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Julie McLaughlin

I have considered myself a papermaker for several decades now, but I rarely leave the sheets I make in a two-dimensional form. As my degree is in printmaking one can rightly assume that this was quite frustrating for me early on. Once I discovered the sculptural possibilities and discounted the notion that handmade paper was fragile and weak my artistic world expanded in a wonderous way. These earlier three-dimensional pieces were inspired by the corset silhouette using high shrinkage fibers and welded steel rod armatures. In the last several years, however, I have reconnected to my past in theatre costume design by creating wearable art. This time, however, my designs are based solely on the use of handmade paper.

The kimono has proven to be a perfect vehicle to show all the personalities of my handmade papers. I am drawn to the simplicity of the kimono silhouette and the complexity of the traditions surrounding it.  For most I use my large sheets of paper which are made from Kozo fibers. These sheets are fairly thin, yet strong and fluid, much like a woven textile. And, like cloth, interesting surface textures are created using various dye, felting and stitching techniques. Itchiku Kuboto, a Japanese textile designer, has been a great inspiration as his kimonos reflect much of what is important to me; color, texture and process.

Like us, the kimonos I create come in all shapes, sizes and colors and while no physical human body remains I feel a soul is present in each one. As I work, I think about the history surrounding the kimono and the artistic processes used to create each one.  The collaboration I have with the paper during this process provides the impetus for my work.  When working with high shrinkage papers used for the freestanding sculptures, I find I enjoy the dialogue I have with the paper as it dries creating the gestural movements and shape of each piece.

I oftentimes create background stories relating to each piece as I am working, but I expect viewers will create their own stories as they interpret my work.

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