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.