Jennifer J. Woodward
Texas native and Portland resident Jenn Woodward has turned pulp into nonfiction with her papermaking studio, Pulp & Deckle. But this artistic whiz isn’t happy simply making paper, she’s trying to create a community space where this craft can flourish and gain the recognition it deserves.
Jenn discovered papermaking as a graduate student at School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The medium inspired through drawing, beyond the ink to the page itself. It was from there that the page became the stage, literally.
“What excites me most about papermaking is that it is pretty magical. You can take plant waste from your yard, or worn out jeans, cotton t-shirts, or towels, and transform them into paper pulp. And that pulp can be further transformed into sculptural objects, substrates for prints and drawings and photos,” she explains.
Of course, taking art from a creative outlet to a constructive occupation was a process in and of itself.
“When my husband and I moved to Portland from Boston, I didn’t really have an art studio, much less a space for papermaking,” Jenn recalls. “I was making and exhibiting art, but it felt like it was squeezed into my life, instead of being at the center of it. How to bridge the gap between what I wanted to do for a living, and what I was doing become a real priority.”
She wanted to share the craft while also creating herself, and she was inspired by the idea of community building, too.
“I wanted to give artists like myself who had worked with hand papermaking before, but didn’t have the space or resources to put together their own paper studio, the opportunity to come and work and utilize our set up,” she says.
From that idea Jenn and her husband started a Kickstarter to establish Pulp & Deckle. The campaign was funded successfully, and they opened in 2012. The studio is Jenn’s answer to wanting to make a living via papermaking, as well as providing a space to expose Portlanders to the medium and its potential.
For the first two years Jenn kept her day job, but she was finally able to dedicate herself to Pulp & Deckle full-time after receiving support from the non-profit c3:initiative. As a result, Jenn has been able to start Pulp & Deckle’s residency program. She’s also been completing a larger scale, community engaged art project, called Fruits of the sun (for all the unknowns), which was recently exhibited at the Portland Art Museum for a one-night First Thursday event.
“Over the past several months I hosted pop-up portrait drawing sessions at farmers markets and other spaces, inviting participants to sign-up as live models via 20 minute portrait sessions.The drawings were made with handmade paper embedded with various types of seeds. The paper will act as fertilizer for the seeds, and the drawings will decay and grow into fall vegetables and native wildflowers,” Jenn explains. You can read more about Fruits of the sun (for all the unknowns) on her project blog, https://fruitsofthesun.com.
Jenn’s artistic vision is blossoming. Even after a recent fire which damaged part of the Pulp & Deckle home base, she sees the studio’s outreach and ouvre spreading branches from its Portland roots.
So what advice does this hardworking handcrafter have for other young female artisans?
“Try to be kind and patient with yourself and others. In our daily lives it can make a huge difference!”
For her papermaking prowess and for cultivating a creative community, we think Jenn Woodward is a very Cool Girl!
You can keep up with Jenn and Pulp & Deckle at: https://pulpanddeckle.com, https://jjwoodward.weebly.com, & https://fruitsofthesun.com. Or, visit Jenn’s social pages: Facebook, Twitter, Pulp & Deckle’s Instagram or Fruit of the Sun’s Instagram.