By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
The art of papermaking grew its roots in China thousands of years ago.
In 2009, the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation brought the seed of this ancient craft to Cleveland, where it now thrives.
Located in the 15,000-square-foot former Federal Gear and Machine plant in the city’s mid-town, this unique arts organization began creating paper in ways most people today have never seen. The brainchild of Tom Balbo, a 35-year veteran paper artist and Edward D. Morgan, it is the only Northeast Ohio facility dedicated to preserving and promoting handmade paper traditions.
“We love to preserve things here. We love to preserve the history of papermaking and we love to preserve the history of Cleveland,” noted Belle Mercurio, Morgan Art marketing and communications manager.
The multi-faceted Morgan Conservatory’s approach to arts sets it apart. Not only is it a full-service papermaking studio, the facility also includes a retail space, art gallery with five to six rotating exhibits annually and a garden of plants incorporated in the papermaking process. There is a printmaking facility and book bindery. Workshops are offered in paper marbling and working with letterpress. Artists can book open studio time to pursue their own projects. Staff members at Morgan Conservatory are artists themselves.
“We are also one of the few art venues that actually owns our own facility, situated on 1.6 acres of land,” said Leonard Young, executive director.
Add to that Morgan Art’s production of its own line of handmade paper. “Because everything is done by hand, orders can be customized to the client’s specifications,” Mercurio explained.
The conservatory’s one-of-a-kind hanji studio was constructed in 2010, creating the only facility in North America producing traditional Korean-style paper. The year 2014 marked the start of a new era for Morgan Conservatory with the launch of its Eastern Paper Studio. Although they are as diverse as traditional western papers, eastern papers share some common characteristics. They often have a soft texture, similar to silk, and form a highly absorbent material. Typically, they are made from plants with long fibers.
The plants used to produce the eastern papers are grown in Morgan Art’s Caraboolad Garden, which contains the largest kozo, or paper mulberry tree, grove in the United States. When harvested, the bark is peeled off and the stalks are cooked with soda ash. Other plants in the garden include bamboo, flax, milkweed and indigo.
Artists from around the world are invited to participate in the Morgan Arts Conservatory Internship and residency programs. The center has trained hundreds of artists in an array of techniques and processes that can be applied to the book arts, printmaking and other artistic endeavors. The conservatory’s mission is that through teaching historical and innovative papermaking and the art of the book, and producing handmade papers, the Morgan educates, mentors and inspires emerging and established artists, students and community members to create.
“The invention of paper was a catalyst to the surge of education and development of art around the world,” Leonard Young noted. “Here at Morgan, we preserve the authentic techniques of papermaking and celebrate the innovation artists are creating with paper as a medium. It continues to trigger inspiration and impact almost every aspect of our lives.”
The Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation is at 1754 E. 47th St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free, but tours should be arranged in advance. Phone 216.361.9255 or visit www.morganconservatory.org.
Morgan Art Conservatory is dedicated to preserving papermaking traditions
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN