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Expat Life

Kimberly Wood: Master paper-maker and artist

Kimberly at home in Cuenca showing some of her art.

Kimberly Wood loves paper. She began importing exotic paper to Minnesota 25 years ago, then decided she wanted to make her own.

Kimberly took classes at the local university, studied paper-making, sculpture, binding and making paper vessels. She quickly rose in the arts scene and became an artist in residence of the Minnesota Arts Council.

I met with her one warm, sunny afternoon at her house, where she gave me the best welcome and showed me the process of making the paper and how she is developing new concepts and techniques for her art.

She took me through the entire steps, which starts with getting fiber. “I use 100% cotton, or avaca fiber, which is from the banana plant but not the fruit.” She gets her avaca from Santo Domingo, on a plantation near the coast. Kimberly also occasionally uses papyrus for her art. “But avaca is one of my favorites,” she claims, “because it is waterproof; they make coffee and tea filters out of it, it’s a great material.”

Kimberly and Michel, and the famous Hollander beater, which makes fiber into mush.

“I came to Ecuador in 2012 and had a finca (farm) in Yungilla and resumed my paper- making. It was a lot of trial and error, using all local materials and learning how to make them work for my purposes.”

“The first step is to cook the chosen plant in soda and ash water. You cook it, then rinse it and you are left with pieces and fiber, that you then put into the Hollander beater up to 8 hours, depending on the properties you want the paper to have.”

Once you obtain the mush, you make sheets, then press them on a 10 ton press. Each sheet is removed and paint brushed onto a window.

Some of the endless possibilities for turning paper into art.

“The next step, to make art out of paper, is to color the paper to whatever suits your fancy,” says Kimberly. “I use only natural dyes from fruits or vegetables.” She also uses vegetables to actually make different types of “paper,” again, depending on the result she wishes to achieve. “The possibilities are endless, and I am always experimenting and pushing the envelope, I have a book made of papyrus where I show the different effects you get with different vegetables.”

One of Kimberly’s loves is to transmit her knowledge of paper-making into art, and to give to people the possibility to express themselves through this medium. “I love the workshops I give. I love to see people light up once they see what they can actually make.”

Kimberly has a basic paper-making workshop, where you learn how to do sheet formation, how to color paper, how to marble paper and make some projects such as boxes for example.

Paper bowl and card.

The advanced paper making workshop includes how to make sculptures and things such as room dividers, how to use eucalyptus, where the participants actually go to the river and gather the material, and how to use and control natural dyes. The advanced workshop is three days and costs $75.

In the future, Kimberly would like to work with children in Cuenca, especially children with ADHD, which is a project that is close to her heart. She would also like to start making clothing out of paper, where she would use recycled paper for that purpose.

Kimberly also plans on teaching people from the Amazon how to make paper out of their local fiber and make artistic paper out of it, and promoting their work through international congresses. “That’s my future, and I’m very much excited about it and looking forward to it. Ecuador is a great country and I definitely want to make my contribution to it, to the best of my abilities and experience.”

For more information and to sign up for Kimberly’s classes, email studio@idiomart.net

  • Terri Drake

    Kimberly is not only a great instructor but a wonderful person. When she explains something about a process or talks about her art and processes, her whole face lights up and the love she has for nature dances in her eyes and you hear it in her voice.

    She has taught me much and I look forward to many more workshops with her and adding to my artistic book of knowledge and love of all things fiber. Thank you Kimberly for enlarging my artistic tools and teaching me how to use things I never knew were possible to turn them into works of art or beautifully designed paper, like vegetables.

  • Rita G. O’Donald

    Kimberley’s paper art is truly something to behold! Her classes bring another level of creating with a not-so-usual medium, resulting in a one of a kind masterpiece. What a fabulous experience!!
    Thank you, Kimberley for your passion and your visions which will definitely contribute to the arts and all the people of Ecuador.

  • Michael Jones

    How would we get in touch with Kimberly, if we want to take one of her courses?

  • Jari

    Could someone please share an email address for Kimberly so I can sign up for a class?

  • Charlie

    This is nice. I don’t have a personal interest in this subject, but obviously some people do and CHL seems to be expanding its horizons to give more people more of what they want.