German Accordion

One of the things I have been working with during my apprenticeship is digital printing on handmade paper. I have been experimenting with how to feed handmade paper through my Epson inkjet printer and how to mask off sections of paper as a resist. I have been doing digital printing on fabric for years and have found that the process translates well.

Below is the development of a sculptural book in the form of a German Accordion fold. I didn't think this book form was all that interesting until I started working with it- now I think it has so much potential. Claudia suggested that it would make a good a wall piece, and I totally agree.
1. I practiced the scale and the cut-outs with Canson paper.

2. I remade the form with digitally printed handmade paper, choosing the parts of the sample book that I liked. (The digital image is a color copy of a quilt that resembles topography.)

3. I then sewed signatures made of vintage maps into the cut outs.

Reina Hollander Beater

I had my first lesson in using a Reina Hollander beater last week. We started with one of the easiest fibers to work with: Abaca. Abaca comes in sheets that break up easily when sprayed with a hose and the conversion to pulp is so easy.

In the future, in terms of making pulp...
We will be making pulp in different ways: working with the original fibers, finding fibers locally (iris leaves, yucca, hosta, etc.) and taking cellulose fabric and cutting it down into tiny squares and recycling it into pulp. (I am saving bits of cotton, linen, rayon to see what works.) But now, I know how to safely use and clean a beater.

We used our abaca pulp in a deckle box. A deckle box has high walls that allow water to pool on top of the mould- allowing more hand manipulation with the pulp. Instead of pulling a sheet from dipping the mould under the water in the vat, we set the mould on top and poured the pulp into the deckle box.

Claudia showing me how to work with deckle boxes (while her dog Max keeps an eye on us).

In Claudia's studio is another tool that I learned to use: a vacuum table. Like many papermaking tools, this can be put together using many common hardware store objects. The stacks of paper and felts are put on a plexiglass tabletop, a tube with holes for draining the water is placed along the stacks. (Here, our paper is pressed in between burlap instead of felts so that the texture of the burlap presses into the paper.) A sheet of plasitc is placed over the table and the suction presses the water out of the paper. It is surprisingly strong. The water collects in a tank and must be drained. The vacuum table is an alternative to a press.


Artist Visit: C. Cratty

Recently we visited the studio of Cherry Cratty who makes compositions entirely out of paper pulp. She sprays the pulp onto a surface, then applies bits of pulp like paint. Unlike paint, the pulp creates a highly textural surface and a completely unique mark-making language.

The pulp she uses is beaten quite a long time-- until it is extremely fine. (She uses a small portable beater called a "Critter.") She pigments the pulp and makes little cakes of basic colors (like a set of paints) and then blends colored pulp together to get the desired color.

So few people paint with paper pulp that there is very little information and no "right" way to do anything. This pushes her to be creative with her tools in addition to her visual creativity. The technique she uses most often is picking up the pulp from a vat with a small sharp stick getting just the right clump for the right stroke of color. The sticks she uses to grasp the pulp are (no joke) the quills of a South African porcupine. She says that no other object works quite as well- and after demonstrating other stylus-like objects of different textures, I believe it. (The quills themselves are very beautiful: different sizes and lengths with black and cream stripes. They look like magical objects.)

In a very recent technique innovation, Cherry whips the pulp with a milk-shake blender to create a frothy mixture. She then applies it to a dry pulp-covered surface with a brush. It is thin and translucent like watercolor, creating a surface that is light and ethereal, but retaining the beautiful texture of paper.

I am excited to see what happens in her workshop at the Appalachian Center for Craft in May.