Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making handmade paper

I'm a member of the Portland-area "Multi-Media Cats," a chapter of MEOW (Machine Embroiderers of OR and WA).  Where most chapters work on free-motion machine embroidery, our group can be found elbow-deep in paper pulp, hand-marbling paper/fabric, rusting fabric, or playing with polymer clay.  In the next two months, we'll be "Felting using Potato Paper and Lutradur"  (Oct.) and "Stamp Design and Carving" in Nov..  Not much machine embroidery going on there!

At our Sep. 21st meeting, the project was handmade paper.  I've made some in the past, but this time our leader, Beth, taught me more than I'd ever known.  She even has a professional pulp beater set up outside her "studio," which is a converted 5th-wheel travel trailer.  (A reasonable solution when one has run out of space in the house!) 

Expecting a crowd, Beth had set up large tubs of different pulps:
Abaca (banana)
Cat-tail fluff
Cat-tail stems & leaves
New Zealand flax

But only 2 members showed up, so the three of us made paper all day.  With the leftover pulp, Beth continued "pulling sheets" alone the following day, ending up with an unbelievable 290 sheets of paper!  I, on the other hand, pulled 14 sheets.

This is a sampling of the basic papers I made (still curled after drying).

Then there are the more interesting pieces, like this laminated sheet of paper.  "Laminated" means that one sheet was placed on top of another.  Sandwiched between them were three thin cords of thread, so they'd meld together into one sheet as they dried.  It was also accidentally embossed.  Under one sheet of paper, I'd placed a twice-coiled "pull-chain" (is that the term??) so it would emboss that page, but when my "stack" was placed in the presser, the chain embossed several sheets on top of the intended one!  BONUS!  Just as in art quilting, sometimes our accidents turn into wonderful surprises.

And finally, this sheet where I'd added "inclusions," such as dried Queen Anne's Lace and other dried grasses and flower petals.  (Also accidentally embossed!)  I'll have to think of a way to incorporate some of this paper into my art quilts.

My neighbor has some iris leaves that I can have.  Years ago, I cookedsome down to make paper pulp, and fortunately did in in warm weather, when the doors and windows could be open.  It does not smell very nice, but does produce strong paper, due to its long fibers.

Again I realize that I could never narrow down my creative pursuits to one subject when there are so many that appeal to me!  So I play and experiment and continue to learn.  The more I know, the more options I have -- to add to my art quilts or to pursue further.  It's the experimenting that yields the most excitement!

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