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Versatility of Paper Summer

1 July 2023
The Versatility of Paper call out took place in July 2023 and generated a fantastic response from artists across Gravesham and the country, leading to a papermaking workshop and a printed newspaper.

About the event

The Versatility of Paper drew on the long history of papermaking and printing in the Gravesend, Northfleet and Purfleet areas of Kent and Essex. Paper produced in these mills had a multitude of purposes, demonstrating the versatility of paper, including,

  • Newsprint paper for newspapers, comics and magazines (also printed in this area)

  • Tissue paper for toilet rolls, nappies and sanitary products (and still being made today)

  • Paper sacks for the transport of commodities such as tea, flour, sugar, potatoes, chemicals and minerals.

  • Cardboard for packaging and packing cases

  • Paperboard for the linings of plasterboard

In an edition of The British Printer 1953, an article entry was sent in by Bowater, who had a paper mill in Gravesend.

The Bowater competition for art students

The chairman and directors of the Bowater Paper Corporation are sponsoring a competition among the students attending art schools in the United Kingdom. Illustrations to be submitted are for the Bowater desk calendar for 1954.

Competitors are invited to illustrate The Versatility of Paper and its Importance in the World Today, and they can interpret this theme in any way they choose…

70 years after this article was published, and in collaboration with artist Dawn Cole, Fourth Portal invited people to partake in The Versatility of Paper.

Participants were given a small piece of antique paper which they could use to make an artwork that celebrates the versatility of paper. The paper could be used to print, paint, pulp, sculpt, fold, engineer, play, shred, glue, and dye, in fact, the possibilities with paper are endless. The only rule was that the finished work must contain, in some way, the original piece of paper.

The provided paper varied in size, weight, shape, colour and age. The only information provided was the name of the papermill, its weight and the type of paper if known.

Artworks were exhibited on the Fourth Portal website and displayed in an exhibition held in the autumn of 2023 at the Fourth Portal Lab.

The call was open to all ages.

Those interested could collect a piece of paper in person or send an email to with The Versatility of Paper as the subject line and were sent a piece of paper in the post.

The deadline for return of the paper was 31 August 2023

Fourth Portal Lab @ St Andrews Art Centre, 19 Royal Pier Road, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 2BD. 
Participants were asked to include their name, the title of the work and a brief statement about the piece.

An extension to the call-out was made possible with the kind support of the Essex Culture Diversity Project.

This event has ended

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