A Brief Story of Noah’s Ark and the Renaissance of Handmade American Paper

Cotsen 96522

While rehousing a number of prints and original artworks I came across this curious piece. It’s a custom-made card (in the shape of Noah’s ark when folded along the seam) that tells a silly story full of animal puns in which Noah deprecates Japheth into working on the Ark; “in the year 1977.”  The illustrations consist of pairs of animals stamped in burgundy and blue ink, complete with the dove and olive branch in the top left. The card is signed “All the best, Kathryn and Howard Clark,” whom I first assumed were  friends of Mr. Cotsen’s.

Cotsen 96522 text

But upon closer inspection of the item and further research into its provenance, I discovered more fascinating facts about this really unique work! The paper is deckle- edged and clearly handmade (complete with the papermaker’s watermark to the left of the elephants). If this fact wasn’t already obvious from the paper’s appearance and texture, it was definitely brought home after I discovered just who Kathryn and Howard Clark are. When printmaker and fine artist Kathryn Clark discovered that all fine handmade paper was being imported from Europe, she and her industrial designer husband Howard Clark sought to build and establish the first fine papermaking mill in America since the nineteenth century. The Clarks are the founders of Twinrocker Handmade Paper (thus the logo resembling symmetrical rocking chairs). Established in 1971, and operating out of rural Brookston, Indiana since 1972, Twinrocker Handmade Paper is largely responsible for a renaissance of fine American handmade papermaking.

Cotsen 96522 watermark

Here at Cotsen, we’re just happy to have an excellent example and early artifact of this important legacy.

For more about Kathryn and Howard Clark, American papermaking, and Twinrocker Handmade Paper, visit this article by the American Printing History Association and Twinrocker’s own website.