Artist | Paper Sculptor

Kandis Susol

Kandis Susol makes elegant encaustic paper sculptures from her Orcas Island studio.

Every encaustic paper sculpture that Kandis Susol creates starts with hundreds of sheets of paper that she makes herself. These are no ordinary, “perfect” pages that you find at the store, with thin, uniform, machine cut edges. Susol’s process is less conventional. In fact, “The first pieces of paper that I made were extremely gnarly,” says Susol.

“The Road Less Traveled” 2023, encaustic sculpture 14" x 74" x 5"

In 2005, Susol was living on Orcas Island, using a retrofitted barn as a studio, and transitioning to becoming a full-time artist after owning a hair salon for years. Daily creative sessions involved refining her unique paper-making technique. “It was thousands and thousands of sheets of paper, and lots of time,” says Susol. In 2010, she had a breakthrough. “I put rolls of individual squares across the page, and they all stood up and curled across,” says Susol. “Everything fell into place at that moment. It was as if the material was telling me what it wanted.”

Now, each of Susol’s sculptures starts with raw kozo pulp from Japan that is soaked, then sifted with a custom deckle. “When I put [the deckle] in the water to take the pulp out, I slightly lift it up, so the pulp flows over the edge of the frame,” says Susol. “That’s what gives that feathery quality to the paper.” The pieces are molded, pressed, and dried on wood panels. “It’s a much longer and more fluid process than trying to make a perfect sheet of paper,” says Susol. “I want the flaws in there. I want that movement.” Once dried, the paper is painted with beeswax, resin, and iridescent pigment, then painstakingly designed, and laid out into their finished, rippling compositions capturing light and shadow.

As a Buddhist, Susol’s day starts with a bowl of matcha tea, a meditation session, and a walk through the apple and plum trees on her property, before entering her studio, called Jakuan, or ‘arbor of tranquility’ in Japanese. “I have this incredible opportunity, this space, to be able to create something that emanates a peaceful energy,” says Susol. “When I see people that understand and feel it, and they’re experiencing a moment of stillness, I feel like I’m contributing to peace on the planet and in people’s hearts.”

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