I’ve been weaving with newspaper for nearly 40 years. I talked about why in a previous blog. I began incorporating woven newspaper in my paintings in 2003 with a series of 12 paintings which all sold in a small, private gallery in Eagle Rock, CA.
On a trip to London in 2004, I showed an artist friend my photographs of these paintings. Andreas Vogt was an internationally known contemporary artist whose work I admire. Andreas gave an honest critique of my work and then said, “I’m most drawn to these woven bits. Have you considered doing an entire canvas of just the weaving? I should like to see that.” I told him I had thought about it but not seriously. “Think about it seriously,” he suggested, then mixed us each a fresh gin & tonic.
And my experimentation began. I knew how to weave three dimensional sculptural baskets of newspaper but not fabric with only two layers of paper. I had to figure out how to weave a large scale piece of fabric when the longest strip of paper is approximately 24 inches long. Did you know that newspaper has “grain?” You can use it when cut in one direction but not the other. I needed to produce fabric which needed strips in excess of 5 feet in length.
I experimented and I wove and I learned. I began producing weavings that were 6 feet by 4 feet. The weave I use is a simple basket weave or tabby weave. The finished piece didn’t seem strong enough to hold together on its own. I affixed them to canvas to give them support and strength. I coated them with a fixative to bind the fabric, provide protection against tear and to provide UV protection from the sun.
I was commissioned to do two weavings for a couple in Los Angeles. Their one stipulation was that the weavings were to incorporate English, Chinese and Hebrew language newspaper. Living in Los Angeles made it easy to collect these newspapers. Davi & Bracha gave me free reign on how to use the newspaper. They being dear friends turned this commission into a work of love. Although I had no clue how to pull it off.
As I wove, I learned to use the content ON the newspaper as well as the paper itself. I learned to manipulate the newspaper to provide depth, pattern and color across the surface of the weaving. The earlier weavings are pure abstract. I began paying more attention to the selection of newspaper for the weavings. I began incorporating icons or images in the weavings. I became a huge fan of the LA Times Calendar section with its numerous full page, full color movie ads.
I was leaning a lot about my chosen media but it was not providing many answers for this commission.
I did a series of twenty weavings affixed to canvas. Although pleased with the finished product, I am most interested in the weavings before they are attached permanently to the stretched canvas. The “loose” weavings have a tactile quality and truly “feel” like fabric. I began to examine my work from this perspective.
I figured out how to fix my weavings without having to glue them to canvas. I experimented with ways to hang the finished weavings. I still had no clue how to proceed with the commission for Davi & Bracha. Until my boss got married……
My boss and good friend found the man of her dreams and invited me to their wedding in Dallas, Texas. Rebecca said, “I want you to make something for our wedding present.” That was subtle, no? I was planning to do that anyway.
I had a colleague save the Dallas Morning News for three weeks and ship them to me in Palm Springs. I spent an entire day looking through the stack trying to figure out an angle for using it in a weaving. The Dallas Morning News is one of the most boring looking paper I’ve ever seen! I finally figured it out and completed Clint & Rebecca’s wedding present. My new hanging method also enabled me to pack a 4 ½ foot by 3 foot weaving into a mailing tube and carry it on the airplane with me.
The wedding present provided the clue for the commission. I did a practice weaving to test the design. It worked! After making appropriate adjustments, I wove Chinese, English and Hebrew into a design creating a diptych that is 5 feet by 5 feet. I delivered the artwork shortly after their 30th Wedding Anniversary.
I owe a tremendous debt to this commission. I experimented for three years on how to take three different languages, keep them intact AND produce a weaving that is interesting to look at. The language is integral yet not the primary focus of the finished piece.
I use the lessons learned to continue weaving newspaper fabric. New ideas and designs come to me as I’m working on the current weaving: ideas on how to tweak a design to make it different: ideas on how to manipulate the newspaper: ideas on how to weave an even larger piece.
I was never able to show Andreas how his simple challenge pushed my work in a different direction. He died several years ago of esophageal cancer before I could visit him in Switzerland. I think of him every time I begin a new weaving and I miss him and his brutally honest critiques.
I feel l I am teasing you showing photographs of my artwork NOT for sale. However, you can see all of my artwork that IS available for purchase on my website at www.JerryLHanson.com . If you want more information on any of my artwork or to make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at JerryL@JerryLHanson.com or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157. And, as always, I thank you for listening!
Jerry L. Hanson