Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Timothy Barrett, papermaker

Lighted Leaf 1
Mulberry leaf courtesy of Sarah Williams
of Brisbane, Australia and sxc.hu.
I love to meet people who follow a bright thread into the labyrinth of larger life and so transform themselves and their world.

"Look,” he said, fingering the lushly textured paper, which dates to the year of Copernicus’s birth, “you can see fine lines from the way the threads were sewn down on the mold. And here, if you hold it up in raking light, you can see where someone in the mill picked up the edge of the sheet. I love these little touches of the hand.” He glanced down at a librarian’s notes detailing the efforts that had been made to conserve the book, and read with a mix of surprise and delight, “Mended in the spine with paper from Barrett’s shop.”  
from "Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization?" by Mark Levine, NYT 2.19.2012


  1. As a printmaker, artist as well as book lover, paper is very precious to me. So this is a fascinating story, and history. (Wish I could read the whole thing but haven't a subscription to NYT.)

  2. marja-leena,

    I don't think you need a subscription--just sign up. But I'll send you a copy.

  3. Oops, your contact box won't accept something that big.

    Now I have sent it to your email address. Hope it doesn't come out all strangely formatted.

  4. Marly, thanks, the article came through fine in the email. Great article! Have emailed back.

  5. Thanks for sending that article about a wonderfully obsessed individual. I loved the way he collected books but focused only on the paper, not the contents. Strange and interesting.

  6. Robbi,

    I have been told by painters that some Japanese papers have declined in quality in the past few decades. I wonder if he has any washi customers in Asia.

    Yes, passion to achieve something worthy is always alluring.

  7. Finally had time to read this wonderful article, Marly. I'm fascinated that he grows kozo here! For some reason I thought that was...well...impossible, but of course it isn't. It makes me happy to know a few people like him are still out there.

  8. I suppose there are many people out there following marvelous, quirky, demanding vocations. Lovely to think so--I believe it is true.

  9. Wonderful article, Marly--he may have been finishing up at Antioch the year I was there (1972-73)--wish I could say I'd met him. But I remember when the Daniel Smith catlogue started offering Twinrocker paper to its artist-customers.
    Also liked what James Galvin had to say about putting something down on Barrett's paper that was more interesting than the paper itself. Yep--this is what you and I try to do almost every day!

  10. Yes, that paper offering was an interesting idea--hope they grasped how precious it was!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.