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.