Since the end of May, a group of graduates from Washington University’s Sam Fox School have been crafting oodles of paper hands to be in stylus. Lindsay Deifik, an organizer for this venture, answered some questions about the process and e-mailed me some photos from the studio.
What is your role for the installation of Ann Hamilton’s stylus?
I am the Studio Assistant Coordinator for the paper hand production here at Washington University. My responsibilities include overseeing the working schedules of our assistants, cataloguing the hands, directing various aspects of our production and of course making plenty of hands myself. I’m really grateful to have fallen into a job that requires me to be making and producing right after graduating with a BFA. I am also serving as a nexus of communication between Ann, her studio in Ohio, the Pulitzer and our base here at the university. It’s been really exciting to see all of the components and dispersed activity that goes into the production of a show of this magnitude here in Saint Louis.
When did you start working on the project?
Our team got to work on May 24th, the week following graduation. All of us have just graduated from either the Undergraduate or Masters programs at Washington University. We have been applying the intense momentum of studio life towards this project, and, three weeks in, we have over 225 pairs of hands.
What exactly goes into the process of making the hands?
The process turned out to be more complex than we had anticipated. Not only are we forming the hands, but we have also been making much of the paper we have been using. I have experience with making western-style, cotton based paper from my undergrad, but this project has allowed all of us to learn how to make a type of abaca fiber paper. This is much thinner and more translucent than traditional paper. After the pulp is made, it is poured onto a screen in a water bath. Sheets are then pulled and allowed to dry in the sun. It’s pretty magical to see the corners of the finished paper, pulling off the screens in the wind.
We are using two methods to then form the hands. Volunteers sculpted many clay hands when Ann was here in the spring. Paper is then applied to the hands, allowed to dry and then cut off of these forms. We also have plaster molds of these forms, where we press paper into them and then pull them out once they have dried. Both of these methods require us to then mend the hands, a stage in the process where much of their individual characters arise.
Did Ann give you specific guidelines on how the hands should look?
Ann met with some of our team before we began, and gave us some parameters. Our continuing communications and the photographs we have been sending back and forth have contributed to changes in our approach. Ann has been very adamant about each hand having it’s own unique character, allowing the material to dictate the end result.
Who else is involved in the project?
Our team has grown in this short period of time. Chloe Bethany, Yetunde Ogunfidodo, both recent graduates of the BFA sculpture program, as well as Carlie Trosclair and Nick Hutchings from the MFA program have been working from the start. Our team now also includes Ella Brandon, Mamie Korpela, and Megan Bean.
How many hands will you be creating?
We are shooting for 603 pairs at the very least. We have been filling up our workspace with what we have made so far, and they’re taking over our studio! It is my understanding that even more will be made after we reach this initial goal.
What are your feelings about the experience so far?
Chloe and I had taken part in the Saint Louis Art Revolution workshop with Ann and her husband Michael last summer. To a large extent, these two weeks functioned as a platform of research and inquiry into the city for Ann and the rest of our group. I found applying these methods to one’s artistic practice illuminating, and in turn I’m really excited to see how that experience will inform stylus.
The element of collaboration has also been important to me. It has transformed the studio from being strictly the focus of personal pursuit into something much different.