As a writer, finding out that there are individuals out there still making paper from hand is a beautiful discovery. Not that I thought they didn't exist, but let's be frank; these artists are few and far between. So when you find one who not only makes paper, but makes beautiful paper, you know you've hit the jackpot.
Stephanie from SHare Studios is one amazing woman. It's clear from her Instagram that the native Mainer is completely infatuated with her art, which just inspires her customers even more. It's an invaluable feeling, knowing there is true love, sweat and tears in the work you receive from an artist.
After seeing how Stephanie incorporates feathers and needles into her paper, I thought to myself, wouldn't it be wonderful to incorporate something spring-like and scented like lavender? I pitched the idea to Stephanie and she happily ran with it, exceeding all my expectations and delivering the most perfect batch of lavender stationery made specifically for the Atelier. These sheets are sweetly aromatic, beautifully textured and sturdy yet lightweight in their fibrous richness. Be sure to purchase a set before they're gone!
Below, Stephanie shares a bit more about herself and her work. Hope you enjoy!
Describe SHare Studios:
SHare Studios is the creative endeavors of me, Stephanie Hare. I am currently focused on the art of hand papermaking, but am interested in all aspects of art and design and expect my work to shift and undulate with time as I pursue my passions as a maker.
How did you get started in the creative world?
I went to school for Art Education and Studio Art at The University of Maine. After graduation I was lucky enough to be offered a part time job at a small handmade paper studio in beautiful Brooklin, Maine. It quickly turned into an apprenticeship and I became the Gallery Manager and lampshade maker of the gallery. We specialize in handmade paper lampshades and artist grade papers. It was a great opportunity to learn the art of papermaking and lampshade making, and I look forward to continuing my explorations of the craft. After just a few weeks of working at the gallery, my mind began to wander and itch to create my own paper lamps and lampshade designs, and soon SHare Studios began. I started with a small Etsy shop, experimenting with various contemporary lamp designs, while simultaneously learning the art of building a handmade business online. Etsy is a great beginner's resource. I couldn’t have started without it.
What do you most enjoy about the work you do?
I mostly enjoy the meditative process of making handmade paper. It is quite a long process done entirely by hand, starting from the dried bark of the Mulberry tree, known as Kozo. The bark is cooked for hours, and then cleaned. The next step is beating the fibers with a mallet. After the fibers are sufficiently beaten, they are suspended in a vat full of water. This is my favorite step. Watching the long kozo fibers swirl and float, filling the vat with cloud-like formations. It is mesmerizing. I then form each sheet by hand using a mould and deckle. After many sheets are made and stacked on felts, the water is pressed out. Each sheet is then transferred to glass to dry. When making stationery, I then cut each envelope from the sheets and fold them into fruition, creating a vessel for words just waiting to be written. I love to think about the sentiment and adventure each sheet of paper and envelope takes on when it travels. Letter writing is definitely an art that needs to be celebrated. I am happy to be a part of that revolution.
What is the most difficult part about being an artist?
The most difficult part about being an artist is surviving the inevitable ups and downs of the creative process, and learning to be your biggest fan even when things get rough. And they will get rough, but that’s what makes it worth it. Being an artist isn’t an easy path, but the enjoyment of creating, paired with much needed resiliency is what makes it a fulfilling course for those brave souls.
From where/whom do you draw your inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from the nuances of handmade paper illuminated in the sunlight. The way the fibers are suspended in motion creating a unique composition that can only be attributed to its handmade nature. And as always, I am inspired by the landscapes and details of the beautiful state of Maine. Maybe that is a bit cliché, but when you live in a place this beautiful, it is hard not to be inspired. I still feel lucky everyday to live in such a picturesque place, surrounded by the endless beauty of Maine in all its seasons. A Mainer all my life (except for a short stint in Brooklyn), I am almost more inspired by the long cold winters and the luminous and bright white snowy landscapes. I am inspired by the minimalist forms of a snowy blueberry field, so clean and glistening in the sunlight as the breeze rolls towards the bare trees. It is something I can’t quite put into words, but it somehow seamlessly translates into a clean crisp sheet of white paper speckled with sliver flecks and bits of feathers suspended in motion. The simplicity of nature and it’s perfect color palette is calming and invigorating at the same time. I strive to infuse a bit of that magic into my work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t take any wooden nickels. Sound advice from my Dad. A rather funny phrase he’d say often, that I never thought much about when I was younger, but totally rings true as an adult. It means to never let yourself be cheated, and to be careful and take good care of yourself. Pretty basic advice, but I think it is important to be mindful and self sufficient. I wish I could say that I had more specific advice about building a creative life or business, but I think the beauty of this lifestyle is the unexpected. Taking chances and learning as you go along. That’s what keeps it interesting and will help your work evolve in your own terms, telling your own unique story.
Thoughts for the future?
Oh that’s a fun one. I am definitely a dreamer. Always looking forward to the next idea or project, however farfetched it may be. In a way, my current future plans lean more towards the past. A previous passion project of mine was building contemporary handmade paper and glass lamps. A unique design that I called the Vessel lamp, developed with my old partner in crime/design. However life had different plans, and I needed to take a step back from my lamp making, but I am absolutely dying to get back there soon, because that is really where my passion for handmade paper began and thrived. The illumination of handmade paper is really what makes my heart spark. I look forward to rebuilding my workspace and producing my lamp designs on my own. For me, nothing beats that moment when one of my lamps is turned on for the first time. I can’t wait to feel that rush again.
Photography by Amie E. Cohenour.