Artist Beth Sheehan, who serves as office associate in the department of art and art history, and UA Book Arts assistant professor Kyle Holland co-organized and co-hosted the North American Hand Papermakers Conference, 2021 Fluid Practices. The virtual conference on papermaking took place September 25 and 26, and featured demonstrations, group panels and individual talks around topics of collaboration across media areas, working in isolation during the pandemic, as well as discussions and demos on papermaking techniques.
Pandemic-induced isolation has opened doors to innovation in papermaking and the conference showcased this. “Much of the programming we have scheduled,” explained Sheehan beforehand, “will be presentations from artists and papermakers who have been pushing the boundaries of papermaking in a variety of ways – through collaborations with artists who typically use other mediums, through their own work mixing mediums, by adapting their practice to home-based practices during the pandemic, or by utilizing technology to further the papermaking field.”
COVID-19 forced many hands-on events to go online, but this change sometimes has allowed more people to participate, especially those who were far away or couldn’t travel. In an interview before the conference, Sheehan said, “Although we greatly wish we could be safely in-person for this conference, we are so excited that having a virtual conference is allowing presenters to Zoom in from all over, including one presenter who will be lecturing from the Philippines.” The conference was well attended, with about 150 members registered, Sheehan said.
Sheehan said that conference-goers were also able to take home what she called a “digital keepsake” after the conference. “[It] includes a 3D printing file to print your own papermaking mould and deckle,” she said, “and features several recipe sheets for making certain kinds of handmade paper including one by Kyle on how to make Alabama Kozo paper (from a type of mulberry tree) made popular by Glenn House.” Glenn W. House, Sr., was a founder of the UA Book Arts program and a BFA alumnus in the department of art and art history.