In the Spotlight

St. Albert Paper Arts Guild

January, 2023

S.A PAG promotes creative uses for a traditional material

To environmentalists citing a paperless environment would help stem the tide towards climate change, here’s a newsflash. The St. Albert Paper Arts Guild isn’t exactly taking that argument to heart. “Not all paper is created equal!” declared guild member Wendy Hodgson-Sadgrove, while also stating most artists prefer to use material from more renewable sources that include cotton, flax, hemp, and linen. “Using paper as art or craft is completely different,” added colleague Kyla Fisher. 

The guild hardly seems interested in immersing the amenities of their craft with the social issues of the day. They’re far more enthralled with the processes involved in making paper, using such tools as a Hollander beater to make wood pulp more malleable, or using techniques like washi chigre-e that involves tearing Japanese paper compounds to make art. That doesn’t include other centuries-old methods appropriated world-wide such as pasting, stitching and weaving that go into a finished work. 

Add to that the diverse skill set provided by the 20 members that comprise the guild and you’re likely to see a wide variety of pieces emerge from their studio in St. Albert Place. Every creation from pictures and books to cards and even the paper itself involves the application of disciplines like bookbinding, suminagashi (Japanese ink marbling), cyanotype, calligraphy, and letterpress. “No other medium that I know of meets the diverse applications as paper does,” noted Rena Whistance-Smith.

While the activity surrounding paper art might sound academic, there’s no getting around the Zen-like experience of engaging with the craft.

“For me working with paper is grounding, using natural materials with my hands inspires creativity to flow through me.”

said Vicki Cooke.

Added Amanda McKenzie, “Seeing how it was made and knowing that it was tenderly made by someone’s hands, creativity, and passion is what I enjoy immensely about paper arts.” 

Meanwhile, Carla Costuras likes what the art does to her senses. “I love the tactile quality of handmade paper, and my favourite response is to treat it almost as a non-woven fabric to be assembled, stitched and woven.” And while some paper art disciplines might be more difficult to grasp than others, Arlene Westen likes the notion that paper is quite user-friendly. “A five-year-old can cut, fold and paste it with ease.”

It was a love for the craft that prompted six practitioners to form the St. Albert Paper Arts Guild in 2007. Today, the guild, with Trudy Mason as its president, continues to promote paper arts and exchange creative ideas at its studio. “The Paper Arts Guild  is the most diverse , multi talented,  helpful and encouraging group of  people ever,” noted artist Dayle Lambert. The guild also engages in community outreach by participating in such events as St. Albert Artwalk, the St. Albert Place Visual Arts Council Country Craft Fair and the biannual “Guilded” exhibition at the Art Gallery of St. Albert.

Because of the dedication to the craft, which nearly spans the legacy of civilization itself, members of the guild are confident that paper isn’t going away anytime soon. “Paper is as old as human history…almost,” said artist Mary Whale. “It is the foundational ground of much of the works in our art history.

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