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Paper Samples. 2022. 46 paper folders with samples of handmade paper. One perfect-bound digitally-printed book titled Paper Samples/Our lives with paper: an autobiography told through handmade paper samples. Both held in a wooden file box. 10 (high) x 14 (wide) x 5.375 (deep) inches. 6 copies. $2,800.00
Paper Samples is a collection showing examples of handmade paper made by Peter and Donna Thomas between 1975 and 2018. The samples, organized chronologically, are held in 46 folders that were made for the project using cotton rag. The samples are accompanied by a full color perfect-bound digitally-printed book titled, Paper Samples/Our lives with paper: an autobiography told through handmade paper samples. The text describes the samples. The samples and book are housed in a custom wooden file box made from Baltic birch.
In 2018, John Hoover of the Mercantile Library at the University of Saint Louis, asked if we would make him a portfolio with examples of our handmade paper and write a short description of each sheet. We didn't commit to the project, but kept it in the back of our minds.
In 2020, while searching through our shop for samples of overruns and ephemera to include in our book, Evidence: Overruns and Ephemera, we came across a large box with multiple examples of our earliest handmade papers. Although the samples were not dated, we recognized many of them and could tell which ones were made first, and which were made later. As a way to date when the samples were made we created a papermaking timeline; outlining what we did and where, when we gained new information, or learned new techniques, or acquired new tools, as a way to date the samples.
We found enough paper to six copies of a portfolio, each containing 46 different examples of paper we had made between 1975 and 2018. We assembled them chronologically, in numbered folders. (Peter handmade the paper used for the folders and printed the numbers letterpress, using metal 56-point Neuland type.) We then wrote descriptions of the samples, and added autobiographical text describing how we "invented" papermaking, made paper as "Peter and Donna Papermaker" at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, built a Hollander beater and other tools, then set up a shop in our home to make the paper we would print our books on. That text, along with photographs, and an introductory essay about our place in the revival of interest in hand papermaking that occurred in the 1960-80s, was published as a print on digitally-printed perfect-bound book titled Paper Samples/Our lives with paper: an autobiography told through handmade paper samples.
The digitally printed book tellls the story of what we had to learn or do, and the tools we had to construct, and the technical improvements required to make each sample. It is illustrated with color photographs of us making paper through the years, as well as with photos of the equipment and books discussed in the text. This book is also being sold separately, and those copies have five samples tipped in at the back of the book. To see a PDF preview of pages excerpted from this book, click here.
The samples and book are both housed in a handmade wooden file box, made from Baltic birch, with the title held in a metal label holder on the front.
The text of Paper Samples/Our lives with paper: an autobiography told through handmade paper samples was written by Peter and Donna Thomas. It begins with an introductory essay. This essay was first presented as a lecture at the North American Hand Papermaker's annual conference in 2018. It describes the revival of interest in hand papermaking that occurred in the 1960-80s, and their place in that revival. The introduction is followed by a description of each sample. The samples are organized chronologically so the accompanying autobiographical text tells the story of their papermaking odessy from 1974: how they "invented" papermaking, then made paper as "Peter Papermaker" at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, set up a shop in their home, built a hollander beater, acquired a 2-ton hydraulic press, and learned to make paper they could use for printing their books on. The text describes what they had to learn or do, and the tools they had to construct, and the technical improvements required to make each sample.
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