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