Helmut Becker, professor emeritus at Western University obtained education in Art & Art History at University of Saskatchewan as well as printmaking and drawing at University of Wisconsin. Helmut has taught Printmaking, Papermaking, Hand Papermaking, and Fibre Flax & Hemp Research spanning through his career at Nova Scotia College of Art, University of Calgary and University of Western Ontario.
“I am fascinated not only by the potential of fibre flax and industrial hemp for application in handmade paper and paper artworks, but also by the history and technology of these fibres from earliest times. I am continuing work on natural retting in which microorganisms in the presence of water remove most non-cellulosic matter from plant material, without added chemicals. If chemicals were needed then, as Yasuichi Kubota and the late Ashiro Abbe have done in Japan or as Chinese hand papermakers in Anhui do, I would use the least amount of soda ash to do the job.
A substantial part of my research and creative artwork in the past three decades has involved growing experimental plots of different varieties of fibre and seed flax and since 1995, industrial hemp at the field station of the Biology Department, Western University Canada. The flax plants were hand pulled. The plants, stripped of seed clusters, were then retted in several ways: on the field by dew, on the field under snow, in a stream, in a clay bottom pond, and in a tank. These different techniques yield a palette of earth colors, which I have used to advantage in my creation of artworks from handmade paper.”
- Helmut Becker