Paper Museum, Atl, GA

On Friday, I visited the Robert C Williams Paper Museum which is located on the campus of GA Tech. Although the museum focuses on the history of paper as it moved towards industry, it has a wonderful collection tracing centuries of paper and books from different cultures. It also exhibits other paper-related and paper-influencing techniques like vellum, printmaking, and even cuneiform on ancient clay tablets. The museum is best known among papermakers for the Dard Hunter collection. As they state on the museum's website, Hunter was "responsible for a renaissance in hand papermaking and printing." Hunter was part of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the website notes: "Today, most of the historians and artisans interested in papermaking and printing were directly inspired by Hunter."

On special exhibit was a collection of photos, fibers, and paper documenting the process of papermaking in Japan.


Seivers Workshop

This week our friend Joyce Seivers came to Liberty Paper Mill and gave a book workshop to me and Claudia. Since we have begun studying Japanese paper, we created a Japanese stab binding with a hard case. This kind of stab binding has a cover that wraps around the entire text block. It is sewn with an 8-hole binding and I chose to try sewing it with antique surgical thread, which had surprisingly good tension and a nice look. We made the hard case for the book out of davey board wrapped with paper (Ahead of time, I printed Canson paper with a scan of a quilt- and cut down a vintage map for the liner). Also, I learned how to attach a bone clasp on cords that are embedded into the book board and are completely hidden by the paper. It was a great lesson and Joyce is an amazing teacher. I value every minute I spend with her because I learn and accomplish so much in her guidance. (As Claudia says "Joyce is bookbinding royalty." She's so right.)


Kozo Fiber Processing

Claudia is an expert on how to make many different kinds of paper. Along with western style papermaking, Claudia is teaching me Japanese papermaking. This is somewhat similar in principle in terms of sheet forming: the pulp is suspended in water in a vat, is pulled, couched and pressed.

However, there are big differences which will prove challenging. The fibers used are longer and have the ability to create translucent sheets, so the paper must be pulled very carefully and evenly (thin layer atop thin layer) by swishing the mould and deckle quickly back and forth. Formation aid, which makes the mould and deckle drain much more slowly, is key. Instead of the usual mould and deckle, this method requires a sugeta -which is a hinged mould and deckle with a bamboo screen and mesh screen in between. This tool is expensive and many papermakers make one with found parts. The thin sheets are couched together in layers rather than in between felts and they are not put into a press, but pressed by adding weight.

One fiber used in Japanese papermaking is Kozo. Japanese Kozo is very expensive, so Thai Kozo is a cost effective substitution (at 4$ a pound rather than 30$). The fibers come in a dried bundle and are very hard. They are boiled with sodium carbonate (soda ash-- in proportion to the amount of water used) until soft. They pull apart quickly along with the grain, but they should pull apart against the grain when they are fully cooked. Then the fibers are hand beaten using wooden mallets.

The kozo I ordered from Carriage house was extremely tough. It took forever to boil. I am planning on boiling it again so I can assure it is fully cooked and hand beating it this week. (While we have been boiling fibers, we have been watching videos from the University of Iowa Center for the Book and I think Japanese papermaking is very intimidating after watching Timothy Barret's meticulous and authentic process.)

Claudia showing me her stainless steel turkey fryer which makes a great pot for boiling fiber:

Checking the kozo:

The fibers in the kozo lighten as they lose their gums and waxes, turning the water brown and leaving behind only pure cellulose fiber: