Film Review – Water Paper Time – Helen Hiebert’s Explorations in Paper

Film Review – Water Paper Time – Helen Hiebert’s Explorations in Paper

Film by Gretchen Hogue
Music by Kell Black

Snowy mountain air, bold, strong coffee, bright red poppies, chocolate pudding, and unexpected kindness. Also, spaghetti marinara. These are just a few of the great and tiny pleasures of life. I would add to that list the exquisite sensation of utterly new thoughts finding their way into my mind. Helen Hiebert’s work, in her film Water Paper Time, is for me is one of those experiences.

I had no idea paper could do these things – could be this way.

While it would be technically correct to say that Helen, a paper artist for the last 16 years, creates handmade paper sheets and sculptures from smashed plant bits, what is more true is that she is a paper midwife. She is the Pulp Whisperer. In her film Water Paper Time, Helen creates sentient, papery living beings with her bare hands. Into her freshly handmade sheets she embeds copper wires, string, nails, or other materials which introduce tension as the paper dries, and as it does, it arches, curls, twists, balloons, folds, unfurls, pauses, lurches, and splits apart. From what she says, the magical part happens after she leaves the paper babies alone in the womb of her studio and when she comes back, poof! Amazement awaits! It’s as if she’s found a whole new tooth fairy most of us have never heard of.

I have secretly suspected for years that inanimate objects have private lives and relationships. Chairs and couches talk about us when we’re gone. Forks and lamps – what do they do when no one is eating or reading? Do they wait? Do they covertly meet in the bathroom while we are at work? It could happen in the world of magic, and their experiences with each other could be hidden from us largely because we are not so observant. Helen’s work has pushed me over that cliff. She has convinced me that objects that seem static and ‘devoid of life’ may simply be hiding their potential; perhaps they are shy and speak softly. But this wonderful artist seems to hear perfectly the conversations between the materials she uses, even if they themselves have never met. Lucky for us, the hidden world is made plain in her care, and it is a sensuous world of curves, wrinkles, grooves, valleys, and, don’t ask me how, longing. Paper feels longing, you say? Well. I didn’t know either, but evidently it’s been there all along. Each piece is its own person – surprising, unpredictable, and with its own secrets.

Helen opens Water Paper Time with a story of children who have never seen, touched, or written on paper. What? Really? I had never thought of that either. All my life, I’ve had the privilege of having paper in my life. I’ve printed my photographs on paper, and my writing on paper; I’ve drawn on it, painted it, inked, glued, crumpled, torn, kept, discarded it, folded it up around gifts, and made my own. I’ve cried over pieces of paper and laughed over others. But I had no idea paper could be alive, could do what Helen so lovingly coaxes it to do. Now I know. This film introduced me to the secret life of paper.

The visual aesthetic of the film contributes to the magic and wonder in her work. At first, as a photographer and book artist, I wasn’t sure I’d like the visual style of the film: when the paper is doing its thing, the film is an old-fashioned home movie, shot on my dad’s ancient, whirring movie camera. I could almost feel my brother poke my little kid leg while we watch the family swimming clips again. As the paper protagonist grows up, passing from plant to pulp to sheet to sculpture, the images become dreamy, filmy, moody, grainy, and blurry, adorned with a light leak here and there. This stylistic choice makes perfect sense, and I am a child again watching a sweet, private family moment on screen. The filmy style is beautifully imperfect, nostalgic, playful, and wondrous.

At 16 minutes long, the sounds of Water Paper Time are also deeply pleasurable, a real human being touching real things with real hands. She plucks plants from water, her hands squeezing and pounding stringy pulp, water dripping or gushing, spinning or falling. We hear every drop. We are there with her. I found my hands squeezing when she did, squishing and stirring right along with her, laying wire on wet paper, watching it dry in its magical way, pinning it in draped white sheets to a clothesline, enjoying the little breeze on the back porch with her.

Helen Hiebert’s shares with us the earthy, natural and sensuous experience of life on our exquisite earth as expressed through paper, water, and time, and where she goes with them is pure beauty and charm. Her work with paper is truly inspired.

– Anjani Millet, ©2015


Paper Artist Helen Hiebert and Water Paper Time can be purchased and downloaded here:

Download Water Paper Time

Website: Helen Hiebert Studio






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Hotel Review: Silken Park Hotel, San Jorge, Platja D’Aro, Spain

On a sultry afternoon in September, I finally found the Silken Park Hotel in the town of San Jorge, Platja D’Aro, in the Costa Brava region of Spain. I had been invited, as a Travel Blogger’s Expo guest in Girona, Spain, to stay at, review, and write a piece on the resort. I was excited about the seaside resort, which was said to be top notch. I arrived two days early due to a scheduling error but the hotel kindly found a room.

Unfortunately that room was not facing the blue sea at all.  It was a dark brown prison-like room facing the parking garage, which faced a busy highway. The room was depressing and lightless, with one tiny window, and smelled of mold and fuel. Unfortunately, I had another night to spend there two days later, with a brief interlude at another hotel the following night. I was glad to leave but would have to return in two days, much to my chagrin. I couldnt’ wait to leave and didn’t want to return.

The day I did, I was given a room with a view – of a tree. I asked nicely if they might have a room in which I could actually see the ocean, since I had been invited there to report to their potential clients about how great the oceanview hotel was. I was begrudgingly given one. A room with a gorgeous view was made available and it made more sense why the hotel was well-considered. The room, though, was nothing special and retained a distinctly mildewy smell, as had the two before, but the view was spectacular. Just beneath my lanai was a sandy veranda, and below that, the beach and its lazy sea, dotted with one tiny island. Its crest was adorned with a few enthusiastic trees stretching their happy limbs out over the water. The island could be reached on a brief walk from the hotel.

That evening a wedding was taking place in the main gathering area of the hotel and as I relaxed over a book and a glass of wine, I was asked by a waiter to leave. “No hotel guests are allowed here right now, because of the wedding.” Guests had to clear out of the bar, restaurant, cafe, foyer, and patio, and had to either leave the hotel entirely or head to the beach for several hours – or go back to their rooms. In those rooms, incidentally, wifi was iffy. But why would you spend time on the net with that view?  Dinner that night was surprisingly delicious, though expensive, and service was curt.

Once the pretty bride left with her retinue, the veranda was clotted with 14 drunken Irish retirees, who were so amusing I laughed Coke out my nose. As they left I asked one of them how long they’d all known each other. “Over 40 years!” he answered, “They are the best men you’ll ever know, that’s certain.”

The next night, despite my shyness, I crashed their party and they took me in for a long night’s silliness. They boasted one beefy young man in the group, a handsome firefighter who never once took his sunglasses off in the dark night. He couldn’t remember our waitress’s name, so she gave him her badge so he’d remember – “StePHANIE,” he repeated over and over. Eventually he got so drunk, StePHANIE had to stop him from falling off a balcony trying come back down to the party from his room – three stories below it, in fact. He’d forgotten he could take the stairs.  Eventually the gentlemen insisted I join them in town for dinner, where they competed over who in the restaurant would sing me the loudest song, or give me the biggest bouquet of flowers (borrowed momentarily from the busker), or buy me the next round of huge, head-sized drinks I couldn’t possibly finish. At 2:30 a.m., when when I couldn’t keep up anymore, one of them walked me by the hand to a taxi. I told him I needed to get to bed, which he noted was ‘pathetically pathetic’. He was easily 20 years older than me. Evidently the swoozy crew, all pushing 70, stayed out until 4:30 a.m., or so said StePHANIE at breakfast; they all appeared at 8:30 sharp, chipper and Irish, for breakfast. Except the fireman, who couldn’t bear morning just yet.

That final oceany day, so sunny and blue, was eclipsed only by that evening’s lusty full moon floating over her watery view. I lingered in my room for hours in the dark, listening to the tide and watching the world disappear into the azure evening.

The moonlight was worth the bride, the mildew, the closet, and the curt staff. All of it was worth the drunken golfers with their crazy loud songs and brazen disregard for noise regulations and good punchlines.

I wish I could promise you the Irishmen or the moonlight. Barring those, my advice on this hotel is to skip the stay and visit the hotel and beach during the day, or if you do stay there, be very sure you’re getting an oceanview room. Without that room, I’d skip this hotel.

-Anjani Millet


Silken Park Hotel San Jorge Platja D’Aro – Costa Brava

Avenida Andorra 28, 17251, Spain

T. +34 972 652 311

F. +34 972 652 576

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