Good Life

Q&A with paper artist Diane Maurer

Diane Maurer, of Spring Mills, is a paper artist who makes elaborate collages.
Diane Maurer, of Spring Mills, is a paper artist who makes elaborate collages. CDT file photo

Paperwork means something entirely different to artist Diane Maurer.

The Spring Mills-based artist is known for her elaborate paper collages and work that has been featured in venues ranging from the Harvard University Library to the the Museum of Antiquities in Urumchi, China.

On Sunday, Maurer will participate in the Art Alliance Fall Colors Studio Tour with an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at her 137 Water St. studio. There, visitors will be able to see her collages, jewelry, marble silk scarves, notecards and frames.

The artist recently answered a few questions about her process, inspirations and the best advice she’s ever received.

Q: What was your childhood ambition?

A: I have always loved animals and originally wanted to become a veterinarian. Then, in fourth grade, a woman who was an artist and magazine writer came to visit our classroom. I was very impressed with her. I think that was when the idea to become a writer and artist took hold.

Q: What’s the first thing that you can remember creating?

A: Probably those construction paper chains held together with white paste and used as holiday decorations. At an early age I would also draw elaborate murals on paper taped to the inside of a spare closet and tell stories to my family about the animals pictured. To end the art show, they just closed the closet door.

Q: Why paper art?

A: I was working as a fiber artist and had just published my first book when I got the idea for a book on marbling, about which there was very little written. I began marbling to be able to write about it and was smitten. I sold marbled papers to N.Y. shops and soon shop owners wanted marbled paper products. Then a publisher saw my work and asked me to write “Paper Art.” Before I knew it, I was primarily a paper artist.

Q: What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

A: My mom always told me, “American ends in I can.” I think this was her way of rephrasing Eleanor Roosevelt’s often quoted, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” I have certainly felt like I was in over my head and about to be “found out” on art commissions, book contracts and invitations to demo marbling at places like the Renwick Gallery and on TV but, hearing her voice, I gathered my courage and did them anyway.

Q: What’s the piece of advice you most often give your students?

A: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Learn the rules and then break them; try everything.

Q: What inspires you?

A: The natural world inspires my paper collage. I don’t work from photos though; my paper collage usually depicts imaginary places. Although most of my art contains fictional scenes, memories of places I have visited also influence my work.

Q: Where do you go to relax?

A: I walk beside the creek near my home or find a comfy chair and invite my cat, Finnegan, to my lap when I want to slow down. Watching a movie, reading or sharing dinner and a glass of wine with a friend also helps me relax.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world for one year, where would it be and why?

A: I would probably choose Costa Rica. I find the temperature ideal, the people very warm and the lush tropical scenery inspiring. Kauai, Hawaii, is a close second.

Q: When do you know if a piece of art is finished?

A: If I have communicated the serene or playful feeling of the imaginary place I have created and it has a focus that will draw the viewer into the collage, yet it is balanced so that the viewers eye moves through it to experience all parts of it, then I can usually call it done. I always give it a fresh view the next morning to be sure though.

Q: What has been your proudest moment?

A: I would use the word “exciting” and have been fortunate enough to count several.

Each new book publication, the invitation to be on Martha Stewart Living, create marbled papers for the White House and Godiva Chocolates rank up there.