Green Bay Innovation Group

Meet the New Kids on the Block: Handmade Papermakers of Green Bay and Beyond (HPGBB)

Meet the New Kids on the Block: Handmade Papermakers of Green Bay and Beyond (HPGBB)

Child doing a craft

Julie Eckberg and Hilarie Rath are not exactly kids. We are old enough, however, to know a good thing when we see one. That is why we jumped at the chance to buy some beautiful papermaking equipment at an auction in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. We couldn’t even see the condition of the equipment before we purchased it in June of 2023, except for some online pictures. But something told Hilarie and Julie to jump with both feet. With the help of the Arnold Grummer family, a David Reina paper beater and a Howard Clark 20-ton press were purchased. With the help of Hilarie’s husband, Gary, and a number of volunteers at Hands on Deck, where we house our equipment, we now have a dry box as well. Together, these three pieces of equipment work together to create a fully functioning papermaking studio. With the help of a design award from Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport, we were also able to purchase a speed dryer which will enable students to go home with paper they make the same day the paper is formed.

At the time of the auction, Hilarie already had a teaching schedule in place for paper arts classes, so while she was roving all over NE Wisconsin, Julie stayed back at the ranch, reading, learning and experimenting at our sweet little spot at 101 Bay Beach Road. We received support from awesome friends next door at Hands on Deck, Green Bay’s only non-profit woodworking and boat building school for all ages. How convenient it was when the belt broke on our beater to have someone right there who knew just how to fix it! We were also fortunate to have the support of the folks at Paradise North, the distillery next door. If there is one thing papermakers and master distillers have in common, it’s an appreciation for great drains!

Hilarie and Julie got to know each other in two ways. We are both members of a group called The Paper Year, started by internationally renowned hand papermaker, Helen Hiebert. Hilarie brought experience working with mostly recycled paper to the group. Like Julie, she was smitten with the idea of using plant material and recycled cloth to make paper. Only after Julie attended a class of Hilarie’s at the Green Bay Botanical Garden, did they realize that they lived just a few blocks from each other. Which is really quite amazing because The Paper Year group is organized from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in a place near Vail, Colorado!

Julie and Hilarie have been most fortunate to have met wonderful people to help them on their journey. Green Bay Packaging was kind enough to donate bi-wall corrugated board for the dry box. We were highly encouraged to start a Facebook group, which we did in August. You can find us under groups at Handmade Papermakers of Green Bay and Beyond. In order to get some on site guidance, Sarah Ann Austin, of Raleigh, NC, flew up to help us learn the finer points of making pulp, forming sheets and pressing paper. When she came up, we did not yet have drying equipment, but the windows of the Paradise North Distillery did the trick until we were able to develop all the needed pieces.

Our next step was to get involved in the community. Hilarie maintained her teaching schedule at The Clearing in Ellison Bay, the Green Bay Botanical Garden, Swanstone Gardens and The Art Garage. We also began to have events at Hands on Deck. Our first event was a posthumous celebration of Arnold Grummer’s 100th birthday. Our beater now has a plaque in his memory. We then hosted a Pals event with young people in September, making paper with pumpkins from Hilarie’s backyard! We hosted a variety of events in fall, including an event raising funds for those experiencing breast cancer. We hosted a studio tour for students in the NWTC Business of Art class. Receiving an award from Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport was helpful for us. This led to an event at the Holiday Art Market at Lambeau Field. We began to receive publicity from local news organizations. HPGGB became part of the first Maker Space at the Resch Expo Center for the Home and Lifestyles Show in February. We hope this is just the start of bringing about greater awareness to the role of papermaking in the Green Bay area.

5 multi-colored felt circles

Julie brings to HPGBB many years of experience as a teacher of children and adults, a business owner and an artist. Hilarie has a lifetime of experience in elementary and secondary education. She is also an Arnold Grummer Certified Educator who has also taught people from age 3 to 93 how to make paper. We have both been involved in continuing our education through taking business classes and visiting places like the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts. What we have in common is a true love of experimentation with the cellulose fiber that can be used to make many beautiful and useful products. We also see the potential of having a complete handmade paper studio right here in Green Bay that can be a resource for children and adults alike. We are in the process of developing a media presence, so in the future, people will be able to find us more easily.

Despite the closures of many paper mills throughout the state and country, Green Bay continues to invest in paper with job opportunities and so much more, making NE Wisconsin a really special place to live. Green Bay is now the heartland of papermaking in the state. Those in the paper industry continue to give back to the community, witnessed in countless ways. It is our hope that Handmade Papermakers of Green Bay and Beyond will join manufacturers on a quest to learn about papermaking as a well-rounded STEAM activity, involving many aspects of science, technology, engineering, art and math. Experimenting with pulp is interesting, challenging and just plain fun. Julie and Hilarie like to share the hydrogen bonding magic with others! As Arnold Grummer would say, anyone can be successful in making paper on their very first try. For those that want to experiment with pulp, the sky is the limit. That’s why young and old alike enjoy making paper. We hope to share our enthusiasm and ideas with others.

Now that you, the rockers of the paper world know who we are, it’s time for us to meet in person! We’re partnering up with an organization that is enriching the lives of our youth in countless ways, The Children’s Museum of Green Bay. They are now located at 1230 Bay Beach Road. On Saturday, April 13, we’re teaming up with the Women in 5P, along with the Green Bay Innovation Group, to create a playful, educational event for children and their families. All Women in 5P, along with our GBIG partners, will have the opportunity to hang out with each other before the museum opens to the public. Better yet, this event is FREE to these members! HPGBB will stay and make paper during the morning because we want every child to have fun exploring paper as well as the rest of the museum. Put this date on your calendar and sign up on the GBIG website. Looking forward to meeting you!

Green Bay Innovation Group

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