Paperie: The Art of Writing and Wrapping with Paper

Paperie: The Art of Writing and Wrapping with Paper

by X Kate's paperie, Bo Niles

Paper is sensuous. Think of the love letters of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Matisse's Jazz cutouts, William Norris wallpaper, Samuel Pepys's journal..With its many textures, weights, weaves, colors, and designs, paper adds dimension to our lives. Paperie: The Art of Writing and Wrapping with Paper, written by Bo Niles in


Paper is sensuous. Think of the love letters of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Matisse's Jazz cutouts, William Norris wallpaper, Samuel Pepys's journal..With its many textures, weights, weaves, colors, and designs, paper adds dimension to our lives. Paperie: The Art of Writing and Wrapping with Paper, written by Bo Niles in conjunction with Kate's Paperie, explores that dimension and widens our understanding of the role of paper throughout history and its importance in communicating with books, letters, cards, currency, wrapping paper, room decoration, and anything else you can imagine.

Paper is a gracious and hospitable medium; while it can easily be transformed through folding, cutting, printing, or tearing, it also has the power to transform through wrapping and decorating. Paperie documents our relationship with paper, describing its creation from wood fibers and cotton rags, the use of it in packaging and printing, and the way in which a simple sheet can inspire the imagination to artistic creativity. The first section of the book, "Transforming Paper," describes the ways in which societies have adapted paper to their uses throughout history, most notably through writing, printing, and the creation of stationery, envelopes, greeting cards, books and journals. The second section, "Transformed by Paper," deals with the more artistic uses of paper and the ways in which it affects each surface to which it is applied, whether that surface is a box, lamp, wall, floor, kite, or banner. One of the most stylish ways paper can be used is in wrapping, and Paperie describes different folds and presentations, as well as how the Japanese tradition of gift-giving places more importance on the wrapping than the gift itself.

Like Holly Golightly's and Tiffany's, Kate's Paperie has a remarkable atmosphere. Everything in the store is made from or used with paper, and the moment you enter you can tell something unique is happening there. It is a complete paper experience, from the corrugated cardboard walls all the way up to its paper accordion drop-ceiling—rough sheets of multicolored papers line the walls, brightly designed handmade greeting cards await selection in circular carousels, handmade photo albums and journals lie in stacks, all begging to be caressed, fondled, and chosen for a special use. Paperie is the distillation of years of paper craft knowledge, creativity, and flair, It not only provides information on the beast paper choices for each project, but it teaches new techniques for wrapping and decorating, and inspires the letter-writer, journal-keeper, and would-be artist in all of us.

Editorial Reviews

Magazine Editors People
Paperie elevates the art of wrapping (and unwrapping) to a sensual experience—the anticipation, the mounting excitement as layers are peeled back, the gasp of pleasure upon discovering the treasure inside. The gorgeous photos—of transluscent vellum, silk screened rice paper, gossamer organza ribbon—are like beautiful skin, begging to be caressed.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.24(w) x 10.19(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 9: Working with Paper Paper is paradox. On the one hand it is simplicity incarnate. On the other, when paper is transformed into objects that appear sophisticated and complex in form, we can barely find words to describe its power. We ask ourselves: How can this two-dimensional material embody such limitless possibilities for creative expression? Perhaps we should simply regard paper, as Asian peoples do, as sacred. Then the miracle of its ability to transform -- and to be transformed -- would be irrefutable. Paper has the innate ability to make us see differently, think differently, and act differently. Paper enhances a gift because paper is itself a gift -- the ultimate gift.

An everyday object becomes transformed when it is wrapped in paper, be it a sheet snatched from Sunday's funny papers or an exotic furl of colored tissue sparkled with slivers of gold leaf or embedded with petals collected from a blossom caught drifting on the wind. At Kate's Paperie, we believe any paper can be a wrapping paper. What's fun is thinking about how a particular paper can be used, as well as how it might be decorated or trimmed, and tied, to give it character. Even if you are not fully aware of the fact, we all spend more time than you might imagine wrapping and unwrapping things. Take a look at the sandwich tucked into the folds of a piece of deli paper on your office desk. How about the package taped in a sheath of sturdy kraft paper that arrived in the mail just yesterday? When you went shopping for that dress, or sweater, or pair of trousers, wasn't the item you purchased wrapped in tissue and bagged to take home?

As long as paper has existed, in whatever form, some has been reserved or recycled for wrapping, particularly, at first, to protect perishable items such as foods and spices. For such utilitarian purposes, wrapping paper has typically been made of lesser-quality materials. The earliest instance of a wrapping paper on record dates from 1035 B.C., according to historian Dard Hunter, by a traveler to Egypt who was astonished by the array of packaged goods he found to be wrapped for transport, often with paper recovered from extra cloth that had been made to mummify the dead.

As has been noted in a preceding chapter, the basic steps in making paper are few. But the attitude toward paper and how it is made has differed markedly as the centuries have passed since its discovery in China. In the West, the appetite for paper has been guided by commercial imperatives. The urgency to increase production of currency, deeds, documents, broadsheets, newspapers, and books spurred the invention of the printing press and hastened the conversion from time-consuming handmade efforts to the rapid-fire manufacture of paper by machine. Quantity, not quality was -- and in many cases still is -- the criterion.

With today's renaissance of interest in fine paper and in the myriad ways paper can he used and enjoyed, people -- and not just artists and designers -- are working with paper in-ways they might never before have imagined. Before you embark on any project involving paper, you should learn the individual characteristics of the sheets of paper you hope to work with. Although paper is extremely accommodating and resilient, it also brooks few mistakes. You would not want an inkblot or tear to ruin a project to which you have dedicated a great deal of time and effort.

There are literally thousands of papers you can choose from. Kate's Paperie alone stocks thousands of handmade papers from all countries around the world. Here's a list of a few generic types of paper that are enjoyable to work with; some handmade and some manufactured by machine: tissue, tracing paper, watercolor paper, parchment (or vellum), acetate, kraft paper, cover paper and card stock, origami paper, rice paper, and metallic paper, including foil.

The first rule of thumb is: buy more paper than you think you will need. Reserve a sheet or two for test runs and set aside a few extra sheets in case of inadvertent blunders. This advice applies equally to papers you are going to write on and to those you might consider folding, gluing, or decorating. Some papers are more porous than others. Some are sealed or saturated with a special moisture-resistant substance, called size, so that inks and paints will not bleed into or feather across the paper. Unsized papers are called by the term "waterleaf." As expected, they are very absorbent.

Strength and flexibility are not always indicated by the obvious thickness and/or transparency of a paper. Handmade papers exhibit a random grain called rough-shake. Because of this characteristic, a handmade paper tends to be stronger than its machine-made counterpart. Some tissue-thin, translucent handmade papers exhibit greater strength than their thicker, opaque counterparts. A disadvantage of handmade papers is that they can wrinkle or come apart when they are glued or wet. Always test a sheet of handmade paper to see if it suits your project. Or cut a small sample off one corner if the sheet is larger than your project requires, and test the sample instead.

Machine-made papers follow a grain. The fibers run in one direction -- the direction the slurry swims as it speeds along the machine bed. If you have ever tried to tear a clipping from a newspaper, you know that it is easier to rip the paper in one direction than the other. This is due to the grain. To test the grain of any machine-made sheet of paper, grip the sheet in both hands and bend it in both directions; you will meet greater resistance in the direction that goes against the grain. If you remain uncertain about the grain direction, tear a small square from a corner of the sheet in question. Mark one edge of the sample as well as the equivalent edge on the "parent" sheet. Dampen the sample; it will curl with the grain.

If you want to fold machine-made paper, try to do so with the grain. If you want to tear along the grain, make a sharp crease first. Heavy papers can be lightly scored to ease the fold. To do this, place a metal ruler along the line of the fold and lightly drag a pin or needle along the ruler to create a scratch. Bend the paper backward, away from the fold line; fold; and using the ruler, or a special tool made of plastic or bone called a bone folder, press down on the fold to flatten it. Before tearing the paper, fold it hack and forth a few times to set the crease, then tear slowly and gently from the top of the crease to the bottom. Slightly dampening the fibers along the crease wilt result in a deckle edge.

Grain also affects gluing. Because glue (and paste) is moist, it will cause paper with a grain to expand or stretch along the grain. Glue can also cause paper to curl. For this reason, glue- and paste-moistened paper should be allowed to relax before affixing the paper to whatever it is meant to adhere to. This process should take a few minutes. You can literally see the paper let go of its surface tension.

When you buy a paper, you must, like the papermaker, consider how important several factors are to you, notably the finish (or surface quality), the absorbency, and the weight. There are, for instance, three types of finish: (1) Rough describes the natural state of the paper; rough papers may also be termed coarse, antique, felt, or irregular. (2) Not, referring to the longer phrase "not hot pressed," is a term that is interchangeable with a wide range of synonyms, including some familiar to anyone who has worked with house paints -- eggshell, matte, and satin. Other terms you may encounter are unglazed, velour, cold-pressed, medium, regular, and slightly grained. (3) A smooth hot pressed, or H.P., finish results from pressing the sheet between hot glazing rollers or cold, highly polished rollers. H.P. papers are also categorized as glazed, high sheen, or supercalendered.

Unless it is intentionally textured, a paper should be smooth and free of irregularities, the most common of which include lumps and knotted fibers. A defective paper may also exhibit indentations or ridges, especially along an edge, and it may be uneven in its thickness. (Intentional inconsistencies are called wildnesses or peppering, and include embedments, such as fibers or confetti.) None of the above defects, other than embedments, should be tolerated in a fine-quality paper.

To reduce the absorbency of paper and prepare it for inks, a starch or gelatinous, glue like substance, called size or sizing, may be added to the wet pulp when it is in the beater. Size also can be applied to the surface after the paper has dried. A paper needs to be properly sized for you to write upon it without fearing that the ink will blur across or into the sheet.

Paper is measured by weight, but weights can be deceptive; as they are calculated by the number of sheets -- and, of course, sheets vary widely in size as well as in thickness or density. Bulky paper tends to be porous and, therefore, lighter in weight, even though it is thicker. Weight in and of itself will probably not affect your decision about what paper to buy, though thickness might.

Copyright © 1999 by Kate's Paperie

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