Exercise 1

Paper/ephemera

Notes from course material

This brief asked me to collect a wide variety of paper samples and other paper ephemera across a range of weights, textures, and surface finishes. The brief suggested blotting paper, tracing paper, lined paper, graph paper, rice paper, and handmade papers. The paper could have special finishes, such as metallic, embossed, shiny and matt. I also had to collect any paper ephemera I found interesting or appealed to me. The brief specified tickets, flyers, or similar printed material, or mementos or souvenirs of exhibitions, occasions and days out. I need to document some of these and their attributes, using simple, descriptive words and stating any associations I might think of.

Straight away, I knew I would not be able to collect as wide a variety as I had hoped. Being in national lockdown means that no shops, restaurants, or physical exhibitions are open, and I am not travelling on public transport. This limited the ‘souvenirs of exhibitions, occasions and days out’ category. However, I tried to make up for that with other paper ephemera I have been collecting for a while.

I started by choosing a selection of papers that I had around the house that I would put through my home printer or just draw/paint straight onto. Even in this selection, there were a wide range of weights, textures, and surfaces to explore.

Acrylic paper, thick, heavy, quite a rough finish. Sturdy enough to stand up and lean against something. Reminds me of luxury sketchpads, art classes, and framed work.
Black paper 80gsm. Very flimsy and easily folded/ripped/warped. Ripple effect across the paper when moved, reminds me of oil. Black paper makes me think of chalk boards and school desks.
Brown kraft paper (thicker than regular printer paper, but not quite card). Neutral brown, tougher paper. Reminds me of craft fairs and homemade cards and gift tags.
Graph paper. Very thin (probably because it is sometimes placed over something else to draw over/write over) and pale blue lines (so they do not distract from whatever the user draws on the paper). Reminds me of A-Level maths!
Lined paper. Again, this has a strong association with school for me – I used to take a pad of lined paper into school with me. Not as thin as graph paper – probably closer to weight of regular A4 printer paper.
Cheap sketchbook paper – not as high quality as sketchbooks I buy now. Rough and bumpy, but not that thick – very easy to tear and fold. Reminds me of trips out to draw – at the coast, in the countryside, in the city.
Shiny colourful card – here is the yellow as an example. It is uncoated on the other side – just white, slightly rough card – but the colourful side is glossy and bright. It reminds me of card used in primary school for craft projects.
Tracing paper 62gsm. Smooth and flexible, translucent. Cloudy. Reminds me of cooking (strangely) and using greaseproof paper to wrap up certain dishes.
Squared paper 70gsm. Another pad of paper leftover from school. This reminds me more of teaching, as I kept my pad of squared paper on my desk to show examples to the children. It also makes me think of computer screens and pixels.
Cheap white printer paper. I do not have the packet, but I would guess this is 70gsm, perhaps 80gsm, comparing it to other papers. Fairly smooth (though not as smooth as the higher quality paper I have for some printing jobs). I tend to use this for a mixture of jobs, but I do get reminded of making paper aeroplanes!

The colours have come out terribly in these photographs, but these are sheets of A3 coloured paper that I bought for teaching in primary school. They are thick, durable, rough papers, with quite dull colours (they are supposed to be green, purple and orange) and the colour is starting to fade around the edges a little. It is perfect for children to use for big posters, as their writing stands out, and it can take being tugged without tearing easily. It definitely reminds me of being in school!

Next, I looked through collections I have here and there of different papers that interest me or paper items that I have kept for inspiration or for future use. Some of these were just scraps of paper leftover – others are whole books of paper that I have not touched in years!

Here are a couple of designs of tissue paper I kept because I liked the patterns. They reminded me of mandala designs, with their floral, dotty details, or henna tattoos. As the photographs show, the tissue paper creases easily and is delicate, but they have a pleasing texture (tissue paper also makes me think of unwrapping a gift).

This was a book of papers that I bought years ago – probably getting on for ten years – and I remember using some, but there is still lots left. The paper has a high quality feel to it; it is thick, very smooth, and half has designs on both sides of the paper. The other half has glitter effects; this feels bumpy and matches the pattern on the page. It seems as if the pattern has been applied with glitter glue, so it feels like little globules of pattern (not really rough, but the slight bumpiness of glitter particles in a dry glue). It feels like sandpaper that has been used a lot, or like a dull nail file. The glitter pages also remind me of the temporary tattoo stickers we used to apply as kids. The designs are floral and quite garish (I am not keen on some of the colour combinations, especially the brown).

This was another discovery in my art space! I was given this book for Christmas a few years ago and it contains some stunning ornamental art on paper. The colours and patterns are colourful and vibrant, and very much remind me of old rugs or curtains or wallpaper when visiting grandparents or other family. Some of the paper is thicker and slightly textured (like cartridge paper) and some feels more like magazine pages or thin wrapping paper (it has a shiny, smooth feel – I would guess this is coated and the other paper is uncoated). The patterns have a nostalgic feel to them – I would definitely be interested to use them later in this part.

Although I have not been able to collect paper ephemera out and about, I did have a small collection of artists’ cards from my travels, that I had been adding to for a while. These are mostly from a trip to Coco Beach in Florida – the town had so many art and craft shops and studios, so I was keen to collect souvenirs from this amazing place. Most are sturdy card, sometimes with a glossy finish (but others are left uncoated and textured).

There is also a local magazine that gets posted through each month called S41 and they feature a different local artist’s work on their cover. I have been collecting the covers because it provides an interesting variety of inspiration and also shows off some distinctive local people and locations in the art. They can be colourful or very minimal, detailed or abstract, type-based or illustrative. I am reminded of my local area, as it is today and as it used to be. These could definitely prove to be exciting paper items to play with.

This was another item I had kept for a long time and discovered while searching for ephemera for this task. It is a paper bag from ‘White stuff’ that looks like a collage of images and patterns but all in overlapping diamond shapes. I like it because the shapes overlap, like scales on a reptile, and the imagery is interesting – it goes from a dog to a watering can to a car. The paper itself is sturdy and quite smooth. It reminds me of certain types of wrapping paper – thicker and stronger. It does not feel as if it is coated, but it is not particularly rough either. It has a pleasant crunchy, crinkly sound when it is moved around, probably helped by the fact it is already a folded bag-shape.

This old road atlas is something I keep around with the thought it might come in handy for art projects. The cover used to be glossy, but it is very worn now, so there are lots of creases and some tears/rips too. Inside, the pages are thinner than the cover and very smooth. It reminds me of road trips as a child, when my parents would share driving and navigating duties (I knew when we were lost when the map was be pulled out).

This was another item I held onto because I liked the illustration and it reminded me of a delicious meal! The takeaway menu cover is vivid pink, glossy, coated, but not made from thick paper (like a lot of takeaway menus). It folds easily (as it is quite a long menu, I imagine lots of people might pick one up, but fold it away in their bag or pocket).

I have kept hold of lots of different wrapping/craft papers over the years, either because they were unusual, because I thought they might be used for a project, or because I really liked them. Some are flimsy, smooth paper, easy to wrap with but can tear easily too, as they are so thin. A couple of these have shiny or sparkly details.

Some were thicker, higher quality, but still with a ‘paper’ feel. The ‘love’ paper is embossed (some details are actually debossed – sunk into the paper) and has a shiny/metallic finish on the pattern. The clothes and snowflake paper has a brown paper feel, but with illustrative details that make it a bit shinier. On the paper with people and items, there are some glittery finishes, just like the Desert Blooms paper. The feathers paper is the thickest and most rough.

The next group of papers feel the most textured, closer to fabric, and I would guess some of these are handmade (especially the blue with sparkles – you can see the fibres going in lots of directions). The black paper has raised details – it looks like this is glittery and applied after the paper is made. All the papers are interesting to hold and feel – they feel like they are the highest quality and the most sturdy.

I did also find some plastic-y papers – one, I remember, was used for wrapping around flowers (it feels flimsy and flexible, with some translucent areas, but very strong) and the other, I have no idea where it came from! It is sparkly – the starry pattern becomes more apparent when you move it around and it reflects light. It is thicker than the flower paper, and extremely glossy.

I do have another paper that was used as wrapping paper, but was impossible to wrap with! I kept it because I loved the texture and pattern. It feels smooth, but if you look closely, there are tiny lines going horizontally across the paper. It is SO strong – pretty much impossible to tear – and has a slight sheen to it. I have no idea what it is reinforced with – it almost reminds me of silk – but it is some crossover between paper, textiles, and possibly plastic. The repeating pattern reminds me of shells or a bird’s feathers.

I also keep a selection of magazines and newspapers for collage – although I have not added to this lately. The newspapers are thin, almost tracing paper thin, and uncoated. The remind me of my grandparents, who dutifully buy several newspapers each day. The magazines vary – the covers are pretty much always glossy and thick (although some, like ‘Breathe’ the well-being magazine, are not glossy and rougher in texture) and the inside pages are thinner (again, often as thin as the newspapers) but smoother, and filled with colourful photographs and text.

Reflection

This brief asked me to collect a wide variety of paper samples and other paper ephemera across a range of weights, textures, and surface finishes. I managed to collect tracing paper, lined paper, graph paper, and handmade paper. I also found paper with metallic, embossed, shiny, and matt finishes. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to collect tickets or souvenirs from events recently, but I did have a collection of local magazine covers, a menu, and a selection of artists’ cards. I am going to keep looking out for anything I can collect – either from packaging, post, or any brief trips outside.

I needed to document some of these and their attributes, using simple, descriptive words and stating any associations I might think of. I went through my paper samples and described them using simple languages, including any technical information when I could. I wrote down any associations I thought of – lots of the printed ephemera reminded me of specific events, people, or places, while ‘plain’ paper samples sometimes made me think of my job or my education.

I am hoping I can add to this collection with the odd paper item I might find, but I am happy with the range of papers I managed to find in my own home. I also have all the paper samples from Part 2 in my sample book that I can use or refer to (these include lots of cards, coated and uncoated, and handmade papers too). I might decide some of these would be good to use later in this Part 4, and so order from the locations I collected the samples from.

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