Seeds InService: A Papermaking Institute is an initiative of Melissa Potter and Maggie Puckett to explore the intersections of the art of hand papermaking with gardening, social practice, community engagement, and creative pedagogy in The Papermaker’s Garden at Columbia College Chicago.
Through hand papermaking projects with heirloom plants grown in Chicago, Seeds InService (SIS) is contextualized by an exhibition co-curated by Jessica Cochran and Melissa Potter in 2014 called Social Paper, the first exhibition to chart the history of hand papermaking as a socially engaged art form. The project was reviewed in the Craft Research Fund funded catalog by historian Jennie Sorkin: “The duo held harvesting and papermaking workshops and created an ad-hoc distribution center for radical feminist literature, which they distributed with the seeds and care instructions, extending the garden’s metaphor to mean the seeding or cultivation of future generations of activist artists and gardeners.”
An onion tart recipe created by Melissa Potter to honor Jane Addams, designed by Maggie Puckett.
Velvet Queen sunflowers in the Seeds InService bed.
A view of the Papermaker's Garden at Columbia College where the Seeds InService project lives.
Seed packets letterpress printed on handmade corn paper with fiber from the Papermaker's Garden and filled with seeds from that same corn.
Honoring the women of 488 State Street, the early 20th Century brothel closest to the current Papermaker's Garden site. Brothels were recorded by Hull House Wage Map researchers.
Finished packets made from fiber grown in the Seeds InService bed, and filled with seeds from those same plants.
A card designed by Melissa Potter and Maggie Puckett celebrating the partnership with the Hull House Seed Library featuring Jane Addams, Gertrude Stein and W.E.B. DuBois making handmade paper.
Letterpress printing holiday cards on paper with fiber from Fresh Press, Illinois.
Seed embedded pins designed by Melissa Potter memorializing the women who worked in brothels at the location of the Papermaker's Garden back in the early 1900s.
Stana Cerović was born in a tiny village in Montenegro to a family without boys. She sacrificed marriage and children to dress and live like a man. Stana wishes to be remembered in the family graveyard as her father’s son. Yet hardly anyone lives in the village anymore, and there is no mason to carve Stana’s name in stone. In Belgrade, Serbia are five young women--a bus driver, drag king, student, printmaker, and graffiti artist. They reveal different ideas about sacrifice, personal choice, identity, joy, and remembrance. How will Stana be remembered in this new world? Like Other Girls Do Film Trailer
U.S. premiere of Potter's film, Like Other Girls Do at the Reeling LGBT International Film Festival
Stana Cerović, the film subject poses with a photograph of herself dressed as a man. Photo: Melissa Hilliard Potter
Feminist Felt is a collaboration by Melissa Potter with women in the Republic of Georgia, Miriam Schaer, the Women’s Fund in Georgia. It grew out of a Soros Arts and Culture grant program, Felted Lives: Crafting Women’s Stories. The works embrace feminist activism for women’s basic rights to safety as well as advocacy for women craft artisans, whose skills are endangered, underpaid and under recognized.
A collaboration with artist activist groups and women craft unions in the Republic of Georgia engaged the ancient Georgian craft of felt making to explore contemporary artists books, as well as protest banners and masks, which have been used in Georgian feminist and LGBTQIA marches and protests. These craft practices are in urgent need of intangible heritage preservation. Simultaneously, women's empowerment movements have taken Georgia into its second wave of feminism, and they oppose the oppressive gender regulations of an Orthodox society, at times to their personal endangerment.
Equal Pay for Equal Work, designed with Ida Bakhturidze, Miriam Schaer, Nana Magradze, and Clifton Meador
Equal Pay for Equal Work, designed by Melissa Potter in handmade felt
Melissa Potter and Ida Bakhturidze in a Georgian village credit union.
No Violence, designed by Ida Bakhturidze and an Alvani workshop participant in handmade felt.
Ida Bakhturidze and Melissa Potter in front of the Alvani school.
My Body, My Choice, designed by Ida Bakhturidze and Melissa Potter
Listen to Women! Designed by Independent Group of Feminists members in Tbilisi, Georgia
Women's Rights are Human Rights, designed by Ida Bakhturizde
Tbilisi's first International Women's Day march with banners
From the collection of ethnographer, Robert Chenciner
Women in Alvani share their Tusheti traditional design
Ida Bakhturidze, Melissa Potter and Miriam Schaer at the Georgian border of Daghestan.
Jersey Devil felt mask, designed by Melissa Potter
Ida Bakhturidze wearing bunny mustache mask designed by Melissa Potter
Women's Fund in Georgia founder, Nana Pantsulaia and her feminist mask.
Felted masked activism at protests against virginity testing in Tbilisi.
Craft Power: Tusheti Rugs
Craft Power: Tusheti Rugs is a series of flax handmade paper laminated el wires, which illuminate when plugged in. They are part of a research project by Melissa Potter and Paul Catanese called Handmade Media. Through this project, we are exploring the intersection of hand crafted media with handmade paper. I created these works inspired by the crafts symbol system in the Republic of Georgia, where it is understood some of the images may be derived from ancient Amazonian cults celebrating female power. They were featured in the San Antonio city-wide exhibition, Luminaria.
Flax handmade paper laminates, pulp painting, and el wire embeds by Melissa Potter
As part of the exhibition, Construction at Columbia College Chicago's A + D Gallery, Melissa Potter created an interactive project using the BEM Sex Role Inventory to engage audiences on the topic of gender roles, play, and stereotypes. The Gender Assignment blog explored the findings from a personal, artistic, and collaborative interview process. The findings from more than 100 tests during this exhibition are here.
Photos from Melissa Potter's opening in Construction at A+D gallery.
Pulp and Pastry
In spring 2015, Melissa Potter will be in residence on a Fulbright Scholar grant at the University of Fine Arts in Sarajevo. Her project, Pulp and Pastry (first produced in 2013 in Belgrade) continues in Sarajevo. Using the same materials to create food and paper, artists engage the art of hand papermaking with the intangible heritage of Bosnian cooking. Both food and hand papermaking reflect their places of origin and carry their cultural histories, and are made through labor with many of the same materials. Through papermaking and cooking as performance, participants are invited to describe how food conveys their personal histories and memories.
The project is inspired by Adam Pantić, whose culinary nom de guerre, “Djulistan, Ph.D. in Oriental Sweets,” uses the diverse characteristics of food and paper as art media to play on the collection of old recipes from his time in military service in Bosnia. Pantić helped build the papermaking studio Potter taught in during her 2006 Fulbright, which is still in use today. He will travel to Sarajevo to collaborate on this project, and they will be joined by special guest, papermaker and founder of The Mobile Mill, Jillian Bruschera. She will be launching her new invention, The Papermaker's Pack.
Handmade paper with leeks
Working in the papermaking studio founded on my 2006 Fulbright in Belgrade
Students make leek paper
Adam Pantić moves his kitchen into the paper studio
Adam Pantić makes food from pulped vegetables
Pulp and Pastry team
Boy Brides & Bachelors
Boy Brides & Bachelors is an animated video by Melissa Potter shot on a cold January night in Southeastern Serbia during a ritual called Surovari in which men dress as women (large breasted peasants, grandmothers, and brides), and engage in pretend sexual acts with village bachelors. Little is known about the meaning of this pagan ritual, but its contemporary gender role-play implications are profound. I use stop motion animations to engage my questions about the underlying meanings of the ritual, and make a connection between my inability to translate much of what was going on with the strange language of gender itself.