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Lean Into the Process- Artist Interview with Kristen Law Lewis

Lean Into the Process- Artist Interview with Kristen Law Lewis

Kristen Law Lewis has been connected to Two Hands Paperie in a variety of ways over the years. You may have encountered her as a book binding instructor in our shop, as an employee working the register, one of the creative visionaries for a window display, running the behind the scenes and co-hosting our online classes, or you may be the (future?) lucky owner of one of her beautiful hand bound books. We sat down with Kristen to discuss her creative process and get a glimpse into her process and her beautiful workspace.

Meet Kristen on Saturday, Dec 4th from 11:00a-2:00p at Two Hands Paperie for a pop up shop and a chance to purchase Kristen's beautiful books!


What is your first memory engaging with or feeling connected to art/making things?
My mom kept a lot of my artwork I made as a kid and those tangibles hold specific memories of what I was doing or feeling. But more generally, I have visceral scenes in my mind’s eye from over the years that involve the world around me just disappearing as I zone out/in to creating something. Concurrent feelings of both engagement and abandon happen when I make stuff. It nourishes me and connects me to myself. That feeling while creating has been with me my whole life.

Book binding samples

Share an example of your most recent inspiration. Currently I’m exploring an intersection of history, science, and art using natural history illustrations from hundreds of years ago. These drawings were made to understand and convey information and I connect with the pursuit to understand and convey. I’ve been using portions of the illustrations as collage, and adding elements of pattern and geometry (also nature/science-inspired) and all of that gets glued on top of hardcovers from old books that I upcycle into my new creations using traditional bookbinding techniques. Can I say two inspirational things? Because upcycling and seeking low-waste options for my bookbinding projects is another thing that’s floating my boat right now. Thinking about where things come from, and where also they’re going… I am enamored with material objects and modifying their past significance to construct a relevance for them today.

kristen's hand bound books
What can you share about your creative process? Often the source of a new project will be a technique or something specific to execute. With bookbinding it’s often a stitch, or structure, or material I haven’t tried. Sometime after the comprehension and physical getting-the-hang-of-things, I add aesthetic and conceptual ingredients to the mix. The act of curating combinations is the main process for me. My work is definitely material-driven. Putting things together, juxtaposing them. Be it materials, colors, or ideas… all that takes trial and error, and time. I try to lean into the process and let it come as it may. Sometimes things coalesce quickly, and sometimes it takes much longer. I like the freedom to use a certain material over and over to explore it’s capabilities, and I also love the challenge of using precious materials - which for me often means having only one of something and working to design a just-right way to use it.

Kristen Law Lewis Collage Samples

What's in your toolkit? Which tools or materials do you love or use most often? My teflon folder is probably my #1, along with the just-right pressure and angle of it to really adhere paper or whatever I’m glueing. I also use awls a lot and have a variety of like 7 or 8 of them to use, depending on the project. And, I must say, hands and fingers and the human body are incredible tools! 

Kristen's studio and materials

Do you ever experience creative block? What do you do? A lot of messaging in our culture has told us we must constantly be productive, and that runs counter to our natural human cycles. If I’m not feeling like making something, I take that as an indicator to rest. I have found it unsustainable to be creative on-demand so I generally don’t force it. That being said, I am always wishing I had more time in the studio. I have such a wellspring of unexplored ideas I want to get to! I find it helpful to have a small range of projects going at once, to be able to pick the moment according to mood and ideally there ends up being a season for everything. 

Studio detail- materials stored in a fireplace

Kristen's Bio
Kristen Law Lewis was bitten hard by the book bug during the last semester of her undergrad studies in Studio Art at CU Boulder. She's made all kinds of books since, and even created a line of hand bound books that she sold in galleries throughout Colorado under the name Papercuts Press. She later pursued artifact conservation, a second love, and earned a degree in Museum Studies. Kristen mixes her time between sculpture, bookmaking, and caring for museum collections. Her artwork - which reveals her deep love for paper, books, and maps - originates in her study of nature, and melds scientific and spiritual habits like collecting. These days she finds herself teaching others the art of bookmaking and loving every minute of it! One of her favorite things about book making is that the definition of "book" is so broad. Can you imagine using a paperwasp nest in a book? Kristen could. Using a rainbow of threads, she carefully stitched the nest to form the cover of a book for the 2011 Eccentric Artists Garden Exhibit in Boulder. She's constantly experimenting. Her latest work is with sewable electronics, which can add light to almost any piece of art. To quote her, "Book making is the perfect combination of craft and technology". Her blog is at http://www.papercutspress.blogspot.com or follow her on Instagram @papercutspress.

Next article "Beautiful Things With My Own Hands"- A Conversation with Fran Meneley, THP Class Instructor