which Joan Son painted.
For more information on Joan Son, please visit her website:
You may recognize her works:
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Menil Collection Artist Eye presentation
Neiman Marcus
Tiffany & Co. Houston Galleria
Ellen Noel Art Museum
Japan America Society Houston
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Houston Grand Opera
C. G. Jung Center Houston
National Gallery of Art Museum Shop
Smithsonian Museum Shop
Dallas Museum of Art Museum Shop
Art Institute of Chicago Museum Shop
St. Lukes Hospital
Memorial Hermann Hospital
Texas State University, through Art + Artisans Consultants
Veterans Administration Austin, through Art + Artisans Consultants

The Kōzo & Kapa Connection July 05 2013

I literally just stepped off the plane from one of the most beautiful places on Earth: Hawai'i. Despite the need to be out from behind a desk, close to the lullaby of the ocean waves, still I couldn't resist delving further into some traditional culture of the islands. Little did I know this curiosity would lead to a quest on finding a local kapa artist and a lesson in ukulele.

Practically upon landing on Big Island, I immediately discovered an article in the Where series ( by Lynn Cook called The Kapa Chronicles, which included not only some kapa history, but also a written review and images of kapa maker Marie McDonald's pieces as fine art, her recent exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. I decided I had to meet this woman, and I set out to find her or at least more information on her work. How delighted I was to learn she resided in Waimea, only 12 miles from where I was staying! This was my only but unbelievable chance to meet the kapa maker herself. Before I embarked on my search for Ms. McDonald, however, I had a few things to learn during my visit.

Performing arts and fiber arts? Always a connection!

First, a brief lesson in ukulele, (click link twice to see video) where I "fell in love" with my young teachers Melissa, Lauren, Ryan and Eric; true, young geniuses at dance and all the traditional performing arts. Then, a mini lesson in hula, but I noticed there were no signs of anyone wearing kapa; the bark cloth worn for hula in the past. The art of kapa was almost lost in 1820 when the missionaries who came to Hawai'i introduced woven cloth and sewing circles.

Patterns printed on kapa are made with carved wooden sticks or anvils and natural dyes.Geometric Patterns examples for kapa (bark cloth).Geometric Patterns examples for kapa (bark cloth).

Kapa, generically known as tapa in Polynesian, is a cloth made out of bast fibers from bushes.

Front side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji. Front side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji.
Back side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji. Back side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji.

Used traditionally as loincloths and other garments, the kapa was handmade by women. Did you know, however, that kapa is made out of kōzo; fiber from the paper mulberry bush? Called wauke in Hawai'ian, parallel to the kōzo fiber used in Japan for washi, wauke is cultivated to make kapa cloth traditionally used for hula. These days, artists create modern patterns on their own, homegrown, homemade kapa cloth. It is interesting to note that the paper mulberry's bast fibers make their appearance in various, functional fiber arts found across the globe.

My quest to meet Marie, the kapa artist:

I drove to Waimea and inquired at the local Gallery of Great Things, which carried both Marie's kapa work as well as her daughter's. "How could I meet the great Marie McDonald?" I was informed at least her daughter Roen would be at the Farmer's Market on Saturday selling kapa. Saturday, I again made my way to Waimea Town to the Farmer's Market. Unfortunately, I did not catch up with either mother or daughter, but I was so close!

These photos of mother and daughter were taken in 2010, by in 2010.

Marie McDonald Marie McDonald

Marie McDonald, who is 87 years young this year, is a native Hawai'ian who intends to pass on her wealth of knowledge on traditional arts to future generations, along with her daughter, Roen McDonald Hufford. These are very special farmers, as they grow their own "art materials" to create their art. They have long been living sustainably before the word became fashionable.

Roen McDonald Hufford Roen McDonald Hufford

Marie has taught traditional Hawai'ian culture for decades in schools. She is a scholar in this realm and a true kumu (teacher) of her culture. She is author of an important book on lei-making called, Ka Lei:The Leis of Hawaii (1985) , and a newer book on leis, with astounding photography called Na Lei Makamae: The Treasured Lei (2003). I have now learned that mother and daughter teach traditional Hawai'an arts via the Hawai'i Prep Academy, where I must visit next time for sure!

Here are some leis I saw at the farmer's market in Waimea.homegrown, handmade leis

Here are examples of Marie McDonald's kapa work:

Dancers wear kapa as they perform; scenes from the Merrie Monarch Festival from Lynn Cook's article.


The Big Island Beckons: The kōzo, kapa and HULA connection is calling me back to the Big Island. Hopefully it will be very soon, so I may have the honor of meeting Marie McDonald, her daughter, and their many students. There is much to discuss, learn, and share, but in the meantime, here is my offering of what a little curiosity on vacation can do for you.

Artist of the Month: Nancy Hoel June 20 2013

Nancy is a recent customer of Paper Connection, and has graciously sent us photographs of her transforming Momi Kozo, or crinkled mulberry, to beautifully arranged flowers. We thought we'd grab on to this hot off the press inspiration and ask her to be our Artist of the Month for June. Here is a different spin of the usual questionnaire, as Nancy contributed sans Q & A her insightful training, methods, and background. Introducing Nancy, from South Carolina, in her own words: "Watercolor paintings of flowers or still lifes is my usual involvement with fine paper, but when Japanese paper enters the conversation, there is an entirely different group of interests that emerge. There is Japanese calligraphy, both kanji and hiragana. Paper dolls, washi ningyo, are another passion. Fairly recently, paper flowers and foliage have become an interest. As a very young girl, my favorite place to play was with a girl whose father worked for a printer. She had a shelf full of all colors and textures of paper he had brought her. It was very exciting! At about the same time, paper dolls appeared, and caught and held my interest. I still collect them, and made one for a little girl who was undergoing chemotherapy, and had lost her hair. It was a wig paper doll, with fanciful and silly wigs to cheer up the child with their outlandish colors and designs. Japanese paper was an exciting aspect of our stay in Japan. While my husband worked, I attended classes, starting with "hari-e" or torn paper pictures. There, I learned about different Japanese papers and their properties. It was also my first experience with a "sensei" or teacher/master. I decided to do a little improvisation with one of the designs, and before the glue had dried, the sensei stripped the paper off the board, and repositioned it in its proper place. So much for creative ideas! It had been a longtime ambition to learn calligraphy. Every Saturday I went to class, watched while the sensei remarked everyone's calligraphy with brilliant orange ink, and went home with my assignment for the next week, using reams of calligraphy practice paper, trying to properly form shapes new to me. Later, when some amount of proficiency had been attained, beautiful paper appeared, and shikishi (paper boards for artwork) arrived in boxes. Always, the paper was perfectly suited to each purpose. I have forgotten now how I became interested in Japanese paper dolls. That is where I learned how paper could be manipulated, with such striking results. Each doll was different, patterned after mostly historical types, and they began to accumulate with their colorful kimonos and fanciful hairdos. In the 1980's there were several paper stores in Hiroshima, a cool manufacturer in Kyoto, and a manufacturer in Tokyo. I began to collect all the paper I could, knowing I could not possibly use all of it, but finding each new type or design more exciting than the one before. Now the stores in Hiroshima are gone, but Paper Connection is stocked with fabulous papers from all over Asia, and the knowledgeable staff is most helpful. I look forward to learning more about Japanese paper, and, most of all, adding to my collection. The only paper I have ordered from Paper Connection so far is Momi Kozo. It has long been a favorite paper because of the large, luminous color range, and great texture. It has been invaluable for washi ningyo, and now, making paper flowers, it is very versatile and is light enough that two pieces can be glued together. It is also very strong, and can absorb the rigors of twisting and bending, necessary in both washi ningyo and floral art. Paper Connection has a large selection of Momi Kozo and I purchased one of every color. I look forward to exploring more of paper Connection's broad stock of exotic papers. The artist I would dearly love to talk to is Isabelle de Borchgrave, a Belgian woman who specializes in creating life size historic costumes from many kinds of paper, including lens paper. Her recent book, "Pulp Fashion" is a stunning display of her vision, talent, and appreciation for fine paper, and the extremes to which it can be pushed with some ingenuity."
Nancy at work Nancy at work


Various papers lend to various textures. Various papers lend to various textures.

Nancy, thank you so much for telling us about your background, your inspiration, and Isabelle de Borchgrave. Your kindness to others is worthy of example, and we look forward to seeing more of your pieces.

Feast your eyes on more of Nancy's work:

Tenugui:More than Just a Hand-towel December 21 2011

Tenugui is a "handy-wipe", which Japanese carry with them for daily use. But, as you can see here, they are used in a variety of different ways; like as part of a costume for parade performers, as giftwrap for presents, as wall art, as a sash or scarf.

These pretty little textiles we're neatly tied around the heads of the dancers during the Koenji Festival parade, which I attended last month. A natural progression from paper is of course, textiles. As a collector of affordable art or folk arts, I've taken on tenugui as my new obsession. Tenugui are now for sale on

Just in these last 2 months, I've learned more details about how tenuguis are made....will explain in a future blog. Other scenes in the town of Koenji.
Devil Roof Tile of Temple in Koenji Here's a little video to enjoy, recorded in Japan. Just click on link below, taking you to our new vimeo account:

Ode To Ballerinas Au Papier December 16 2010

As the much anticipated film Black Swan opens this month, I thought I'd get in on the Swan Lake fever and contribute my own findings of the ever beautiful ballerina.