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Punching and Laying Down Dots: Essential Tools on the Howardena Pindell Project

Winter 2022
Winter 2022
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Working on Howardena Pindell’s pieces requires precision, patience, and the right tools.  

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Working on Howardena Pindell’s pieces requires precision, patience, and the right tools.  Since February 2022 I have worked alongside Howardena Pindell, Dieu Donné studio collaborators Amy Jacobs and Tatiana Ginsberg, and a team of four assistants to punch and lay down hundreds of thousands of printed paper dots in the creation of Howardena Pindell’s paper pieces during her residency at Dieu Donné.

To punch the dots, ranging in diameter from 1/16 inch to ½ inch, we use three different tools: an industrial hand-punch machine in which we stack several sheets of letterpress-printed paper carefully aligned on top of each other and punch in various sizes; leatherworking punches for larger dots that are punched individually by hand using a hammer; and a Japanese screw punch to punch the smallest dots.

To lay down the dots onto the handmade-paper base sheets, we use PerfectLine thin black tweezers. Tweezers have long been used at Dieu Donné to remove debris from sheets, lift delicate stencils, and pop pesky air bubbles. Howardena has always used tweezers in her own practice as well. The tweezers are central to the delicate process of building Howardena’s complex works. For the smaller pieces in which the dots are as small as one-sixteenth of an inch, Howardena uses straight needle-nose tweezers to individually place each dot, filling spaces within the larger form. For the thread-grid pieces, straight tweezers and curved-nose tweezers are indispensible as each etched dot must be placed exactly within the quarter-inch boundaries of the grid. A 40 x 60-inch thread-grid piece requires us to place approximately 17,000 dots. Once we lay down all the dots, we couch a very thin layer of abaca on top to keep the dots in place.

Working on Howardena Pindell’s project requires precision and attention to detail. The black tweezers were an essential tool in making this series of work. Each of us now has our own set of PerfectLine tweezers and I know I will be using mine as I continue my papermaking practice into the future.