Bird altars and treasure boxes: Gallery #1

I’ve known Thurid slightly for years, and I knew she made beautiful things out of paper, but I hadn’t seen many of them; they aren’t for sale. Thurid herself is graceful, charming and slightly mysterious. We never talked much until the day we decided to go ice skating. I think she reassured me that she wouldn’t fall down. The second time I passed her – I skate faster than I should – she was skating backwards, marking these perfect feathered ovals on the ice, white on white. It was so beautiful to watch. And so typical of her – little bits of hidden treasure.

Thurid was an ethnographic objects conservator. During an internship in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she found opportunities for entertainment somewhat limited, she ended up out in the woods one day, learning to make paper. They used a blender powered by a generator. She had always loved texture – she used to weave – but making paper and fabricating objects from it gave her the medium and the technique to make things that she really loved.

She talks about the effects she wants to produce, rather than the significance her creations have for her, but I did notice the altars she showed me all have something to do with birds, and they all have a similar aesthetic. They look fragile and earthy at the same time, and have a lot of layered but fairly monochromatic texture. I have no idea what that might mean; they are, however, the pieces she has saved over many, many years of making them.

The boxes are almost entirely paper, except for surface decorations – a little cloth and bone and stone and paint, sometimes. I thought the boxes themselves were wood, but they’re heavy cardboard. There is one in her house that she uses to save seeds from her garden, and they do seem made to hold meaningful things. Like the altars, they are precise, elaborate, strange, deliberately worn and supremely decorative: artifacts from a world that exists only in Thurid’s head. I know that sounds very romantic, but that’s how I feel when I look at them.

I’m not much of an interviewer; I’m a little uncomfortable asking a lot of questions. If you would like to ask Thurid better questions about the things she makes, I will forward her your emails via I’m working on another post with pictures of the little books she makes, and her collection of beads, which should be up by this weekend.


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