Introduction to “A different kind of warmth”

“A different kind of warmth” is a series of 50 beet papyrus compositions and stains created by artist Julia Goodman.  Grown in her garden, hand picked, sliced and pressed, Julia’s beets are part of an artistic practiced centered on strengthening the connection between our natural and man-made environment.  Even her leathery yet delicate works reflect this intimate relationship, softening or becoming brittle with the humidity, or changing color in response to the sun. Each set includes the beet-stained cloth used to press her papyrus, which exists as both a document of the process and a shadowy work in its own right.

Julia Goodman earned her BA in International Relations and Peace & Justice Studies at Tufts University in 2001. She began making paper in her backyard in 2003 and completed her Master’s in Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts in May 2009. Since graduating she spent the summer in Inverness, California at the JB Blunk Residency and the fall in New York, completing a studio internship at Dieu Donne papermaking studio. In 2012, Julia looks forward to two artist residencies, one on a small farm near lava flow in Hawaii and the other at “the dump,” through Recology San Francisco. Her work has exhibited widely throughout California, and in New York, Washington DC, and Gothenberg, Sweden. Currently, Julia is living and working in San Francisco.



Interview with Julia Goodman

We interviewed Julia in our home on March 18th, 2012.


icon for podpress  Interview with Julia Goodman [52:28m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Julia Goodman: Overlap

Is there a material more often overlooked than paper? Our everyday lives are full of it: receipts and packaging from purchases; flyers, wheat-pasted movie ads and parking tickets; to say nothing of the papers that record our private thoughts and then carry them over distances. It is the ubiquity of this humble material that almost guarantees that it be disregarded. In order to reconsider paper, it must be presented to us in a form that we have not seen before, provoking a reaction of surprise before we settle into the reassuring feeling of prior knowledge and connection.

Julia Goodman’s work often provides this provocation, enlivening the familiar by making it temporarily strange. Her edition for The Present Group is mysterious and intriguing. At first, you might only marvel at the colors of the beet papyrus: a gentle spectrum of deep reds and purples, along with some yellow or white, plus a bit of dark green or black along the margins. Then comes the question of the material itself: What is it? Beet slices, cut thin to the point of translucency, then overlapped and dried. And then an inspection of minutiae, tinged with pragmatism: Are the slices stitched? How do they hold together? You might be surprised to find that the papyrus is a bit of ordinary magic, conjured from common materials and simple processes to make a symbolic object.

Physically and conceptually, Goodman’s beet papyrus is centered on the notion of overlap. Synonyms for this verb evoke the phenomenal or concrete: imbricate, overhang, protrude, shingle. These words focus on materiality and mass, on the edges of substances that meet in a certain physical arrangement. Yet overlap is also connected to the more abstract concept of coinciding or having in common. Both forms of overlap, the action and the idea, are central to Goodman’s art practice.

When I met her in 2009, Goodman was making work from junk mail, an exploration of materials that grew out of her interest in economics and sustainability. Using these repurposed communications, she created small sculptural objects and wheat-pasted them in urban locations, bringing handmade and ephemeral forms to hard, industrial surfaces. With these works, Goodman juxtaposed fragility and softness to concrete, creating an overlap where, for a time, opposing textures existed in the same space. What has always struck me about her work is that it is made from broken-down or divided and recombined substances. Goodman’s work reduces a material all the way to its basic form, and then rebuilds it into something new.

Goodman is grounded foremost in process, so to understand the idiosyncrasies of papermaking is in some way to enter the mind of the artist, because the process of papermaking may be the ultimate physical expression of having in common. Its manufacture is simple: first, plant fibers are broken down, and then the fibers are allowed to reconnect. Specifically, the fibers are bruised and opened while in a water bath, and then as water is extracted from this slurry the fibers re-bond, linking themselves back together in endless networks that take the shape of the mold they are in, be it flat (as in sheet of handmade paper) or a more sculptural form.

In part, Goodman makes paper because she loves working with her hands and believes in making art that is the result of direct touch. She tells me, “There is nothing between my hands and my materials—no brush or pencil,” and her direct physical engagement with the work is evident at every stage, from the tearing of fibers or cutting of beets to the process for extracting the water from the paper: pressing it with her hands, pushing it into a wooden mold, even stepping or standing on it to push the liquid out of the interlocking fibers.

The making of this edition was no different in terms of physical involvement. Like traditional papyrus, in which the fibers are not bruised or opened but laminated in layers, each beet was harvested, sliced thin on a mandoline, then arranged with other, differently-colored beet segments on a white cloth, and finally pressed and dried. Under pressure, the cut beet fibers rebond, grabbing onto each other and reconnecting to form a new whole. There is no stitching, and no adhesives are used; the process is both deliberate and organic, with Goodman controlling the circumstances but letting the fibers do what comes naturally. While drying, the beet papyrus shrinks and stains the cloth beneath, and that stain becomes evidence of the original form and records a history of the process.

Papyrus is a material that is sensitive to its environment. Expect your beet papyrus to respond to the weather, reabsorbing ambient moisture and re-drying as the barometer rises and falls. At every level, this form of paper is physically reactive and mutable, from the individual cut fibers that reach toward reconnection, to the final piece that shifts almost imperceptibly to match the circumstances of its surroundings. Papyrus is a basic form of paper, and paper is a recording device.

Goodman grew many of the beets for this project and purchased the others from local farmer’s markets. That means that the papyrus was produced in this area, from seed to final paper. It is intensely connected to the geography, climate, and labor of the Bay Area. Further, the fact that it is still potentially edible brings the beet papyrus back to physicality, an overlap between the body, the material, and the process. In her studio, Goodman shows me her bag of food, including beets, from the farmer’s market. “My groceries and my art supplies are in the same place, touching. There is no need to separate my art practice from my life.”




Bean Gilsdorf is an artist and writer. Her exhibition reviews and interviews have been included in print and online publications such as Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, Fiberarts Magazine (2007-2011), Daily Serving and Art Practical. For Daily Serving, she also writes the weekly arts-advice column HELP DESK, co-sponsored by and reprinted at Gilsdorf is a 2011-2012 MFA Fellowship Resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts. She lives in San Francisco.



Displaying Beet Papyrus

There are many ways one could display the beet papyrus, but we’ll go over a few of them here:

1. The first option is one that Julia designed herself:

“I don’t want the material behind glass all the time.  I want you to be able to experience that material without anything between you and it…. I’ve constructed this wood system so that the glass is off the wall by about an inch and a half.  And that allows the beet papyrus to cast a shadow on the wall and it also allows light to come from behind.  So that’s kindof the idea: room for shadow, no material or frame between you and the surface, and some natural back-lighting as well.” 

We’ve custom built these to Julia’s specs and made them available to purchase through TPG.  Go here if you’d like to find out more>>

Advantages: somewhat protected, illuminated from behind by reflection off the wall, ability to look closely at the texture, indirect light, ideal viewing platform designed by the artist
Disadvantages: not really protected from the air, environmental factors, or light

2. A cheaper alternative would be to use 4 1/4″ magnets on a window or wall.  The most important thing to note here is that it is not ok to use magnets without a buffer between the magnet and the beet papyrus. An easy way to solve this is to buy some adhesive backed felt dots and stick it to the magnets. If you don’t do this, the magnets will make a hole through the beet papyrus.

Tape the first set of magnets to the window, adhere the felt buffer to both the taped surface of the magnets on the window and to one side of the other magnets.  Place the papyrus, and then position the other set of magnets on top.


Advantages: affordable, easy to do, window illumination
Disadvantages: light may damage the papyrus, no protection, not a long-term solution, depending on tape used

3. Professionally framed: float mounted on archival board, with substantial spacer

Advantages: protected from environment and light, easy to hang
Disadvantages: no illumination from behind


Annotated Links for TPG20: A different kind of warmth

Julia’s Links:

Dard Hunter collection: Dard Hunter was responsible for a renaissance in hand papermaking and printing. From 1923 to 1950, his Mountain Home Press produced eight limited-edition books that stand as testaments to his devotion and perseverance. Today, most of the historians and artisans interested in papermaking and printing were directly inspired by Hunter.

Dieu Donne: a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation, promotion, and preservation of new contemporary art utilizing the hand papermaking process.  I did a residency here.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds : Seed bank…where i get the seeds for the beet i grew…I didn’t grow nearly all of them…but some

Paper Project Scanning Electron Microscope Images of Paper: I love these magnified images…I used some in a talk I gave last week to show the difference between paper and papyrus

and…Oregon Caves National Monument

and Lava Beds National Monument



Other Links:

Examples of other types of fruit and vegetable papyrus

Artists working with food/food concepts/growing things:

Open Restaurant: OPENrestaurant is the project of a collective of restaurant professionals who moved their environment to an art space as a way to experiment with the language of their daily activities. This displacement turns the restaurant, its codes and architecture, into a medium for artistic expression which is made available to cooks, farmers, artists, educators and activists as a way to explore issues around food and society.

Pietopia:  This is a once a year event where participants submit any pie recipe and 300 word written explanation about how your life tastes, in a pie. The entries go through a judging process of nationally recognized food writers and bakers. Over the course of several weeks, pies are judged upon the creativity and innovation in ideas reflecting the ingredients used in the recipe by a group of nationally recognized food-writers and chefs. run by Tricia Martin, eating is art

Conflict Kitchen: a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The food is served out of a take-out-style storefront that rotates identities every six months to highlight another country.  Each iteration of the project is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country.

Artists working with paper:


Jen Stark


Lori B. Goodman


Web hosting that supports artists.


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