Artist Toni Ingram actually harvests many of the plants she uses to make the archival papers and pigments for her beautiful works of art! She begins the paper making process by drying plants such as kozo (mulberry bark), palm leaves, or straw. The pieces she is showcasing in the RETHINKIT exhibit are all made with kozo, the fiber most commonly used in the art of Japanese paper making. Tissues made from kozo are incredibly strong and dimensionally stable.

Toni begins her creative process by taking the bundles of dried plants and breaking them down into a pulp by chopping, boiling, blending, and bleaching them. She then pours the pulp into a large vat of water where the fibers are stirred and a framed screen is used to collect a thin layer of fibers. The framed screen is then pressed onto a flat surface where the excess water is removed. The fibers are then released from the screen to the surface and left to dry in the sun and form into paper. The final step is Toni’s favorite and most creative – she mixes and layers discarded materials and found objects such as denim, lace, or string which add color and texture. At this point she can manipulate the objects with the paper to articulate a vision or express the emotion she wants to convey into her final work of art.

The subject of Toni’s work is most often inspired by the outdoors, Toni says, “When I stand and gaze at nature I have a tendency to try to emulate what I see when I make the paper, I combine and layer the fibers with natural and recycled materials, My desire as an artist is that each piece of artwork will connect with the viewer and create a lasting impression but it is also important to me that I ensure that the quality of each piece will last a lifetime.”

Toni has a passion to create art but also to teach others her craft. She designed and implemented a Summer Art and Recreation Program with the City of San Jose which provided an expressive outlet for at- risk youth. She has also donated artwork to raise funds for the Mary Maude Williams Scholarship fund and was a featured artist in the “Beautify Hayward” initiative.

One of Toni’s pieces in the RETHINKIT is titled, “String Landscape” . It is made from kozo and colored string. She shares that the inspiration for the piece came while standing and watching the clouds as they danced across the sky. Memories of European architecture were the inspiration for “Red Window”. This piece is also made from kozo with strings and recycled paper.