Piecing together a history in paper
When Debbie Goodman decided to try her hand at paper collage she had no idea what a strong personal connection she had to the art form.
The wildlife artist and nature writer creates intricate and eye-catching collages using pieces of coloured and patterned paper. She has also published a children’s book called Wild Observations.
The Qualicum Beach artist grew up in Colorado and was the only child of immigrant parents, both Holocaust survivors. A young jewish teenager in Nazi Germany, her father wasn’t allowed to stay in school and was instead an apprentice in a stationary factory, working with paper products. He was also an avid stamp collector, so when he fled with 50,000 other German Jews to Shanghai, he sold his stamp collection so he and his family could eat.
“So paper gives me this really cool connection to that side of my family history,” said Goodman.
Her mother’s family were Polish Jews and were forced to live in the Warsaw Ghetto. Her grandmother was a talented seamstress and in turn taught her mother, she explained.
“The reason my mother didn’t go to the gas chambers is because she could sew,” said Goodman, adding that the Nazis took young, strong Jewish people who had a skill and put them to work in factories. “So she was sewing fur coats for German officers at the Russian front.”
Her mother went on to take up quilting and stained glass work, which all have a similar design applications to Goodman’s process with paper, she said.
Although Goodman always loved the arts growing up in the United States, her parents weren’t thrilled at the prospect of her becoming an artist, so instead she went into chemical engineering.
She worked as an engineer in the oil industry in California and Utah but continued to take art classes on the side. Along with her love for art, Goodman has always had a deep love for animals, wildlife and conservation, and by the early ‘90s she decided to go back to university for art in Utah while also working as a legislative lobbyist. During this time she was also a volunteer naturalist for children at a nature education centre.
In school she took all the fundamental art classes like painting and drawing while specializing in ceramics.
In 1998 she was married and made her way over to Vancouver Island during a spontaneous detour from her honeymoon. This planted the seed for her and husband’s move to the area, which took place in 2009. It was around the time of her marriage that Goodman started transitioning away from clay, which was too challenging for her physically, and she began working with paper.
For the same reasons she had loved pottery, she began to fall in love with medium of cut paper.
“Cutting the paper, feeling the paper, that’s tactile to me in a similar way that pottery is,” she said.
Goodman has always loved the work of renowned children’s illustrator and picture-book author, Eric Carle. While in Utah, Goodman found a book on realistic collage at an art supply shop in Salt Lake City and she’s never looked back.
The little educational versus that are found in her book, Wild Observations, were written while volunteering as a naturalist in Utah and while volunteering at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington. The 12-page book has 12 of Goodman’s animal collage images, including a Brant goose, each accompanied by educational information. All the profits collected from Goodman’s work is donated to charities including the SPCA, the NIWRC and Ducks Unlimited.
Goodman is a resident artist at the Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH) in Qualicum Beach and can be found there, downstairs in the studio, on Tuesdays. Her artwork and book can also be found at TOSH as well as at the Oceanside Village Artists’ Gallery at Oceanside Village Resort in Parksville.
Goodman will be teaching children’s paper art classes at TOSH Aug. 11 through 15. The class will have children ages six through 12 working with colour, shapes and composition to create fun paper crafts.
This includes looking at quilts from different cultures and Mola art by the women of Panama, while also working with geometric shapes. The class runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon and costs $60 for the week. For more on the class and to register visit www.theoldschoolhouse.org or call 250-752-6133.
For more on Goodman and to order her book visit www.debbiegoodman.com.