United Nations of Paper

Why do I make paper? I think I have talked about this before in other blog posts. But this week it has really been brought home to me what a family the paper making community is. Such a reunion of fellow papermakers has happened in the past few days at the Middleste Molen paper mill in Loenan, Holland as we have gathered together for the first Paper Art Event here.

This old mill has a 400 year tradition of paper making which is celebrated in a big way. The whole area is one of Holland’s biggest paper making centres and just across the canal (there is always a canal somewhere nearby in this country) - there is a fully functioning industrial paper mill. Many of the workers who have retired from the mill come to work at Middleste Molen as volunteers because paper making is in their blood.

This weekend is the National Monument day for the Dutch old buildings. Everywhere the beautiful wind and water mills are open for free to the public. Visitors have been pouring into the mill all day where a team of 100 volunteers tour people around the mill, show them how to make paper and demonstrate the old paper making machinery processes.

The air is punctuated from time to time by a blast from the steam whistle. I’m not sure why other than just because it sounds great. Maybe it used to be for the lunch break and end of shift. Who knows…but it makes for a celebratory atmosphere. The place buzzes with people of all ages and as it has been sunny, the population arrives here by car and many by bicycle as a family weekend outing.

I’m part of the group of international artists who are involved in the Paper Art Event, an immense organisational coup pulled off by two of the IAPMA members Betty Disco and Miriam Van der Linden. It coincides with the Dutch monument day and the nearby CODA museum paper art exhibition at Apeldoorn. So much paper inspiration and variety of materials, techniques and subject matter.

I feel truely humbled to take part in an event with so many fellow papermakers - it really feels like the United Nations of paper. Something greater than just individuals that connects us around the world as global citizens. I’ve been able to talk about the global environmental crisis during a presentation of my recent Deluge exhibition.

The ensuing discussions have have been about the record heat during this European summer with very little rain, which has meant there is not enough water to turn the water mill wheel. Their solution has been to use the 150 year old steam turbine to power the paper making machinery instead. Such candid discussions bear witness to the fact that we are all connected to this climate crisis which needs radical solutions to bring the earth back into balance before it is too late. Maybe paper is a starting point for global change!

Pulling paper at my table at the Paper Art Event at Middleste Molem Loenan, the Netherlands.

Pulling paper at my table at the Paper Art Event at Middleste Molem Loenan, the Netherlands.