By Rita Cook    

Fifty-three-year-old papermaking artist Cate Robbins of Chambersville, Texas says she has been working toward her green lifestyle for many years. It has never been as evident as it is now though, when looking at the paper art she creates where she incorporates recycled scrap paper into pulp, repurposing it instead of seeing it end up in a landfill.

Papermaking since 2007, Robbins says “I have drawn ever since I can remember, but I started college in 2002 and saw my art take a quantum leap forward.”

It’s really been the last 20 years, even before her eco-friendly artwork, that Robbins says she began focusing on changing her life and moving toward a healthier, more responsible lifestyle.

“Part of being responsible is living as “green” a lifestyle as possible,” she says. “When I took a papermaking class at Texas Woman’s University I saw a way to integrate some of my artwork with the system here on our small farm. I gather plant fibers that will work for paper, I have to get them before they go into the compost pile. Then I mix that pulp with recycled scrap paper and make new paper. This new paper pulp becomes the foundation for my paper art.”

Her paper art too, she believes, also has the added benefit of a little piece of her farm in it, which she says sets her work apart.

“Paper made the way I make it is fascinating in that each piece, even if pulled from the same vat is totally unique,” she explains. “The recycled bits of colored paper and the tiny pieces of plant fiber show up embedded in the paper creating one of a kind fingerprints. So even if I printed the same art on two pieces of my paper, it would still be unique.”

Not easy, Robbins says papermaking is hard physically since it involves gathering, cutting, cooking, rinsing and beating the plant fibers before you even get to the pulling of sheets or casting. Then there is also stacking, pressing and hanging to dry and sometimes, she adds, the sheets have to be ironed too.

“I think one of my challenging things is getting the paper out to people so they can actually see and even feel the tactile beauty of it in person. Pictures can show some of the texture, but it is no substitute for the real thing.”

While she can’t choose a favorite piece of her work, she does say she likes printing her drawings and paintings onto the new paper she makes because it gives the art a totally new look.
“The added texture and color that shows through the print and the ruffled, jagged edges of the paper are such a great enhancement,” she explains, “I try to create pieces of art that people can relate to on a variety of levels. Some of my imagery is obvious while other things are more open to personal interpretation.”

She is currently fascinated with vintage vehicles and the lines, shapes and patina they display, as well as the sadness of obsolete things.

As for Robbins other eco-friendly practices, she says “I have started cleaning my oil brushes with Murphy’s Oil Soap instead of solvents and I do not use painting mediums that contain solvents. I feel much better about this approach and have seen no ill effects from it. I also scour thrift stores in the area for things I can use in my work and have found some real treasures.”

Living on a four-acre micro farm in her little town that she says is “too tiny to have a population sign,” Chambersville is north of Dallas. Robbins husband and daughter run the farm called Stonebranch Microfarm where they grow flowers and vegetables using natural, sustainable farming practices. Her husband is currently working on self-watering grow systems that will conserve water and produce a maximum crop in minimal space.

“I am awestruck by the world of beauty around me,” Robbins concludes of her art. “You need to try new things and new materials to keep your skills fresh. I recently tried adding some actual texture to my watercolor work and I also tried watercolor on wood panels instead of paper. I am constantly working.”

Robbins’ prints start at $15 and prices go up from there. You can find her work on her websites -,, or She also has a few pieces of work for sale at the Artist Loft on the Square in McKinney. Robbins teaches her art at her home and at the McKinney Art House ( and the Artist Loft. She is currently planning papermaking workshops for the spring. For more information on her classes contact her at

Rita Cook is a freelance writer who has worked as a special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News and other major publications.