papierwerk | Atelier nl
Atelier NL worked with national parks, groups from the public, and a paper maker to make paper atlases that capture the history, culture, and physical nature of place. Papierwerk is a project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Culture.
I headed up this project solo over the summer of 2014, traveling to Dwingelderveld and Drents-Friese Wold, two national parks in the province of Drenthe in northern Holland. Prior to traveling, I extensively researched relevant ecosystems - along with the medicinal and traditional craft uses for key plant species. I surveyed vast swaths of land and collected plants according to various methods. I thus formulated methods appropriate for working with diverse groups in the parks: designers, children, teachers.
As part of the collection and presentation process, I arranged and photographed various place collections according to qualities like color, size, and shape. Group participants also organized their plant findings from each site. Personal collection and organization reveals the uniqueness of each individual's perspective regarding nature and sense of place.
Research: Below are examples of the research I conducted during the early phases of the Papierwerk project. It was important for us to understand the history of the land and the plants in relation to human use and the larger ecosystem. The Netherlands has a rich and complex history of strategic land management, physical material utilization, medicinal plant use, and folklore. In order to move toward the creation our atlases, we needed to thoroughly understand the system within which we were working. This was especially interesting for me as a non-native, as it was a great chance to gain an intimate understanding of the culture and nature that surrounded me in Holland.
Related Project: Big Small Places is an individual project that took place alongside the Papierwerk project. Eventually, it merged with Atelier NL's work perfectly. The project, described in words and photographic documentation below, is rooted in the on-site collection and cataloguing of everyday places. Through investigation, unexpected stories and connections emerge.
The items pictured below are from the base of a single tree by a stream in Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands.
Biking home from work along a grassy willow-lined waterway, I saw a lone feather on the side of the path. I stopped to pick up the feather and noticed many more feathers beneath a tree nearby. The birds seemed to have gathered there. After spending time observing and collecting one of each of even the tiniest things around me, I realized that birds of all shapes and sizes were gathering to eat the translucent green berries falling from the tree. The feathers on the ground were tattered because the birds fought for the berries. It seems that the fights, at times, could even be deadly: I found a part of a wing. After spending some time quietly collecting plants and discarded man-made objects, I was joined by many different types of birds. A colorful bird like a small turkey landed next to me - then a mama duck and her tiny single duckling, along with a small black bird. The gaggle of birds were initially friendly, then fighting, then hungrily eating. After watching an entire flock of ducks excitedly devour berry after berry, I ate one of the berries myself. It was good! It reminded me of an odd dried berry I have noticed in my granola from time to time – like a whitish brown papery raspberry.
By noticing a single feather along my path, I had found food for myself. After a bit of research, after my initial experiment, I found out the berries were mulberries.
You can learn a lot if you take the time to be present with a place - any place. By taking the time to observe and appreciate what is around me, big and small, I came to intimately appreciate and understand the role of this solitary park tree in the life all around me. Now, in my eyes, this tree - and every tree - is not just a silent witness that offers shade. It’s a living part of a vibrant and ever-changing community - a character in a story, playing its part, just like me.