Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spotlight on DebraGlanz/ Reminiscence Papers

                                                                Debra in her studio....I know she's in here somewhere...

Paper artist Debra Glanz makes her home in the city of her birth, Portland, Oregon.  Her family consists of Bryan, her “very long-suffering & good-natured husband”, two grown sons in Portland and her daughter, serving in the Peace Corps in Ukraine (they talk daily via Skype!) and a 5-month-old grandson, Mattias. The home front includes two dogs, “a chocolate lab (the good dog) and a beagle (the comedian), 6 chickens (one is more than eight years old) and16 baby the moment. Bryan is threatening to get goats ‘for Mattias’ ”

                                                                         View into the garden and greenhouse from the studio
I’ve asked Debra some questions about her work and am printing her answers verbatim. Easier for me, and more interesting for you, dear reader… I think you'll find it a fun read!

What other types of art have you explored and how did you settle on paper? 

Well, paper actually settled on me.  I have a degree in Art with a concentration in textiles and worked for years as a weaver and felt maker.  About 25 years ago I took a community ed class in bookbinding, mainly because I needed to get an evening out of the house (2 small children), and that’s all she wrote.  Loved it and continued to take classes, research techniques etc.  About 18 years ago Peggy Skycraft (paper marbling guru) got tired of talking me off the ledge (I hated marbling paper) and suggested I design paper and have someone else print it - genius!  I started Reminiscence Papers soon thereafter with the intent of making albums, frames & books for the wholesale market. 

At the humongous gift shows buyers loved the work but I found that I couldn’t compete with imported prices.  They started asking to buy the papers that I had designed for the aforementioned products and not being the village idiot I decided to do just that.  Stuck with it for several years but did not really like the lifestyle of trade show after trade show (actually drilled 8-year old Margot on multiplication tables from my booth at the Atlanta Gift show and got a call in my booth at the Chicago Gift Fair from an ER nurse telling me that Bryan’s appendix had ruptured - his only message to me was “finish the show”).  Ugh.  Got out of the wholesale business for good about 6 or 7 years ago with no regrets but a ridiculous amount of paper inventory.  Funny thing, up until about 6 weeks ago I still had my original loom, built by the good-natured/long-suffering/terribly handy Bryan, set up in a small room off of the bedroom.  Hadn’t used it in years so we took off all of the blankets, baskets, backpacks etc. that were stored on top and it has been replaced with an elliptical.  Can’t tell if I really miss the loom or just hate the elliptical.

                                                                                                  miniature accordion  books

Can you explain a little bit your technique?

Yes and no.  When making my boxes I rely largely on my training as a bookbinder, but I certainly don’t limit myself to traditional bookbinding techniques.  I an constantly experimenting with other techniques and materials that I can incorporate into the boxes.  I loved making books, but found that the market for them was pretty limited.  I transitioned into boxes because they are universally more appealing and believe it or not I can use more paper.  I am a bit of a “function freak” and while I have made forays into purely decorative pieces I do find that I always com back to making things that can be used rather than just looked at.  I’d love to be able to move past this.

                                                                                                        A few of Debra's boxes

In what ways do you market your work?

Mostly galleries, some shows, some commissions.............and now Etsy.  Marketing of art/craft seems to be a very dynamic thing right now.  Maybe 10 years ago the large fine craft shows were just the ticket with savvy customers and gallery/store buyers in attendance, but now not so much.  The shows have gotten prohibitively expensive to do (especially if you have to travel/ship your work) and the customers, while still savvy, are for the most part older and are there to look rather than buy.  Gallery sales have been declining over the past three years and while I will never leave them I know that I can no longer depend on them for a steady income.  Enter Etsy.  A couple of years ago Etsy may have looked primarily at the under 30’s for their customer base but I do think that more mature buyers are now finding themselves here.  It is my firm belief that you can’t make a living out of any one of the above and I will continue to do selected smaller shows, galleries/shops and online marketing.  Exhausting.

                                                                                                 Printer's type 

What is the biggest challenge in your work, and how do you manage it?

The challenges change.  When the children were small it was finding enough time (and trying to figure out how I could incorporate those little peanut butter finger prints into a piece), but now I really think that marketing is my biggest issue.  I’m quite prolific and am finding that I have way more inventory than outlets...........or maybe I just prefer making to marketing.  Oh well, compared to most professions my obstacles are pretty small.

                                                                                               Find Debra's doll parts here.

What do you do for fun when you’re not in the studio?

Well, I’m never not in the studio.  When the children were small we added a studio onto the house complete with glass French doors into the family room.  As this is where I still work I feel that I am always at work.  Fortunately I am a great multi-tasker and I can garden or cook, both are things I love to do, by layering them into my workdays.  When I do get away I tend to really get away and travel as much as possible.  My husband is a little nervous since I was scheduled to go to Egypt about a week after everything erupted there and once we realized that it was no longer an option I turned it around and completely arranged a trip to Rome in just under five days.  I’ve always said that I could be ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat and now he has proof.

                      Only a small selection of Debra's paper me, I've seen it and it's impressive!

If you couldn’t be doing this what other work would you like to do?

Yikes!  I’ve tried to do other things but it never seems to take.  About 25 years ago we wanted to emigrate so I went to nursing school and worked for a while at that.  I liked it but not the regimented hours and constant calls to work extra shifts.  We ended up not leaving the US but I don’t regret nursing school for a couple of reasons - it made me a better health care consumer and it proved to those that sometimes feel artists are lazy or unintelligent that we aren’t.  Through all of the above I never stopped creating.

You can visit both of Debra’s etsy stores: ReminiscencePapers, her supply store, and DebraGlanz for finished work


  1. What a life you have, Debra, looks great from all angles.
    May the force be with you always !!
    xo Pey
    Another great read, Betsy, thank you !

  2. I felt the textile background in your work as my trainine was as textile.
    Enjoyed readig it with your unique sense of humour,
    Thanks for sharing with us

  3. Great story, thank you for sharing. Debra you made me LOL remembering my never ending days at art shows and my kids sleeping under the table, inside improvised super cozy warm and comfortable "beds" :)))
    Beautiful, Betsy!

  4. How delicious it was to know a bit more about you and your family!
    You are so talented and your work is beautiful!

  5. this was an enjoyable spotlight! nice to get to know you better debra, i feel lazy all of a sudden!

  6. You? Lazy? Hardly. You keep 3 shops going +++ If that's lazy I'm comatose.

    Big thanks to Betsy for cleaning this up a bit and doing such a great job with the pics.

    And Yael, we should start some sort of support group - "Textile Turncoats". I know so many people who started in textiles but ended up in a completely different medium.

  7. What a wonderful spotlight! I love the fantasy and creativity evident in your work, and the masterway you have with's beautiful!

    That first photo made me smile...I really had to look to find you!

  8. Love those tiny little quails and you sure have a great knack for rolling with the punches and juggling it all.

  9. great reading your story debra-- i love the fact that you've managed to keep your art and creativity alive through all of the changes and shifts in your life. wonderful interview!

  10. a great interview with Debra, I really enjoyed this! thank you!

  11. Debra, it is great to know more about you! I adore your work! SO much creativity! Great interview! :)

  12. Lovely to get to know Debra a little better - these interviews are always so fun!