While most recent college graduates apply to various companies in the hopes of starting their new careers, one River Forest resident decided to put her future in her own hands—and those hands are covered with pulp.
Eight months after opening up her own papermaking studio, Claire Reynes is opening her doors to get others excited about papermaking and other types of community art.
This weekend, Zenith Art Studio, 7756 W. Madison, River Forest, will host an open house and weekend holiday sale as a part of Madison Street’s Holiday Walk. From Friday through Sunday, Zenith will feature 12 local artists ranging from fellow papermaking artists to jewelers and potters.
One artist who teaches at the studio is Forest Park’s Elaine Luther. Luther will display jewelry created in her Forest Park studio using her blowtorch, stamps, awls, silicone molds and 20-ton hydraulic press.
Visitors will be able to observe Nepalese paper-making, hand-bind a book, watch fibers dyed with indigo and transform weeds into paper.
After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in December 2013 with a degree in art education, Reynes opened Zenith in April as a studio dedicated to teaching papermaking and collaborating on projects with local artists.
Forest Park’s Luther organized a community quilt project at Zenith this summer examining motherhood in all its messy glory.
Reynes hopes to establish Zenith as a partner with local community organizations.
She has held paper-making workshops with the Oak Park Conservatory, Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, The Oak Park Library, and WSSRA. She does workshops on-site, or brings them to parties.
Reynes was inspired after studying abroad in Cortona, Italy and interning with a papermaking artist for two summers in Indiana. As for opening her business in her hometown, she said it all happened because of perfect timing and a true passion for handmade paper.
“This opportunity came up where there was a space available and I just went for it,” Reynes said. “I knew that I wanted to be able to work on my own artwork and create a place where I could teach people of all ages. It was either now or never.”
Reynes describes papermaking as an old art form that can be done by both new and seasoned artists.
“Papermaking is a really ancient craft and it was lost for a while with the industrial revolution and all these huge paper mills,” she explained. “Within the past hundred years or so, it has been making a comeback. The whole idea of making paper by hand has all these different layers and levels to it.”
Reynes says that at Zenith, she has made paper out of everything from cotton fibers of old clothes to weeds from a garden. She believes that papermaking is a good way for people to take the organic substances around them and turn them into meaningful pieces of paper art.
Reyes named her business for the word “zenith,” which means the highest point reached by a celestial object, because she believes the word represents the success that one can achieve through art.
“I felt like it embodied what I wanted the studio to strive for; to help people reach their own zenith, whatever that means to them. We’re not just making something to make something. It’s about the experience and what that does for you as a whole person.”