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Founded With a Love for Papermaking

Image - Co-founders Michael Durgin, Amanda Degener, and helper in Minneapolis, stuffing the Winter 1987 issue into envelopes.

Co-founders Michael Durgin, Amanda Degener, and helper in Minneapolis, stuffing the Winter 1987 issue into envelopes.

Hand Papermaking, Inc. was founded by Amanda Degener and Michael Durgin in 1986 with the publication of Hand Papermaking magazine. Degener makes sculpture and artist books using handmade paper in combination with a variety of materials, and in 1994  she was the founder along with Bridget O’Malley of Cave Paper, Inc. How did Degener become introduced to pulp? 

“My drawing class went to visit Ken Noland, who was living in the Bennington area at the time. It was a field trip and everyone got to make one sheet of paper. I remember putting my hands in that paper vat and when I pulled a sheet of paper, I gasped. I thought, oh my god, that’s it! You know, people talk about love at first sight. It was completely like that. I mean, I just knew, from one sheet of paper.”

Michael Durgin co-founded Hand Papermaking with Degener and served as its editor for 18 years. Durgin was also the guest editor of a special issue of Hand Papermaking (Winter 2014) devoted to China, where he has lived. He describes his introduction to papermaking in the Summer 2006 issue:

“An artist named Yuriko Yamaguchi, who is still in the Washington [DC] area, was teaching a papermaking course during the week...I asked my boss if I could take off Thursday mornings to take this course, and she said, sure, which was very nice. And so, for two months I started falling in love with papermaking. That was my first formal training, followed by classes over the years at Pyramid Atlantic. That was 1983 or ’84, and then the magazine’s first issue came out in ’86.”

The Magazine Launch in 1986

With encouragement and support from people like Tim Barrett and Elaine Koretsky, the founders launched the first issue of the magazine. In the decades since, Hand Papermaking has taken “the pulse of the field…and documents its time-honored traditions” says Amanda Degener.

Degener describes the vision for the magazine as “more like a reference book or a journal...I always read the magazine when I get it, but it has become so important as a reference library over time. I might ask myself, ‘What was that paper in Czechoslovakia made out of?’ I can’t remember, but I can go back and look. The magazine has been a great research tool linking the craft of papermaking and the art of papermaking.”

Further Publications to Serve the Field

The 1988 creation of Hand Papermaking Newsletter met the need to share timely information outside of the longer magazine production cycle. Published quarterly, it was also a place for informational columns and workshop descriptions.

Also in 1988, Hand Papermaking established a paper artist registry, which took the form of three juried slide kits that could be loaned out to educators, collectors, and curators and a CD-ROM that could be purchased. Degener describes its purpose as “to promote paper art and to show it to other people...touting what can be done with the material, and making it easy for curators to look at paper artworks.” Shifting these objectives to its website and social media platforms, Hand Papermaking retired the slide registry program in 2016. The slides are housed at the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking at Georgia Tech University and are presently being digitized.

In 1994, Hand Papermaking produced its first Handmade Paper Portfolio, “Design and Pattern in Handmade Paper: Wet and Dry Techniques.” Each handsomely packaged portfolio is centered around a specific theme and accompanied by detailed technical and aesthetic statements. “People now and years from now will look at these sets and understand and learn from them” explains Michael Durgin.

The organization continues to do the work of its founders’ vision to advance the field of hand papermaking. In recent years, new initiatives respond to the current needs of the field of hand papermaking. This includes expanded social media offerings such as live online events and the presentation of new work by underrepresented artists, and the establishment of our Black Writers Fellowships, which go to commissioning new writing about paper in the pages of Hand Papermaking magazine.

Founders' Conversation: Amanda Degener and Michael Durgin
Article begins on page 43 of the Summer 2006 issue of Hand Papermaking 

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