Ellen Bianchi

Pa­per-cast­ing mas­ter­pieces, a trib­ute to life, love and na­ture

Gulf & Main - - News - Ellen Bianchi

Ellen Bianchi has ded­i­cated her life to teach­ing, ad­mir­ing and pro­duc­ing art. The for­mer art in­struc­tor has in­spired in the class­room and, more re­cently, in South­west Florida art gal­leries. Her ap­proach to cre­at­ing art is inim­itable, as ev­ery piece is a nearly per­fect pat­tern of color and tex­ture, yet stand­ing strong in­di­vid­u­ally.

Flaw­less ex­e­cu­tion and metic­u­lous ap­pli­ca­tion are part of her sig­na­ture style.

Stand­ing in front of one of Bianchi’s pieces, one first won­ders what her process is, in­evitably mar­veling at the co­he­sive com­bi­na­tion of color, tex­tures and tech­nique. Her pieces are un­doubt­edly rec­og­niz­able, say­ing with cer­tainty that no one

Stand­ing in front of one of Bianchi’s pieces, one first won­ders what her process is, in­evitably mar­veling at the co­he­sive com­bi­na­tion of color, tex­tures and tech­nique.

ap­proaches this tech­nique as she does; the pa­per and molds hand-made. An­other in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic is that the pieces are pre­sented framed, but not be­hind glass―the artist wants you to have di­rect con­tact with the works and to touch it, if you so de­sire.

Pa­per cast­ing is a craft­ing tech­nique in which pa­per fiber or pulp, such as cot­ton fiber pa­per, is formed us­ing a mold. The pulp may con­sist of pure fiber, binder and filler, and it can be ap­plied to cre­ate 3-di­men­sional sculpt­ing as well as re­lief pieces.

Bianchi’s ap­proach is unique be­cause of the se­cret in­gre­di­ents she in­cor­po­rates into the pulp mix­ture and the fin­ish­ing process. “I played around with pa­per­mak­ing since I first taught school―as part of a re­cy­cling project as most art teach­ers do―but I wanted to take it a dif­fer­ent direc­tion,” ex­plains Bianchi when asked how she has come to em­brace the medium. “I laid a piece of wet pa­per on some cor­ru­gated card­board and dis­cov­ered the im­print and tex­ture that re­sulted in the dried pa­per. Then I de­cided to make a carved de­sign and lay the pa­per on that. Af­ter much ex­per­i­ment­ing and tweak­ing, my pa­per cast­ings were born,” adds the artist, who now has all kinds of unique, hand-carved molds

“When I first saw Ellen Bianchi’s work, I knew it was unique and ex­cep­tional.” —Shirley Hales, Cape Coral wa­ter­col­orist

which she uses to pro­duce her mag­nif­i­cent body of work.

“My de­signs are a com­pli­cated sim­plic­ity of my sur­round­ings,” she says. “They have the hum­ble­ness of soft, del­i­cate earth tones that whis­per tex­tures and color with the con­trast of shapes that puz­zle to­gether to cre­ate a rec­og­niz­able form.”

Raised in the western Michi­gan town of Muskegon, Bianchi’s pas­sion for art was ever present. She re­ceived a two-year arts de­gree at Muskegon Com­mu­nity Col­lege in 1977, com­plet­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in art ed­u­ca­tion from Calvin Col­lege in nearby Grand Rapids in 1979, the same year she started as an art teacher with Grand Rapids Chris­tian Schools. Even­tu­ally she moved to an­other mid-Michi­gan sub­urb, Oke­mos, where she taught art and proved in­stru­men­tal in in­te­grat­ing art into the K-5 cur­ricu­lums. Later in her ca­reer she spoke at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan and other pro­fes­sional venues about in­te­grat­ing art into class cur­ricu­lums.

Bianchi in 2004 set­tled in South­west Florida. Along­side her hus­band, Marco, the pair started a real es­tate ven­ture re­spon­si­ble for more than 4,000 homes in Lee County, all while con­tin­u­ing her ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and pro­duc­tion of fine-art pa­per cast­ings. “Be­cause of my ca­reer, I had to be knowl­edge­able in all ar­eas of art,” com­ments the artist when asked about her medium of pref­er­ence. “I taught the tra­di­tional me­dia cour­ses like draw­ing, paint­ing, sculp­ture, pho­tog­ra­phy [dark­room] and ce­ram­ics, but also taught set de­sign and mo­saics. So I am prac­ticed in all me­dia,” adds Bianchi, who also loves to draw and paint and is even fin­ish­ing a 7-foot pa­per and tape dragon sculp­ture for her grand­son.

As co-founder and pres­i­dent of Har­bour View Gallery in Cape Coral, Shirley Hales has co-ex­hib­ited, col­lab­o­rated and con­spired with Bianchi for many years. Bianchi in her role with the gallery, aside from be­ing one of the pri­mary artists, has main­tained and over­seen ac­count­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tive as­pects of the venue. “When I first saw Ellen Bianchi’s work, I knew it was unique and ex­cep­tional,” says Hales, a Cape Coral wa­ter­col­orist. “I’d never seen any­thing like it be­fore―and still haven’t to this day.”

Bianchi last year joined DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts in Fort My­ers. More about her work is at pa­per­cast­ings.com.

Ellen Bianchi

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