The wonderful lightness of paper

How can such fragile sculptures made of paper assert their space?

This ques­tion accom­pan­ies Traudel Stahl in her work with her artist­ic mater­i­al 'paper'. Her diverse paper objects show how fas­cin­at­ing this mater­i­al can be in its del­ic­acy and at the same time strength. Her work can be seen in in her studio in Cologne and at many inter­na­tion­al exhib­i­tions. Some of her sculp­tures start to slightly move only by a breath of air, in other pieces of her work the paper sur­faces already appear trans­par­ent and seem to almost dis­solve the form.

Paper as the basis for a drawing or a watercolor?

If this is your under­stand­ing of paper in art so far, then let your­self be amazed by Traudel's paper objects, which take on sculp­tur­al forms as if breathed on. When placed tightly togeth­er her tiny pieces of hand­made paper look like feath­ers. Many of her works are like an allegory for nature, aston­ish­ing us with their won­der­ful details when we look closely. How del­ic­ate are the wings of a but­ter­fly or how finely branched are the veins in a leaf? Some­times she com­bines these nat­ur­al mater­i­als, a dried iris stem or grasses, with her hand­made papers, cap­tur­ing the tran­si­ence of nature again through a nat­ur­al mater­i­al.

"With my hand­made paper and the way I pro­cess it, my sculp­tures take on a light­ness and trans­par­ency that many people don't asso­ci­ate with paper. It excites me to make the seem­ingly impossible pos­sible with this mater­i­al."

Which plant fibers does Traudel use for her paper art?

In addi­tion to cotton and hemp, Traudel also pro­cesses other plant fibers such as nettle, straw, or asparagus peels. After cook­ing for sev­er­al hours, she shreds the asparagus peels. Then she pours this opaque paper pulp between thin grasses and plant stems, which she col­lects over the summer and dries or pro­cesses fresh out of her garden. She com­bines the fine col­or­ing of her asparagus paper with the white hemp paper in her almost trans­par­ent, fra­gile-look­ing window pic­tures. Some­times she also uses blos­soms and spe­cial leaves, which she embeds in the struc­ture of the window pic­tures like a graph­ic ele­ment. The eph­em­er­al nature is thus given anoth­er life. Glimpses through nature into nature, sup­por­ted by a fine nat­ur­al frame­work.

"Airy and light - that's how many of my works are per­ceived. And no, they do not imme­di­ately fall apart and dis­solve - but: they look like that."

From the surface into space

When Traudel lays her hand-made cotton sheets of paper, which are still damp, on her flat forms made of rattan, she does not yet know exactly which three-dimen­sion­al form will finally emerge. First she cuts out the sheets of paper to fit the shape she has cre­ated. With finger feel­ing she wraps the damp paper around the lines of the ped­di­gree cane. This is how she cre­ates her flat organ­ic shapes as a first step. During the drying time, the cotton paper shrinks a bit and the deform­a­tions that Traudel has in mind appear. Then, under ten­sion, these shapes arch from the sur­face into space. When she finally pins and anchors the selec­ted togeth­er, than her sculp­tures called 'Moving Paper' emerge into the space.

"When people walk past my spa­tial objects, a breeze is cre­ated, their move­ment is trans­ferred to the objects, which follow the moment of the subtle action and at the same time are part of the pro­cess: a dance of the moment."

How does a plant fiber become an object?

For her idea of ‘paper art’ that occu­pies a 3-dimen­sion­al space, Traudel exper­i­ments with the inner bark of the paper mul­berry tree. Kozo is one of the three tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese bast fibers used to make paper. The dry bark has a long soak­ing and cook­ing time. When the cooked bark pieces then reveal their fiber struc­ture as they are pulled apart, Traudel's del­ic­ate pulling and stretch­ing cre­ates fine-veined webs that she uses to create her objects. In com­bin­a­tion with other del­ic­ate paper sur­faces, she cre­ates her sculp­tures from anoth­er world. A touch of noth­ing, breathe into the space. Fra­gile and yet stable.

"My ark is a symbol of life saved. The hand­made thin paper, full of holes, held only by thin pieces of bark, seems to cap­ture life, in the new mater­i­al­ity they show them­selves fra­gile, wind-per­meable, vul­ner­able."

„Meine Arche ist Sin­nbild für ger­ettetes Leben. Das bearbeitete Papier, löchrig, einzig gehal­ten von brüchi­gen Rinden­stück­en, scheint das Leben ein­z­u­fan­gen. In der neuen Mater­i­al­ität zeigen sie sich gebrech­lich, wind­durchlässig, angre­if­bar."

Light and shadow

Traudel’s fas­cin­a­tion and devo­tion for this spe­cial mater­i­al leads her to always new approaches and exper­i­ments, how she can form her ideas with her hand­made 'papers’. In doing so, she explores the trans­lu­cency of the mater­i­al. It is like a field of ten­sion spark­ing her cre­at­ive pro­cess.

"With my hand­made paper, stretched over thin rattan, I create floral and fig­ur­at­ive objects that seem to float. When illu­min­ated, fairytale plays of light and enchant­ing impres­sions emerge."

Graphic designer and paper artist.

As an exper­i­enced graph­ic design­er, she uses paper as the basis for her design work with shapes, color and typo­graphy. But to give this mater­i­al new dimen­sions, that appeals to her already after her first attempts with her self-made paper sheets. Her 'Paper Tigers' show with a wink how ver­sat­ile Traudel uses the mater­i­al. In com­bin­a­tion with graph­ic ele­ments or rusty iron parts, her wild com­pan­ions are cre­ated, ready to con­quer the world.

From ‘Lausanne to Beijing - International Paper Art’

Objects and sculp­tures by Traudel Stahl travel around the world, on the trail of the magic and mys­tery of paper. Local, nation­al and inter­na­tion­al exhib­i­tions from Canada, Switzer­land, the Neth­er­lands, Israel, to China show paper art in its unique diversity. The ancient mater­i­al still fas­cin­ates people and not only in its use as a means of com­mu­nic­a­tion ord to cap­ture thoughts and images for others. As a mater­i­al, Traudel explores and uses plant fibers in a vari­ety of ways. Her sculp­tures reflect her enthu­si­asm and the poten­tial of this mater­i­al, admired in many parts of the world. Her works speak a uni­ver­sal lan­guage that con­veys her mes­sages without typo­graphy. Like her white or colored 'tracks' which are made of hand-cast cotton paper and reflect in their com­pos­i­tions Traudels forays into the forest and field.

How is paper made by hand?

It takes a lot of patience and dex­ter­ity to pro­duce fine paper mater­i­al from the dif­fer­ent fibers. Many plants require a long cook­ing time. As a next step the fiber pulp is then dis­solved in a tub of water (the vat). Secondly the watery paper pulp is removed with the scoop sieve. This is done by lift­ing the frame hori­zont­ally upwards to create an even layer on the screen.

The drained still damp paper fleece is 'caut­er­ized' i.e. pressed on a felt. Sev­er­al of these layers are then pressed out in a press. After a few days of gentle drying, the papers are smooth and fin­ished. But Traudel pro­cesses the scooped sheets while they are still wet, or pours the pulp on her framed sur­face. With her urge to dis­cov­er new things and to push the known fur­ther, she takes new design paths with 'paper' that sur­prise and inspire.

If you want to exper­i­ence what is spe­cial about this mater­i­al or get to know Traudel's paper world, then visit her in her studio in the eco-set­tle­ment in Cologne, sur­roun­ded by many plants and a nat­ur­al envir­on­ment.

Or at the next ‚Paper Fibre Art Bien­nale‘  ( IBPFA) in Taiwan. The theme is "EARTH SPEAK: Giving Voice to Paper. Traudel's wall sculp­ture 'Touch­ing Paper' was selec­ted to be exhib­ited at the Nation­al Taiwan Craft Research and Devel­op­ment Insti­tute (NTCRI) in Nantou, Taiwan from Novem­ber  3rd, 2023  to March 28th, 2024.

Name:  Traudel Stahl

She is: Paper artist

She can be found:

in Cologne, the lively city on the  Rhine river, Ger­many. Her studio is situ­ated in the first eco-set­tle­ment  dis­trict of Cologne. Her work can be seen at nation­al & inter­na­tion­al exhib­i­tions.

Her WIASOLA tip:

With the help of sur­pris­ing coin­cid­ences, per­sist­ence and a large por­tion of naiv­ety, women can achieve quite won­der­ful things.

To be found under:

She is a member of:

The Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­ation of Hand Paper­makers and Paper Artists 

Traudel's next inter­na­tion­al exhib­i­tion:

is her par­ti­cip­a­tion at the  ‚Paper Fibre Art Bien­nale‘  ( IBPFA) in Taiwan. The theme is "EARTH SPEAK: Giving Voice to Paper. Traudel's wall sculp­ture 'Touch­ing Paper' was selec­ted to be exhib­ited at the Nation­al Taiwan Craft Research and Devel­op­ment Insti­tute (NTCRI) in Nantou, Taiwan from Novem­ber  3rd, 2023  to March 28th, 2024.

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