Artist Helen Hiebert is passionate about paper |

Artist Helen Hiebert is passionate about paper

Caramie Schnell
Amber Prince cuts out a layer of her shadow lantern after using a stencil to trace the cutout section with during artist Helen Hiebert's shadow lantern workshop at Battle Mountain in Edwards.
Dominique Taylor | |

The Wish Project

As part of paper artist Helen Hiebert’s Wish Project, she’s collecting wishes on her website. Anyone can leave a wish at She’s collected close to 200 so far. Here are a few of them:

• I wish to be free from pain.

• To see more of the big wide world, exploring, learning, sharing and enjoying, connecting and gracefully, contentedly taking it all in, with my sweetest sweetie.

• I wish for a future filled with more kindness/beauty/love/hope/healing/awesome sh*t.

• Love, joy and peace for everybody.

• A no texting and use of cell phones while driving zone for the world.

• I wish for more love and understanding throughout the world, from individuals to nations. “What the world needs more is love, sweet love.”

From world peace to the desire for hair or to be pain free, paper artist Helen Hiebert has been collecting people’s wishes on her website to incorporate in an upcoming large-scale public art exhibit.

The exhibit is called “The Wish” and is a 6-foot-diameter dandelion with a wooden sphere in the center and 300 bamboo stakes coming out from the center.

“On the ends will be these paper discs, like the puffy part of the dandelions,” Hiebert said.

The wishes themselves will likely be a sound component to the exhibit; Hiebert plans to work with a sound artist and when someone walks near the dandelion, the recording of a person reading the wishes will begin. She’s currently negotiating with a library in Denver who is interested in displaying the exhibit.

“It’s been interesting to see what people’s wishes are,” said Hiebert, who has a professional paper-making studio inside the old schoolhouse in Red Cliff. “I think your wishes are really powerful, and it’s really powerful to hear what other people wish for. When you write it down or speak it, someone else might not realize that’s a thought of yours.”

The project has been brewing in Hiebert’s head for so long that she forgets what initially inspired it.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a few years,” she said. “For the last six months, I’ve been collecting wishes online and working on how to construct the piece. I’m just about to get ready to make the paper discs.”

With four books under her belt and another called “Playing With Pop Ups” due out in May, Hiebert is one of the top paper artists in the country if not the world. She moved to Eagle County from Portland, Ore., in August 2012 with her husband, Ted Katauska, and their two children.

Along with her giant dandelion and the new book, Hiebert has lots of other things in the works. She hires herself out for “Playing with Paper” parties, where she’ll come to a birthday party or event with all the materials for a group of people to make a paper-based project. She will host a Red Cliff Paper Retreat next fall, Sept. 5-7 (more at And she’s been working on a 100 x 100 paper weavings project, making a paper weaving each day using paper from around the world that was donated for the project. She started Sept. 23 and will finish up on New Year’s Eve.

‘Delicate and tactile’

Starting this week, Hiebert will teach a series of four free, paper lantern making workshops — two on Sunday and two on Dec. 22 — in conjunction with Art in Public Places. There’s room for a total of 100 people to participate in the workshops. Copies of Hiebert’s books and her paper lantern making kits will be for sale at the events.

Molly Eppard, the head of Art in Public Places, met with Hiebert at her studio in Red Cliff, where the idea for the collaboration was born.

“I was truly impressed by the quality of her art,” Eppard said. “I think paper is both delicate and tactile as an artistic medium. Once I met Helen, the wheels started turning on how we could collaborate on a project.”

Another Art in Public Places project, Triumph Winterfest, will open the same day as the Vail tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 22.

“The first ice installation, Logan Luminescence by Thomas Barlow, is comprised of 70 cylindrical ice lanterns that will be illuminated in conjunction with the Vail tree lighting ceremony,” Eppard said.

A theme — the celebration of light — emerged.

“Many communities around the world have winter paper lantern festivals and parades, so by creating Vail’s Paper Lantern Project we are adding to the holidays in Vail with a public art project that in which all ages in the community can participate and enjoy.”

The lantern participants will be making is one from Hiebert’s book “Paper Illuminated,” which includes 15 different paper lantern structures. Hiebert designed the lantern a dozen years ago, back in Portland.

“I was working on a public lantern walk and needed to come up with something that would be simple enough for anyone to make but lends itself to being diverse as well. Everyone’s will look different,” she said.

The lanterns will be made using yogurt containers wrapped with thin wood reeds with paper collaged over them. Once it dries, you pull the paper off, now the body of the lantern, and attach a handle to it. Battery-operated LED lights will illuminate the lanterns.

An unending fascination

The interplay between paper and light is one of the things that drew Hiebert to paper as a medium in the ’80s, she said. She was visiting Japan and saw the shoji screens, the traditional wood and paper room dividers popular in Asian design. She was struck by the way sunlight filtered through the paper.

“It was such a simple way of using paper in architecture,” she said.

Inspired, she returned to New York City, where she was living at the time.

“I wasn’t working a job that was terribly interesting at the time. I was looking for my passion. I visited some paper stores, saw the screens and just decided this was it.”

Soon she took a job at a paper mill where she worked for six years.

“I could make my own paper, put things in it, and make watermarks,” she said. “I became fascinated with the whole process.”

Her fascination has yet to wane. And she likely wishes it won’t.

Support Local Journalism