In a 245-square-foot rented studio space on The Delaware Contemporary’s second floor, multimedia artist Samara Weaver rolls out 5 or so feet of architectural trace paper across a wooden worktable stained with watercolor, ink and rings from a coffee mug. Through treetops and three massive windows at the east side, the morning sun shifts light around the room. With a flat paintbrush, she sweeps watered-down turquoise and sap-green pigments back and forth across its surface until the strokes culminate in a hue as deep as the Malvinas Current.
Handmade charts for paint mixtures and clay glaze test tiles color the studio’s stark walls, along with macramé hangings, tall shelves filled with fired pottery and large-scale paperscapes like the one Weaver paints now.
“I’ve been making art my whole life,” says Weaver, who also holds a master’s in architecture from Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture. Her father, an illustrator, and her mother, whose teaching position at a private school in Philadelphia presented Weaver ample opportunity to explore the arts, have long fostered her creativity.
“My high school offered ceramics, woodworking, metal-smithing and photography, which I explored all four years,” she says. In graduate school, access to different materials and mediums deepened Weaver’s interest in the arts, and she learned to paint and blow glass. “I have learning challenges that affect my memory and reading abilities,” she shares. “Having this outlet—something I was good at—made it so much easier for me to work through those challenges.”
Productive stints in construction (she was on the project management team for The Pilot School and Howard High in Delaware), along with commercial and healthcare architecture, offered the “safe career path” Weaver initially sought, but the demands of the job didn’t align with her personal goals of starting a family and following her dreams.
In 2017, while working in construction full time, she also launched Design Hues, an LLC providing artisan florals, from wedding décor to large-scale installations, out of her home. When the studio space opened in summer of 2020, she seized the opportunity to shift all her focus to fine art: hand-painted porcelain jewelry, sculptures, pottery—and paper art.
“The [latter] started in 2015 when I was helping a friend make paper flowers for her wedding, experimenting with how to add color and texture,” Weaver recalls. She found that trace paper allowed her to create lighter flowers, and she enjoyed playing with the layers. The project evolved into a passion on a much bigger scale.
On one wall of Weaver’s studio, a handmade wood frame, 6 feet by 3 feet in size, holds abstract swirls of coral, lavender, gray and deep purple. “I call that one ‘Javan Pond Heron Color Study,’” she says, pulling up a photo of its namesake bird, a native of Southeast Asia—on her Droid.
“My pieces are completely abstract,” she points out, as I struggle to find the outline of a heron in the countless folds of some 400 sheets of paper arranged within the frame. “They’re inspired only by the colors of images, mostly in nature, and the feelings elicited by those colors.”
Outside the room, a small tapestry of blues and greens was inspired by a forest hugging a body of water. Next to it, waves of purple reminiscent of mountains was “just a color experiment,” Weaver says, not inspired by any landscape.
When the gradient of ocean hues on the table dries, Weaver will crumple it to add texture and body before smoothing it out and folding it back and forth in 2-inch-wide sections, like a paper fan. Then she’ll cut them into strips before arranging them in a frame and securing them in place with Elmer’s glue.
Some pieces Weaver approaches like paintings, sketching out the end results before she even begins mixing watercolors. Others evolve as she moves between arranging paper folds and brushing fresh paint on others.
“I allow it to talk to me while I am making it,” she says. “Something I love is that through this one medium, I can express myself through different methods in different ways.”