For Algoma Natural Papermaker, Paper Is Art

By Zac Schultz | November 12, 2018


For most people, paper is paper. It brings the news or carries a message. Paper may contain art, but in the form of a drawing or a story or music notes on a sheet.

For Kirsten Christianson, paper is art. “I know that when I’m making the paper, it’s going to develop into this creative thing.”

For most people, paper comes from forests of trees cut down and trucked to the mill.

For Christianson, paper comes from old rags, flax and cattails by the river.

For most people, paper binds us to our daily reality in the form of to-do lists and work reports.

For Christianson, paper is uplifting. “If anybody sees a stack of handmade paper, it isn’t like newspaper. It’s so different. The texture, the thickness, the size, the shape. I think paper is meditative. The craft of it, the rhythm of it, all-absorbing quality of it, and yet it’s very light.”

Especially compared to her early work. “My medium was stone; carving stone. I loved marble particularly.”

Christianson remains a sculptor, but now with paper. “I was rethinking things, wanting to be lighter and more buoyant about my life.”

Buoyancy is a repeating theme in Christianson’s life. “Boats and water and wind and just that thing of being out in the water and having no tethers or anything.”

She loves to sail and lives in Algoma, near Lake Michigan. “I love the sound of the water. I think there is something to water. Looking into depths and seeing layers and reflection and color reflected in the water and working in water in the paper. It builds a dialog with you. You and your hands and the water, but the fiber, and if you’re using natural materials. That is really a dialog. It isn’t just you.”

For most people, paper is flat.

“My background being sculpture, I like to cast with it.” Kirsten Christianson uses her old techniques and her new paper medium to make art that comes alive and seems ready to float away.

Even when working in 2-dimensions, her ideas reach beyond the edge. “When I’m doing flatwork, I am creating that paper but it doesn’t stay flat for long in the sense that you are building layers. So there is a dimension to it. I love to have extensions beyond the four corners, the four sides.”

For most people, paper is a means to an end.

For Kirsten Christianson, paper is a process, with endless possibilities. “So paper is innovative. You’re making it, and then you think, ‘Oh, I could try this. I could add this. How would this work?’

Zac Schultz

Zac Schultz is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who thinks three-minute stories and one-line bio descriptions are woefully brief.
2018-11-12T18:30:40-06:00Tags: |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.