From Pulp to Print
A young artist from Lexington, Mo., learns papermaking and printing at Mizzou.
Seth Ritter had been working in metal for five years when he arrived at Mizzou July 14 to participate in Through Artists’ Eyes, a crash course on papermaking and printing offered to Missouri teenagers. By the time he left five days later, he had made a paper box to take home, and he had added a new medium to his artistic palette.
Ritter called the sessions fun, fast‐paced and odoriferous (more on that later). “We crammed a three‐month course into five days,” says the 18‐year‐old rising senior at Lexington (Mo.) High School. MU’s Art Department and the MU Extension Community Arts Program co‐hosted the summer art camp.
The 11 students learned about the history of papermaking and soon started creating their own papers using dyes and natural materials. They also spent time with another historic technology — the printing press. Students set favorite quotes in type by hand, letter by letter. The papermaking was sometimes smelly, with a strong sulphur odor. And the typesetting could be tedious, with its incremental progress. But it all paid off the last day. Students printed copies of their quotations for everyone else, and they all made boxes with their papers to carry home the treasure of words and ideas.
Ritter’s hometown of Lexington is an antebellum town 45 minutes from Kansas City and the site of MU Extension’s first Community Arts Pilot Project. The initiative works with community members to boost the local economy. The idea is to use the arts to make Lexington a tourist destination by building capacity among local artists and community leaders, and bringing artists and galleries to town. Representing Lexington’s young people, Ritter serves on the local board that works toward these goals.
As for Ritter’s goals, he plans to teach art and continue producing his own work. Inspired by the Mizzou camp, he started two new pieces the night he returned home, and a third idea followed shortly. Using found materials — items discarded from local farms as well as flotsam and jetsam salvaged from the shore of the nearby Missouri River — Ritter fashions sculptures that range in tone from whimsical to sobering. One of his new projects depicts a soldier peeking out from within a Vietnam‐era footlocker.
“When I was 13, I got a rivet gun for Christmas. Then I moved on to a soldering iron to a welder to an acetylene torch to a plasma torch.” Each tool adds to his artistic options. “I can bind two thin pieces of metal together, or I can cut pieces up to an inch thick.”
The tools, camps and projects all help him see the world through an artist’s eyes.