The Paper Genome Project

Kate Aitchison MFA 16 Printmaking and Laura Post MFA 16 Printmaking

The following story by Simone Solondz originally appeared on our.risd.edu.

Last fall recent Printmaking graduates Laura Post MFA 16 Printmaking and Kate Aitchison MFA 16 Printmaking experimented with papermaking techniques and materials along the San Juan River in southern Utah. “We lived in an Airstream trailer for about a month and studied the viability of making paper from invasive and native plant species using sustainable water resources,” Aitchison explains.

Thanks to funding from a RISD Graduate Studies Grant, the two printmakers were able to collect samples of Coyote Willow, Utah Mulberry, Tamarisk and Russian Olive. They then boiled and beat the fibers on site and returned the river water to its source.

Through the project, the two women also launched their own own paper production collective called The Paper Genome Project.

“As far as we know, we’re the first to make paper from these materials,” says Aitchison. “We created sheets out of each plant, [discovering that] the different plants reveal vastly different papers, colors and textures.”

While the residents of Providence were in the southwest, they took the opportunity to conduct artist workshops in the area, including one at the Bluff Arts Festival in Bluff, UT.

“We also presented at the Friends of Dard Hunter papermaking conference in Santa Fe and contributed to a panel on sustainability,” Aitchison notes. “The experience added another dimension to our work and contributed to our ongoing discussions about the changing nature of place.”

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