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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Tree Whispers

Courtesy Pamela Paulsrud

Pamela Paulsrud is recognized internationally as a papermaker, calligrapher, book artist, and collaborator. Her work includes smaller pieces and large-scale installations. But Paulsrud's greatest passion is an ongoing project she co-created called Treewhispers, an international collaboration about the human connection to trees.

“I would probably have to attribute a lot of my artwork to a ritual I do most every morning,” Paulsrud says. “That’s a bike ride through the forest preserve. It’s about a 15-mile ride, and I consider it my exercise and also my commute since I work at home. I go out and I come back. I’ve realized it’s a meditation for me.”

A conversation with Pamela Paulsrud

Paulsrud says the first half of the ride tends to be the “yammering” in her head, going over all the business of the day past and the one ahead. But the second half tends to be a quieting of the mind, allowing creativity and imagination.

Credit Courtesy Pamela Paulsrud

“A lot of my work comes from that space,” she says. “Whether you call it a vision or ideas. And nature has always been a profound teacher and inspiration.”

Paulsrud’s focus in nature often centers on trees. At the same time, she has a fascination with handwriting that led to calligraphy.

“I think of handwriting as a cross between a fingerprint and an EKG,” she says. “It tells not only who you are but how you are in that moment. I’ve been fascinated with handwriting since I was in kindergarten. Calligraphy was a natural outcropping of that.”

Next came an interest in papermaking. And from papermaking came the Treewhispers concept. It invites people to contribute “rounds” of handmade paper, decorated however one pleases, to the traveling exhibit. Paulsrud says there are about 7,000 paper rounds so far. They are strung up in columns and hung from the ceiling, forming something like a floating forest of trees. Each round is an expression of a person's “tree story.”

Pamela Paulsrud’s calligraphy exhibit at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center opens June 7 as part of the Kalamazoo Art Hop and runs through June 28. Treewhispers, a collaboration with Kalamazoo’s Pen Dragon Calligraphers Guild, can be seen at the Kalamazoo Nature Center through July 2019.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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