From cattails and bulrushes, Jan Moulder has created paper for over 25 years.
“I’ve always made things and enjoyed making things,” says Moulder. “Then one Sunday afternoon a friend said, ‘You know, I’d like to try make paper sometime.’ “
It had never occurred to Moulder to do that. As it turned out, her friend didn’t try papermaking but Moulder did. From that Wyldewood Papers – crafts and household items all created from paper and natural materials – emerged.
Until this past summer Moulder used just a kitchen blender to make the pulp. Now she has a professional papermaking machine that can handle any material, from hemp to vegetables to blue jeans, as long as it’s plant fibers. Moulder says that different fibers bring different clarity, color, strength and texture to projects.
“Paper is a hard one to market because people take it so for granted,” says Moulder. “When you say it’s made out of paper there’s kind of a devaluing. But there’s a lot of labor in my work.”
Moulder sees the value in educating people about papermaking.
“Because it’s really an amazing medium,” she says.
Moulder has created more than 100 lamps with paper shades, each one unique. With a 4-watt bulb, they make perfect night lights or television lights, or simply provide a softly glowing atmosphere.
“You learn what your limits are by your own experience, rather than somebody else telling you what they are,” says Moulder. “Like with the lamps. People want me to teach them how to make the lamps. Well, this is how I do it, but you need to take the idea and innovate it.”
In addition to lamps, Moulder also makes jewelry, ornaments, journals, wall décor and picture frames. Adorning her paper crafts are tree lichen, seaweed, twigs and bark. She gets her material from roadsides, fields, gardens and beaches. She does all the work from marketing, to harvesting, to sales.
“One thing I love about this work is the variety,” says Moulder. “There’s all sorts of stuff to be done, from designing marketing materials to building my Web site, to going out in the woods and collecting things to make the paper.”
Moulder has taught papermaking at art schools, the Parks and Recreation Department and in private classes. One of her missions is to help people own their creativity. She also does custom work, her most popular being her journals.
“I did a really fun thing last year,” says Moulder. “This guy called me and said he’d written a story for his granddaughters, and he wanted it bound into a book for them. So he sent me the story and I made the paper and bound the books, one for each little girl.”
Moulder plans to make larger sheets of paper so she can create larger projects like folding screens or room dividers.
But the lamps are her favorites.
“I name all my lamps,” says Moulder. “One of the things that’s so special is that as I create them, it’s like a soul emerging, and they become this personality. Then I sit down with each one and discern the name. I meditate with each lamp and have each one give me a message. Some of the messages are really quite profound. So every lamp really is unique.”