An Inside Look at Paint & Calligraphy Papers April 25 2021

Character Appeal

Xuan - Super soft, absorbing ink consistently and evenly Pronounced "shwen," this paper provides a pristine surface for writing and painting. Handmade in historic, Anhui Province, China, Xuan has stood the test of time as the ink of ancient scrolls and paintings still retaining its vibrancy to this day. For all levels, this is a quality paper for practice and finished work and very affordable. Mini Xuan paper is a charming handmade paper for writing or incorporating mixed media. Made from recycled materials, including bamboo waste paper, here is a great paper for beginners. Economical and made to support hand/eye development for more solid practices. For all levels, this paper works widely for practice and finished work. Papers great for Asian-style calligraphy (shodō), sumi painting, and fish printing (gyotaku) A lovely assortment includes Kihosen Kana, handmade in Japan with a mix of mitsumata, bamboo, and kōzo fibers. This professional-grade sumi painting or calligraphy paper comes folded and may require a warm iron or just leave rolled for a few days. Currently we sell scroll-sized Kana paper in 10-sheet sets. Soonji made from white Korean mulberry paper (hanji) is also an excellent choice. There is no sizing which makes it absorbent and ideal for calligraphy, Sumi-e, and brush painting amongst other uses. Sunn is a very traditional paper developed in the 8th century for writing religious script and Persian miniature paintings. It is made from raw fermented and cooked hemp and then burnished by hand. The surface is coated with wheat starch, a sizing of egg-white, and alum, burnished with agate to provide a naturally sized surface with an incredible sheen. Yin Yang Dochim Hanji is a beautiful, heavyweight, and burnished mulberry paper. Fibers are compacted and "small-pored," making them great for applying ink with no bleeding. Rustic lokta papers from Nepal are not technically burnished but lokta fiber once made into a sheet is naturally small-pored. Japanese kōzo papers with a bit of internal sizing (sizing added to the vat before formation) are suitable for beginners to experts. If you are unsure what type of kōzo to use, start here for its versatility and price.
Rick Lowe brush painting on lokta paper.
Take a step toward further experimentation! These depicted here are some marvelous papers to explore.
Rona Conti wielding her calligraphy brush.

Sizing - Alum can be a key constituent of your work. When the paper is called "sized" there is usually alum involved. Traditional sizing or size is made with a recipe of animal skin glue and alum to create a barrier in or on the paper so ink does not absorb into the fibers. (Here's a vegan version to DIY sizing). Sized papers are less absorbent and more forgiving of water-based techniques, lending themselves to multiple paint and ink washes/modifications. In other words, sized papers "hold up" against liquids and pigments. Without sizing, paper can be highly absorbent and valued for depth and vividness, allowing painters and calligraphers further complexity to their imagery and characters. Professional brush painters look for the rate of ink absorption. Plus they look for a well-formed sheet which will have an even ink bleed no matter where you place your wet brush. Many of the pros use paper without sizing. Burnished, pressed, or "calendered" paper surfaces will often be sufficient to slow or stop paint from unwanted bleeding. You can bet that most papers from Asia are not sized. fricka-artist/writer/editor our papers help tell your story • want more?

A Conversation with Lindsey Beal January 19 2017

Maybe you have dabbled in alternative printing for photography, maybe you miss the good ole' days of film and a 35mm, or maybe you look back at historical photographs over a century ago, and wonder, 'how did they do it?' Regardless of which of the above categories you may fall into, you will be inspired and accurately informed by Lindsey Beal, a Rhode Island-based master of many arts. Historic photographic processing is an amazing return to when photographs were produced before the advent of film. Lindsey is a pioneer in this field. The Newport Art Museum, here in RI, will be showing her works, along with Ron Cowie. The exhibit is called New Light Through Old Windows and it opens this Saturday, January 21st until April 16th, 2017. There will be an artist talk at the museum February 9th @6pm. We were thrilled that Lindsey took the time to answer our questions and explain her art, which crosses over into many worlds, and times. If you are a photography aficionado, paperphile, or an educator, please grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy our conversation with Lindsey Beal.

Getting to Know Lindsey Beal:

PCI: Please tell us a little bit about your work and background: what do you do, where, and what inspired you to pursue photography. What inspires you to champion early photo processing? Do you combine any modern technology in your methods; how so? LB: I am a photo-based artist who lives in Providence. I work in a studio in Pawtucket in one of the mill buildings where I make books and print photos. I teach a course on photography books at RISD, a handmade photography on fabric & paper course at MassArt, and am an adviser and core faculty in NHIA’s MFA program. I graduated with my MFA in photography from the University of Iowa and a graduate certificate in Book Arts from the University of Iowa Center for the Book. I picked up photography as a freshman at St. Olaf College, a liberal arts college in Minnesota.
Transmission Accordion Book, courtesy of Lindsey Beal
Reproductions Book courtesy of Lindsey Beal
Venus FIgurine, courtesy of Lindsey Beal
LB (cont'd): Although I worked in all mediums, photography is what stuck and what I am most passionate about. However, I do not generally call myself a photographer but a photo-based artist—someone who uses photography in her work, just as I do printmaking, sculpture, books or papermaking. However, photography is the constant in all my work. I mainly work in historical photographic processes—photographic methods that existed before the advent of film. It can become very painterly and overlaps with printmaking. I like bringing in digital images, inkjet printers or photo editing software to help me create negatives from which to print. PCI: For those who may be new to the idea of returning to the early methods of photograph processing, what does it mean to be a historic processes photographer? LB: There are variety of different viewpoints and approaches for those who use historic photographic processes. Maybe they are passionate about history, maybe they want to be in control of all the aspects of photomaking, maybe they want to incorporate a more hands-on way of working, or maybe it fits their content better than analogue or digital photography. The reasons are very diverse, just as it is to use one process over another. For some, if you know one process, you at least learn others, even if you do not work in them. At its most basic level, these processes use chemistry that coats a surface like metal, glass plates or paper, exposed to light and then processed through various chemicals to develop or fix the image—just like darkroom photography since this is how photography began. Sometimes you end up with a unique image (positive), and sometimes you use a negative to make the plates or prints. With something like photogravure, you ink up a photographic plate and run it through a printing press to make multiples.
Exposing Cyanotypes, courtesy of Lindsey Beal
Waxing cyanotypes, courtesy of Lindsey Beal
PCI: Do you feel that this field of photography is making a comeback, or becoming popular with colleagues, peers, or the next generation of photographers and/or printmakers? Why is this so important in such a digital age? LB: Yes, since the advent of digital photography, the desire to return to photography’s roots and work more hands-on has grown. There are generations before me who led the way in this, and generations younger than me that are enthusiastic about it too. The benefit is now we can use digital images and go back into the darkroom by making our own negatives on printable material that resembles overhead transparencies. Darkroom materials like film and paper are becoming harder and harder to find, but you can go back to processes that existed pre-film in order to work in the darkroom with these turn of the twentieth century processes. You are in complete control since the chemistry is made from scratch and you choose what kind of paper, glass or metal to print onto. The processes are slow but I think that is valuable in today’s world. Sometimes it takes longer to produce bodies of work but for me it is important to have my hand in some part of the process.

Relationship with handmade paper:

PCI: How does handmade paper, or Japanese handmade paper, (washi), configure with your work? LB: Handmade paper doesn’t always factor into my work, but my knowledge of paper, and its unique qualities always influences what type of paper I print onto. I am a paper nerd and must go see the paper in person so I can feel it before buying, whether for handmade books or as printing surfaces. I always encourage my students to go in person to pick out paper—it’s important to have local stores like PCI that you can visit to do just that. PCI: What qualities of washi do you look for in choosing which paper is right for the printing/photo processing effect that you desire? How do these qualities affect your work technically and aesthetically? LB: I look for something that has a good wet strength since my processes require coating the washi with chemistry, allowing it to air dry, exposing it to UV light and then developing it in multiple trays of chemicals or wash out baths. I also look for ones that dry flat—I need a good seal between a negative and the coated paper because if the paper dries wrinkly, my photos will be out of focus. While I can use supports to gently bring the paper out of the chemistry or handle them carefully in the water baths, I prefer to do more testing to find a paper or fiber I do not have to so carefully monitor. After that, if I know that the paper reacts well, the look and feel of the paper needs to fit my content and aesthetics. PCI: As a papermaker, what do you appreciate about traditional Japanese papermaking and using washi? LB: I love how in Japanese paper making, you can do it all yourself without a lot of expensive equipment. You can cook, and pound the raw fibers—you do not need a mechanical beater to do so. Similarly, with the vat and drying system. The most expensive materials would be the molds. For me, although I primarily make Western paper, Asian papermaking techniques seem more accessible without a lot of equipment. That being said, I really struggled with traditional Japanese papermaking at the University of Iowa! Now that I often purchase kozo paper I print on, I appreciate it more because I know what went into making it. PCI: How did you come to know about Paper Connection? How did PCI help navigate you through the world of washi? LB: I moved to Providence immediately after graduating from the University of Iowa Center for the Book Certificate program where I mainly focused on papermaking. The greater papermaking community is a small but supportive one, so Paper Connection was suggested as a good resource to buy paper as well as meet other paper nerds like myself. Lauren was also helpful when I needed washi for a specific project and picked out a variety of papers for me to test. She was also a huge support for papermaking workshops at AS220 for which I assisted the instructor May Babcock. PCI: The arts community in RI truly echos-not 6, but 1 degree of separation!
The Venus Series, courtesy of Lindsey Beal

The Venus Series:

PCI: What inspired The Venus Series? What kind of photo application is used? LB: I was curious about the history of the Venus figurines from around the world. They are a diverse group of pre-historic figurines whose meanings have eluded archaeologists for centuries. Each generation finds new meanings in them, as do new generations of artists. I was always drawn to their mystery and the wet plate process further emphasized this. They began to be discovered at the height of wet plate collodion’s popularity so both historically and aesthetically I tied the two processes together. PCI: Were any sheets of washi used for this series of images? LB: I did not use washi in this project, but did use it for another series “Commonplace” where I printed social media images in cyanotype (like architectural blue prints) onto kozo paper that I later waxed, and handbound into a book using a Japanese stab binding technique. For “The Venus Series” I overbeat raw flax in a mechanical beater. I pulled the sheets and allowed them to air dry around forms. This paper created the figures for which “The Venus Series” is based in. The photographs were taken with the wet plate collodion process (many know it as the tin type process), that was popular during the Civil War. PCI: Wow. What does it mean for you personally that Newport Art Museum is showing your work, as a RI resident? LB: I have lived in RI for five years now. Originally from Maine and Minnesota, I also lived in Portland, Oregon and went to graduate school in Iowa. My husband and I moved to Providence for his training at Brown’s Family Medicine residency at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket. After he finished his training we moved to Wickford for two years and are now permanently back in Providence. For me, showing in Newport is a great honor—I find the history of the area fascinating and attend the Newport Folk Fest every summer. I was thrilled when Francine Weiss, the new curator at NAM, wanted to show my work with Ron Cowie, a friend and colleague of mine. I have a few upcoming shows in RI this year so am happy to be showing in my state!

As an educator:

PCI: What do you try to instill in your students as far as carrying on the tradition of this type of photography? Or photography in general? LB: I try to instill in my students a knowledge of photographic history since they should have a grounding in it if they are working in the historical processes. However, I am not a purist and want to take these historical processes (or alternative photographic processes or handmade photographic processes, depending on what you prefer to call them) into the 21st century. I create digital negatives to print from and find it is a great way to get students back into the darkroom—you have more flexibility. I also want them to experiment with image making and surfaces types. What is the most important to me though is that the process is tied to the imagery somehow—if you are working in these processes you often must justify your use of them, but I think for good reason—why are going to these lengths to print in these methods in today’s world? Tie their background—why were they used, what kind of imagery, who used them, etc.—into the work. PCI: For those interested in learning about historical processes photography, what advice would you give? What papers work? LB: The papers vary from process to process. In general, something that is pH neutral, has a good wet strength (can hold up in multiple water baths and coating with chemistry). A good place to start is a good cotton watercolor paper (hot press if you want to see the image well but cold press can change the images’ message). Asian style paper like kozo or mitsumata are perfect since they have a great wet strength and take wet chemistry well. Sometimes they need more support in their handling but are beautiful papers. Once they learn various processes and feel comfortable with it, I try to get my students to think about the work’s content and how the surface reinforces or matches the concept. I try to instill in my students a sense of experimentation and play or risk taking. Some of my students have printed on phone books, newsprint, paper towels—whatever they wanted to try out. Obviously that work is not archival but I appreciate the surface experimentation! PCI: Lindsey, we thank you so much for talking with us during this very busy week of yours. We also thank you for your support of handmade paper, this amazing method of photography, and for sharing your knowledge through teaching. Congrats on the show! For more information on Lindsey Beal, please visit her website: For those in the southern New England area, an upcoming show will be held at UMass Dartmouth Gallery: Singular Repetitions, a 5 person monoprint show. Visit Lindsey's website and social media to find out more.

Artist of the Month: Chuck Lathrop May 30 2014

Many moons ago, on a few occasions, we were lucky to have Chuck Lathrop visit Paper Connection. Back then, Chuck Lathrop lived in nearby Massachusetts and was part of the Monotype Guild of New England. Chuck exposed us to his brave approach to print on ANY surface, resulting in cutting-edge, bold and abstract prints, and we exposed him to traditional, Japanese, fine art papers or washi.

A few years ago, Chuck left our area to start his own studio in the sunny Southwest. Let's talk to Chuck and find out his opinion on paper, and the situation with his own handmade paper with dryer lint! Chuck is never shied away from trying new surfaces; coffee filters, and yes, even dryer lint paper.

coffee filters, beeswax, encaustic 74 Days in the Life of the Artist as Measured in Coffee Filters (used coffee filters, beeswax)
PCI: Please tell us about what you do. CL: Over the last 35 years my work has included printmaking, painting, mixed-media drawings and objects. The landscape has always had a huge influence on my work. At first it was through direct observation or photos, but today I work from within relying on memory, impressions, andemotion to create abstractions. Automatic mark-making is a huge part of my work as well. PCI: Who has inspired you? CL: My artistic influences are varied and too numerous to cite individually. Paul Cezanne and Robert Motherwell standout because my introduction to them coincided with huge changes in my style and motif. Today, there are many contemporary artists I draw inspiration from. PCI: What attracts you to working with paper? What do you like best about working with it? CL: Paper is probably one of the most versatile substrates available to artists and I have enjoyed pushing it to its limits.
West Mesa (Large) mixed media drawing on Kozo West Mesa (Large)
mixed media drawing on Kozo
PCI: How did you hear about our company? CL: I was introduced to Paper Connection International through the Monotype Guild of New England when Lauren Pearlman invited MGNE members to come to PCI’s office (showroom/warehouse) to talk about Japanese paper. PCI: How much knowledge did you have about Japanese papers before using ours? How did we help? CL: Until my introduction to PCI I had only used Western paper and my knowledge of Japanese paper was very limited. What my association with Lauren and PCI did for me was to expose me to a lot more possibilities regarding paper. 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? CL: Kumohada Unryushi, (now a limited edition paper), and the various weights of Kozo are the ones I use the most frequently. I use the Kozo for monotypes and woodcuts. The Kumohada is utilized for collagraphs and painting. Some of the work on these papers I have mounted to panel and used as a basis for encaustic work. (Please see image below of When the Rhythm Sections Floats I Float Too, encaustic on reduction woodcut on panel).
Untitled, monoprint, using Kumohoda Unryushi paper Untitled, monoprint, using Kumohoda Unryushi paper
PCI: We are learning much about how our papers react to the encaustic process, and we'd love more of your feedback as we are novices to the application.
When the Rhythm Section Floats I Float Too encaustic on reduction woodcut on panel When the Rhythm Section Floats I Float Too
encaustic on reduction woodcut on panel
PCI: We're reminded of your visit and how laundry lint inspired you? CL: As I remember it I was learning how make paper with scraps of museum board, something of which I generally have a quite a bit of in the studio. In my research I ran across a reference to someone using dryer lint. Made sense to me since some Western papers were made from cotton rags hence term “rag paper”. I collected a bunch of lint from the dryer and one day when I was creating paper from museum board I threw some of the lint into the mix towards the end of the day’s session. Consequently the first sheet had a little paper pulp which yielded a light blue-gray and the last sheets had no paper pulp and came out a dark blue-gray. Though I still have some sheets of the paper (both from museum board and lint), I created at the time (the late 1990's), and still work with it on occasion, I found the paper was weak and easily tore when I didn’t want it to tear. Given that I now live the Southwest and water supply is always an issue, especially during the current drought we are in, and the fact that any kind of paper making takes a large amount of water, I probably won’t be making any more paper. PCI: We commend your awareness and responsible action. What is your experience as far as the strength of Japanese papers versus Western papers? CL: I prefer Western paper when I create paintings and mixed drawings, but for printmaking I prefer the Japanese papers. The Japanese papers don’t hold up well with my painting techniques and tend to fur-up when I draw on them. On the other hand I appreciate the quality of the Japanese papers when I’m making prints because there is a beautiful difference on how they receive the ink regardless of the strength. I don’t think Eastern paper is necessarily stronger than Western paper. A paper’s strength is largely dependent on the length of its fibers and what it is made of. I suspect some of the Eastern papers maybe stronger, but on the other hand, I would also guess some of the Western papers might be stronger. Other issues in this discussion are the questions: What will the paper used for? Will it be dampened or soaked? How absorbent is the paper dry or wet? PCI: Those are all very good questions that one should ask before purchasing paper. 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? CL: Yikes! There are so many I would like to have a conversation with that if I had the chance I would gather them around a table, if a large enough one could be found, just to talk about art. PCI: We'll provide the drinks! For more on Chuck Lathrop, please visit his website: Chuck has recently established an online journal: We enjoyed the discussion, "On Serious Art." An upcoming show at the Downtown Contemporary Gallery, in Albuquerque, NM, will feature Chuck along with other printmakers. The show opens May 30th. If you are in the Albuquerque area then please go!

Mary Fassett: 97 Years Young September 28 2012

What do you picture yourself doing at 97 years old? If you follow Mary Fassett's example you would still create artwork, write, but mostly continue to learn everyday.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege to visit Mary Fassett; on my way home from the 6th Annual Encaustic Conference on beautiful Cape Cod. Mary has been a fixture on the Cape, where, since moving there in 1980, she worked as a portrait painter and taught art. In reality, she is much more than a painter; Mary has worked in so many mediums. Check out her sculptures, ceramics, limited edition books, etc. in the photos included here and on the flickr link below..
2 different nymph sculptures; images scanned from her book.
I was thinking of renaming her as "Mary Multi-Faceted" (I think I just have!). She represents a life of many phases; Mary is a person with endless layers.

What I admire about Mary is her creative spirit; it never falters or fades. Although, her body has slowed down, her mind continues to feverishly work on the next project. Understandably, she works fervently and quickly, trying to complete many tasks before she goes. She writes in her book Revise and Dissent: "I am trying to understand the story of my inner life, so that I can now peaceably weigh the harrowing conflicts that have worked me over for a lifetime." Mary seeks knowledge of self and others almost every waking moment. During my visit, she held my hands in hers, and studying my eyes, she said, "I don't really know you; I want to know you". Hopefully she discovered something new about me that evening. I certainly unveiled a new layer or two of her fascinating persona, not only by visiting her in person, but also via writing this blog. Bravo Mary! may you continue to inspire us all; forever inquisitive, forever hungry to know the interior, exterior, that is, all facets of being human. To see more images of her work, check out our flickr here.

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 .

Origamido at the Fuller Craft Museum July 27 2012

I hadn't seen my longtime friend Michael LaFosse in too many years. So when I found out he and his partner Richard Alexander would be doing an origami series on July 15 at the Fuller Craft Museum - I thought this was my chance to see them. The Fuller is not too far up the road from's located in Brockton, MA. The event was called Meet the Maker: it consisted of 3 events: 1 beginner's workshop, slide show and talk, then the more advanced folder's workshop. The folding duo was working and teaching non-stop, so we didn't get to chat much, but it was so wonderful to meet them again and to experience the incredible origami creature collection they brought from the Origamido studio. Wilbur the piglet was even there. I hadn't seen Wilbur since 1992, when we did an event together at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. Wilbur hasn't aged a bit!
LaFosse, Wilbur the Piglet
Michael LaFosse is the master creator of sculptural paper creatures, and Richard Alexander is quite a folder in his own right. Richard is the master of championing Michael and the entire tradition of Origami. Check out all the books, kits and DVDs he has produced or they have collaborated on! At their studio, Origamido -which by the way, translates roughly to The Way of Paper Folding- in Haverhill, MA, folders are treated to expert instruction on how to create fine art origami, basic folding techniques, even paper-making. Algebraic and geometric equations are applied to the art of origami, as well as critical thinking skills, communication, and the culture and history of origami. This is not your average crane folding workshop. The following slide show gives you a taste of the day spent at the Fuller Craft Museum: the origami creatures we saw, the Fuller's exterior and inside during the workshop, and the museum's beautiful surrounding scenery. PLUS! a wonderful dragon folded by Nick Avery of Pembroke, MA. At the Meet the Maker lecture I met father and son origami enthusiasts: Mark and Nick Avery, who came to Paper Connection just yesterday. As soon as they returned home from Paper Connection, apparently, Nick- who is now 17 yrs old and just started seriously folding 9 months ago -was so psyched to try his newly purchased papers and so inspired by Michael Lafosse and other masters, he folded this wonderful dragon out of our red dragon pattern blockprinted lokta paper ! So proud to meet one of the next generation's great folders.

Where is PaperWoman January 21 1995

Check out Paper Woman's calender.