This month I would like to introduce you to my friend, Margaret Matson, and a project she is working on.

I met Margaret in the sixties when we were both young women.  I had a custom clothing shop in Sausalito, California, and Margaret lived with her husband and young child ten miles away in Tiburon, California.  We appreciated each other’s artistic journey immediately, and our bond grew over the next few years.  Three years later, Margaret and her daughter moved to Oregon and we have never lived near each other since, but our artistic bond has never been broken.

Before computers, we sent each other letters and pictures, sharing our current projects.  Margaret’s came from Canada as she traveled with a government-funded circus, or from India, where she costumed a play on a Fulbright Scholarship.  My letters came from Paris, Spain, and Mexico.  Since we have computers now, we are able to share every detail of our work.

I’ll let Margaret describe her current piece:

M's best photo




03_Matson_Sister_DressM's paper sister dress

M's yellow dress #2

One of Margaret’s dresses was selected to be in a traveling exhibit with artists from many countries.  The exhibit was put together by the Rice Museum, a paper museum at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.  The show was a year in the International Airport in Atlanta, and then traveled to the Houston Museum of Contemporary Crafts.  The green dress above was included in the Lark 500 book, a book of 500 paper objects.



I was living in Chinatown in Vancouver, B.C.,working  with  Canadian artist Catherine Hahn.  We were designing and constructing a project for the Canadian Government pavilion at the World Expo in Vancouver.

I did all of my food shopping in Chinatown, and I was fascinated with the incense and paper (Joss Papers) section in the back of the store.  I would buy packages of paper and bring them home to see what I had.  Some unfolded to be garments with foil buttons, paper undershirts, etc.  I slowly became acquainted with the ancient tradition of burning effigies to the dead, effigies of things for the after-life.

In response to the Los Angeles rebellion in the 90’s, I made a series of three burned wood figures I called “Los Angeles”, which is Spanish for “The Angels”, and symbolized the rebellion in Los Angeles.  They were dressed in paper dresses and floor length steel wings. These were my first paper dress constructions using elements extracted from the Joss papers.


M's Los Angels

Years later I am revisiting the dress form without the figures, and using mostly hand-blocked, handmade papers from Nepal and India.  Often I overprint these papers using rubber stamps that I carve.  I add glaze to tone, or inks to shade and stain the colored papers.  I cut patterns from the papers, and I also take my own artwork (botanical paintings for instance), and isolate elements that I laser print in multiples and scales that I can cut out and use, as in the ruffle trims.  I detail with foil papers and most recently, glitter.  My thinking is to have many transitions of pattern, color, and sheen, in steps to move the eye in a continuous way.

These dresses are supported by an armature that I make by cutting  and drilling basswood. Then I bolt a rod that is threaded and attached at the bottom end to an old floor lamp base.  I wire-brush and heat the lamp base with a torch and brush on dark paste wax.  The rod is covered with a copper tube that is patina’d and waxed.  The bass wood is sanded, dyed, and waxed, and the neckhole curve and the bottom curve are both capped with hammered copper. I tack it along the folded edge with little copper tacks.  The finished armature is 44 inches tall.



M's dress sketch

Dia de los Muertos



M's detail 8M's detail 1

Wanda Pictures

M's Good




M's Stamping Dias




M's Dress pieces



M's Neckline


M's detail 11


M's detail 13



M's Dias Finished Neckline




M's detail 15




M's detail 9M's patterning copper

M's completed armatureM's Tacking Copper



M's finished dress



Also appearing in the Lark 500 book.


These shoes were made for a friend who died, and my intention was to burn them.  I was so attached to them that I kept them with me for several years.

One night there was a fire in my building, damaging the entire floor where I lived.  I lost most of the things in my studio, including the shoes!  I concluded that they wanted to go where they were meant to be.



M's Dishbrush doll#1M's Dishbrush doll #2

People are always asking, “Where do you get your inspiration?”  The answer is – anywhere and everywhere!

I clean my dishes with a dish brush.  When the bristles are worn down, the brushes get a new life.  They become ‘wall dolls’, wearing paper dresses.

February’s blog will have more new art and crafts by our artists.  


  1. I’ve known Margaret since 2007 when she wandered into my yard one day. I don’t mean a yard with grass and bushes but a different type peculiar to my work, looking for media and things to include in her compositions. It often seems the most talented in their fields always seem somewhere far away and you hear about them. But here Margaret was, a goddess of media right in front of me. Now I know and the excellence of her work is nearly too much to grasp and describe. Or it actually is too big.

    I also have to add, and I’ve told Margaret this many times she is without doubt the best dressed woman in Santa Barbara. It’s kind of an inside joke but true. Margaret has the gift and is world class. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her work in the Smithsonian one day.


  2. All of the many, amazing paper artists around the world who have found their own unique viewpoint, WOW us with their unique exciting concepts, but Margaret soars above them all with her paper dresses.
    Her precise, multi-layered works never cease to amaze me but the dresses definitely hold my heart.
    Thank you.


  3. Your work is so inspiring and beautifully created. Paper is one of my passions…so seeing your dresses made my day more pleasant. You never know what an uplifting experience you gave me with the sharing of your paper art.
    Thank you,


  4. Stunning creations by Margaret. Her work is so inspiring and satisfying. Attention is detail is just right, not too little, not too much. And she is a sweetheart all the way around!


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