On View at ACC: Amanda Degener

On View at ACC: Amanda Degener

Amanda Degener, Generating


Courtesy of Amanda Degener

Paper artist Amanda Degener has spent more than 30 years making handmade paper. She says: "My intention is to draw attention to nature and evoke emotions toward the environment that we also feel for humans: love, empathy, compassion, and care." Her work is currently on view at the ACC until the end of March. If you're in northeast Minneapolis, please stop in and see it.

What do you make? What do you want to make?
Handmade paper and artwork that includes handmade paper. The attention to detail and high quality of the finished papers is central to what I make and what I want to make. I am thrilled to know that these archival sheets of handmade paper will be used in books that will be touched by hundreds of people over time.

Who and what inspires you?
Practicing Tai Chi, studying traditional Chinese medicine, and being a hand-papermaker are major choices in my life that were quick and intuitive decisions. They picked me and I listened. The very first time I made a sheet of handmade paper, it was that "aha moment." I knew in a flash from that one sheet of paper that hand-papermaking was what I was supposed to do. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a more recent influence. There is a huge respect for paper in most Asian cultures and a sensitivity toward high-quality, well-crafted things. TCM believes humans are part of nature and subject to its laws. Balance is possible, but I believe it will take more listening, starting on an individual level. Nature is profoundly intelligent and beautiful, and humans are part of that beauty. I use nature’s materials to make visible to others how I see.

Amanda Degener, Body Shapes and Elements

Body Shapes and Elements

Courtesy of Amanda Degener

How did you first become engaged with craft?
As a child, I hung out in my mother’s pottery studio. Clay felt comfortable; it was home. The first decent sculptures I made were with clay. I kept pushing the material, trying to make sculptures larger and larger. After a year's worth of work exploded in the kiln, I decided to accept the limitation of clay’s scale. With paper, I could make sculpture people could walk around or inside of. It was light-weight, portable, and made from recycled materials, so [it] left a small footprint on the planet.

Describe your dream studio.
I am in it: floor drains, windows, heat, and hot tea nearby.

What does craft mean to you?
The labor-intensive process of making paper by hand helps me and others who view my work to remember that time is not as the 21st century seems to demand. The chaotic world may be speeding by ever-faster and ever-changing, but our needs have not changed. When engaged with making, the incessant banter of the brain is gone or no longer dominates. The busy hand quiets the brain; it brings the mind to a calmer state. Sometimes there is an intensity of that moment of making, of being alive. Something as simple as water dripping from the paper mould, can help one to listen and accept the flow of life.

Library bonus question: What’s your favorite/most-read art or craft book in your personal collection?
There are too many to list, so I will just describe one that currently inspires me. In Beijing’s Chaoyang District, I saw a copy of Best Books of China 2010 - 2012 in the studio of book designer Liu Xiaoxiang, who had designed this remarkable catalogue. China is a big country, and I have spent most of my time in Beijing, so I am just now learning about contemporary books as art in China.