I interviewed Rebecca Hutchinson, Jerry Bennett, and Rosette Gault because they are all early innovators in paper clay as an artistic medium, independently incorporated it in their studio practices, and are teachers who are willing to share their knowledge. I did the interviews between May and October 2018 as individual phone calls, then edited them for Studio Potter.
Lorie Nelson: What references, cultural or otherwise, led you to use paper clay in your work?
But of course, during those years, everyone said, “Oh, there’s no other option to the traditional rules, unless you want to use nylon as a fiber in your clay. And don’t use paper pulp or anything like that, because it’ll just stink to high heaven, and then your clay can’t be aged.” They gave all kinds of reasons like these.
As a full-time studio potter and teacher of pottery and sculpture after grad school, I chose to use a couple of traditional porcelain and china-clay bodies consistently for tableware, as well as a terra-cotta; and also some jet-black bodies once in a while, depending on the kiln or firing process. I did that up until 1990, when, on a residency, I decided, “Oh, I’m gonna scale up and see how big I can build.” There happened to be a papermaking studio next door, with a Hollander mixer-beater for making pulp. I ended up borrowing some pulp to mix into the clay body, and then I ended up mixing my own pulp. In retrospect, there was a synchronicity during the next few days of work, as my work habits with traditional clay proved to be almost useless and working wet to dry with paper clay provided the right balance.