The Minis: Stephanie Hare - Philadelphia
Hi Stephanie! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, my name is Stephanie Hare, of SHare Studios. It’s a play on my name, something I thought I could grow into. I’m not really that into the act of sharing (kidding! bad joke). I’m from middle of nowhere Maine (the best place on earth), but currently living in Philadelphia (ah, you know, it’s a fell in love with a boy kinda thing, and hey, maybe I should stretch my wings thing). I moved to Philly about 5 months ago to work full time on my business for the first time since starting it in 2011. I am a papermaker with a passion for design, and the endless possibilities of handmade paper. I love working from home, spreading my entire studio over the whole house. I am slightly obsessed with dogs.
When did you first begin working with paper and what made you want to create your own?What led you to begin SHare Studios?
I first started making paper in 2010 while working at a wonderful little gallery in Brooklin, Maine owned by Papermaker, Virginia Sarsfield. It was a luxurious summer job on the coast of Maine that turned into six years, year round. I learned so much from that first few months, including taking over the production of custom handmade paper lampshades that was her specialty. After the first few months I was hooked, and couldn't help dreaming up my own contemporary handmade paper and glass lamps. So, my former partner and I built a studio in our home and went to work learning to weld and make paper for lampshade designs. It’s kind of hilarious how little we started with, creating my Column Lamp designs from wine bottles I was able to procure from my part time job at a country club. I worked as many part time jobs as I could (one being completely gutting and renovating an old farmhouse on the coast of Maine), and slowly refined my business. I am so thankful for my first customers on Etsy. I had no idea what I was doing, and those lamps were no where near as nice as they are now, but those guys helped me grow and learn. I now have my own website where I sell my lamps and array of handmade papers. After taking a hiatus from my lamp making, I focused my energy on my papermaking, and was soon shocked by the incredible community of calligraphy and wedding designers who quickly gobbled it up. I’ve been making as much paper as I can since then, with a few lamps here and there.
You go over the paper making process on your website, but could you share a bit of what goes into it with us?
My personal papermaking process starts with the raw fibers of Thai Kozo. Paper can be made from many different fibers, but I prefer to use Kozo, as it can be completely made by hand. No expensive machinery required here. I am however, saving my money for a Mark Lander Hollander Beater that would allow me to really bump up my production. My current process begins with soaking and cooking the raw bark fibers. Kozo is the inner bark of the Paper Mulberry, and the species I use comes from Thailand. A lot of the harvesting and processing has been done by hand before it even gets to my studio. After soaking, I cook the fibers in soda ash for 3 hours. This breaks down the cellulose, and leaves the fiber. This fibrous mush will get throughly rinsed and then prepped for beating by hand. That Hollander Beater I want so badly would come in handy at this point, but instead I meditate for a couple hours while beating the fibers by hand with a wooden mallet atop a granite slab, just they they do in traditional papermaking mills in asia. This process beats the long fibers into a pulp, which can then be further hydrated or pigmented with rich colors. After preparing the pulp for whichever color or style I am planning to make, I then fill my large vat of water with suspended pulp, and start to pull sheets. The process of collecting sheets of pulp with my Mould and Deckle (essential two frames, one with a screen to catch a layer of pulp) can take a few hours, depending on the size of the batch. I splash around, and build a stack of wet sheets and papermaking felts, which is then transferred to my hydraulic press to squeeze out most of the water. From there I either hang the felts to dry with the sheet of paper attached, which can create a lovely rumpled texture as the fibers shrink. Or I transfer the sheets to my dry box for a slow and smooth dry for more calligraphy friendly papers. Papermaking is a rather labor intensive process and can take up to a few days to a week from start to finish. My favorite part about making handmade paper is that there are so many different ways to go about doing it. I love creating my own process, experimenting as I go along, taking cues from my Maine environment and the world of design.
What inspires your creations?
From the get go, it was always about the way handmade paper illuminates. When I first started making paper, I focused on shades of white, simple, yet almost kinetic with the long kozo fibers suspended in movement. I kept the fibers long and thick, and blended in bits of silver and traces of feathers. I wanted there to be movement in the still moment of illumination. After stocking up on the fluffy whites, I moved into creating a deep dark blue kozo paper, which then catapulted me into the world of artist and calligraphy paper design. The colors that grew from there were inevitably inspired by my Maine landscape; the crash of waves on rocky Schoodic Point, or the greens, blues, and rustic reds of my family’s blueberry barrens. I now enjoy keeping a dark jewel toned color range, mixing in colors that have captured me from the fashion and interior design worlds as well.
What are a few of your favorite places in Philadelphia?
Well, let’s see. I’m basically a hermit, working form home all day, but I’ve made sure to check out a few great shops in the city like Vestige, Meadowsweet Mercantile, Rikumo, and Field. Still dying to stop by Rennes, and a few more other places I’ve been finding on Instagram. Currently though, my favorite place really, is right at home, focusing on my work, following where the inspiration leads me, and snuggling with my dog. The sawdust covered furniture making boyfriend coming home at night is pretty great too.
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