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Fabricating a Travel-Friendly Paper Beater

Outgoing Penland Core Fellow Maria Fernanda Nuñez is leaving Penland this week with a sweet beater she made herself! (A beater is a cool machine that breaks down fiber into pulp that can be pressed into paper sheets or cast into sculpture.) Mo works in all sorts of media and is particularly interested in sculpture. Here at Penland, she fell in love with paper casting, using the process to create a number of beautiful pieces, both freestanding and wall mounted.

Cast paper artwork by Maria Fernanda Nuñez in the recent core fellow show, “Stonefruit” at Gallery North

Beaters are pretty expensive, starting at $5,000 for a basic model and $10,000 for the Reina beaters that can be found in the Penland paper studio.

Knowing that she wanted to continue to explore paper casting after leaving Penland, Mo set out to make her own, making sure it could break down into smaller pieces to facilitate transport to her next destination, which is Philadelphia.

Most of the work was undertaken last fall when Mo was a student in Thomas Campbell‘s iron concentration. Taking measurements from the hydro beater in the Penland paper studio and researching what she could find online, Mo designed her beater in Fusion 360 design software, starting with the drum component that propels fiber around the basin and adjusting other measurements from there.

Talking the project through with fall iron concentration instructor Thomas Campbell

The beater includes a basin on legs and a lift mechanism that moves the drum up and down, controlling how much space is between the bed plate and drum and therefore how fine the pulp is.

Working on the beater in the iron studio

During this year’s winter residency, Mo painted the beater components with automotive paint in the wood studio (which has a spray booth) and assembled the pieces in the iron studio.

Painting the components with automotive paint in the Penland wood studio

The beater is a work in progress as Mo works out the kinks with all of the electrical and moveable components. She spent about $2,000 on materials and her project was supported by a grant from Toe River Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Autumn Brown, Penland’s iron studio coordinator, said, “This beater is no beater!”

Mo has taken numerous iron workshops at Penland, including concentrations with Elizabeth Brim and Thomas Campbell.

We are extremely impressed and are excited to follow Mo in her journey. You can check out more of her work and sign up for her newsletter at and follow her on Instagram at @flotsam0jetsam.