Inspiration
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Jan 2, 2019

Marking the Paper: Watermarks

Paper has been used for art in many different forms for as far back as we can tell. Its versatility and adaptability for different types of artwork are endless. One example of how paper can be used for art is watermarking. Watermarks on paper appear as identifying images or patterns that are visible in different shades of light or darkness. This effect can be achieved by varying the thickness or density of the paper in certain areas during the paper-making process.

A brief history of watermarking

In the 12th century, Italians made paper with a frame that had a wire mesh underneath. These frames were filled with liquid pulp and shaken, causing the fibres to come together while the excess pulp drained from through the wire mesh. As the fibres left in the frame formed together, it formed paper where the wire mesh pattern was imprinted.

The same principle applies when applying watermarks with a specific design in mind, where wires are twisted into the desired shape and placed against the paper. There is a museum in Fabriano, Italy dedicated to this ancient form of paper craft and watermarking techniques.

Watermarks today

Since its inception, watermarks have become mainstream for authentication purposes in items such as banknotes, passports, and other important documents. Thomas Harry Saunders was one of the earlier papermakers who was renowned for his watermarks, which at the time became the gold standard for preventing fraudulent bills and documents.

Allan H. Stevenson, on the other hand, was one of the first to specialise in studying handmade paper and watermarks, paving the way for people to see the value in bibliographical analyses of paper. His groundbreaking work on the usage of watermarks has helped identify the origin dates of documents from as far back as the 15th century.

You can find all sorts of watermarks on different items. They serve as key features on postage stamps and collectors often search for specific watermarks to add to their collection, as it helps them identify the origin or date.

Watermarks as a form of art

There are artists who use watermarks and paper designs for projects, which is a fairly niche thing to do as the process is more complex than other traditional means of creating paper art. The result though is a unique display of talent and creativity through a rare medium that can still be appreciated by mainstream audiences.

Paper watermark artists for paper craft ideas

Aidee Bernard is a French artist who has created some visually stunning exhibits that showcase watermarked paper arranged in creative ways. The exhibits are lit to maximize the visibility of the weaving, abstract patterns of her imprinted artwork.

Robert Mannino was born in Rome and has dabbled with watermark art when he began working with papermaking in 1994. His work is more subtle and nuanced, allowing eloquence and simple paper art to dictate the impact of his pieces.

Michelle Wilson's installation named "The Ghost Trees" features haunting tree-shaped watermarks that make a statement on deforestation and the demand for paper. The intricate, root-like patterns and symmetry found in her work is mesmerizing and a true inspiration for people eager to learn paper art.

If you're looking for a fun and unique way to express your creativity, try the art of creating watermarks on paper. It's a way to develop a skill through a creative outlet while literally leaving a mark in this world.