Chances are your day is filled with it, and ironically, you are touching it right now.
The profusion of paper is a hallmark of modern life, but in the hands of artist and Edwards resident Helen Hiebert, this abundantly available material takes on new life. Whether she is creating her own paper or guiding students through an art project with paper as the medium, Hiebert knows how to transform the ordinary into something truly special.
Eagle and Gypsum residents had the opportunity to experience such a transformation last weekend when Hiebert conducted crafting sessions at the communities’ libraries, taking students through the steps to create shadowbox tree ornaments and eight sided Christmas stars. When Vail Holidaze comes to town later this month, Hiebert will be leading two paper lantern-making sessions in anticipation of the community’s annual nighttime lantern walk.
Hiebert studied art in college but her interest in paper came after a trip to Japan following graduation. After seeing amazing examples of handmade papers during the trip, she became increasingly drawn to the medium. Over time, she has gained expertise in paper making as well as pop-ups and paper sculpture.
Judging by the success of artist/author Robert Sabuda, there is fertile ground today for pop-up paper artistry. His bibliography includes 25 pop-up tomes including popular Christmas titles such as “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “The Christmas Alphabet.”
“I am the same age as Robert Sabuda. If I had met him when I was living in New York, who knows what would have happened,” said Hiebert, with a laugh.
As it is, she is the accomplished author of five books with a long list of solo and group exhibition credits. She has conducted many artist-in-residence programs at universities and art centers around the country. These days, Hiebert has her own studio located in Red Cliff. Each year she presents the Red Cliff Paper Retreat and registration for the 2015 event will begin in January. The dates for the Red Cliff Paper Retreat are Sept. 11-13 and the 2015 retreat theme is paper panels. Participants will focus on panel structures including innovative book structures, folding screens, and lantern panels. Papermaking techniques will include stenciling and watermarking on flat sheets and working sculpturally with abaca.
“The retreat is part wet work and part dry work,” she noted.
Between her writing, studio work and retreat preparations, Hiebert conducts periodic paper project workshops around the area. Earlier this year, she worked with the Eagle Valley Library District to present a young adult program that captivated Adult Services Librarian Robyn Bryant. Bryant reached out to Hiebert to present a session geared for adults, and the holiday season provided a perfect backdrop for the workshops held last weekend
“I don’t teach any projects that take longer than a day,” Hiebert said. For that reason, they give crafters that great feeling of accomplishment.
Last weekend’s shadow box ornament project, for example, relied on specialty stamps and an array of beads provided by Hiebert, but the creation technique was easy to understand and simple to imitate. Likewise Hiebert’s paper star project was easily created because she had already cut the tissue paper into workable strips. So, in about an hour, participants were able to walk away from the session with two, handmade ornaments ready to hang. According to the crafters, who ranged in age from middle school to senior citizens, that was exactly what they hoped for.
“It’s been awhile since I did something crafty like this,” said Forrest Miller, an Eagle resident in his early 20s. He came to the session with his girlfriend, who was interested in making some Christmas gifts.
Arlene Montag came by the Eagle library last week to return some overdue books for a friend, and the desk clerk told her about the event. “It was really fun and I made these for me,” said Montage. “I am going to put these in the window.”
For people who are interested in completing a simple craft but who missed Hiebert’s visit, she sells craft boxes that contain all of the materials needed to complete one of her projects. For those who are willing to hunt down their own raw materials, her various books include project instructions. Last weekend’s projects are detailed in “Playing with Paper” which is available locally at The Bookworm or on line at Amazon or through Hiebert’s website helenhiebertstudio.com.