Pulpery Brings Sustainable Makerspace to Old City
Artist Katie Hansen breathes new life into old paper while teaching others to make art from the unexpected in her new studio space.
It started with piles of paper bound for the landfill.
Mid-pandemic, Katie Hansen’s roommate had returned to in-person teaching at a Philadelphia-area school, trading Zoom calls for pencils and print-outs. The switch to the brick-and-mortar classroom left a trail of paper in its wake, and none of it was headed to a recycle bin.
Hansen, learning of the waste, saw an opportunity. She asked her roommate to spread the word around the school building: Send the paper her way.
“One day, she just came home with boxes and boxes and boxes,” Hansen says. “They were super enthusiastic about having somewhere to send it because the school didn’t have a recycling program.”
What started as a pandemic passion project– repurposing stacks of used paper into artfully designed pages, notebooks, and journals– has taken on a life of its own, landing Hansen in a new studio in Old City that celebrates other sustainable artisans’ work and hosts classes and events for the community.
Pulpery: a sustainable makerspace in Old City
Pulpery opened in September 2022 after an extensive renovation of the space on N. 3rd St., completed by Hansen and her partner, a local designer and builder. Hansen’s vision for the space is evolving: it’s part studio, part event space, and part experiment in sustainable retail.
“I’m kind of hoping that being here will inspire other artists and makers to take risks and start their businesses and put themselves in the public eye,” she says. “Even before we opened the doors we were getting really positive feedback from people about having a makerspace and an artists’ studio here.”
Hansen spends much of her week in the studio, honing her craft: shredding the “hoard” of used paper she’s accumulated through donations, creating pulp, suspending it, and pulling it through water to make sheets.
“It took a long time to develop the process I have now. And then it takes a good amount of time to make a whole batch of paper, since the entire process is by hand,” she says.
Throughout the Fall, Pulpery has been open on afternoon weekends for patrons to browse a selection of Hansen’s recycled hand-made creations (including hardcover and deckled journals and notebooks filled with light-speckled pages, which Hansen binds herself) and other gifts and wares sourced from sustainable artisans. The retail storefront will remain open through the end of the year, with sales during the holiday season. Come January, Pulpery will transform into a dedicated workshop and event space with an emphasis on sustainability.
“I’ve been really surprised and excited by people’s enthusiasm over the idea of having classes,” says Hansen. “People really want to kind of get out and meet new people and be in a social environment and also have a chance to be creative and make something.”
Hansen plans to host workshops on recycled papermaking, Valentine card-making, beginner’s bookbinding, linocut printmaking, natural watercolors, and indigo dyeing. Pulpery is also stepping outside the paper realm to offer classes on tarot reading, tea blending, and astrology birth chart reading. Participants can register for pre-scheduled classes or book a private session for a group as a BYOB event.
Collaborating with other Philadelphia-based artists and promoting sustainable craftsmanship remains a core value for Hansen as she establishes Pulpery as a makerspace in the Old City community.
“I think that is the way that business is going in the near future: Innovation and reutilizing materials that we already have,” she says. “Our recycling system in this country is so broken. So to be able to find small businesses that are recycling glass and plastic and wood and paper is a really clear way of seeing that it’s possible–and it’s possible on a small scale as well as large. I think more and more makers should really consider utilizing raw materials that are recycled.”
Pulpery is located at 56 N. 3rd St. in Old City, Philadelphia. The shop’s fall hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 2 pm-6 pm.