Monday, June 19, 2017

Papermaking stages

Iris paper making is under way.  For technical reasons, I got to work early, in case builders had to be working here and needed to be on the patio when I needed it.  They came, they saw, they explained, not a problem requiring ladders they went away. New roof is fine. Fine.

Anyway, I decided to do a little variation on the iris leaves, by adding a prepulped sheet of abaca paper to the mix.  Abaca gives a lovely softness to the finished product, and in case the iris paper is crisp, like daylily paper, this might make it more malleable. Abaca is banana tree fiber, clearly a fiber I can't cut for myself and process from scratch.  You can send away for it.  One sheet makes a lot of paper. For a hobby user, I bet a package would be a lifetime supply.

 
So I soaked pieces of the abaca pulp overnight in water, ready to blend this morning and add to the pulp vat, i.e. bucket.

The iris leaves I cooked for several hours, left overnight to cool, then cooked again a couple more hours. 




Then cut them down a bit, easier when they're cooked than when they're fresh, and blended the pulp.  Small handful of pulp, per blender load, blend till pretty well broken down, no chunks of fiber.  Then I added several blender loads to the vat, mixed it by hand, and was able to make paper.



Background is sheets of paper interleaved with felts, in a pan to catch the water, middle is the mold I used, foreground the vat, i.e. dishpan, of pulp.
 
The felts, the fabric you see between the paper pulp, can be anything, wool blanket, etc., and these are Pellon, interfacing. Works a treat, washes clean, dries fast, and I've been using them about thirty years, not worn out yet.  The felts, that is, the artist I'm not so sure about.

I used a mold I'd been given, but it didn't work as well, too thick, so hard to maneuver the pulp -- you shake it around a bit under water to distribute pulp evenly -- and went to my old fave, a picture frame.  Just stapled screening over it, used another frame as the deckle, and works fine.  Makes a 6 x 8 in sheet or thereabouts.






The deckle is the frame bit that goes on top and corrals the pulp into a rectangular shape, or whatever shape the mold and deckle is, hence the term deckle edge.  It's that lovely irregular edge to handmade paper.

So there's a post of paper now sitting outside, having been pressed down to get a lot of water out -- papermaking is strenuous, involves a lot of carrying water about -- and I'm trying the experiment of leaving it in a post, that means a stack, to dry.  Hot weather, and it might keep shape and not cockle as it dries.  At least that's the idea.


So now I get to wait and see.  Great fun to visit your paper when you think it's dry and see if it's ready to peel off the felts.

I had a lot of liquid left after cooking up the pulp, so I've frozen it for use as dye.  



Still have a lot of pulp left to use, so if this first try works out, there will be more.  Incidentally, you see that this is taking place in the kitchen.  Perfectly safe.  Blender is strictly for papermaking, pots, containers likewise.  And the materials are totally nontoxic. You could probably eat this stuff without a problem.  If I were using synthetic dyes, unknown ingredients, etc., I'd work away from the kitchen. 

People tend to email me with concerns about safety, so I put in these notes to head them off!  Gentle reminder: I've been making art for over 70 years, teaching it for 45 years, and have been insistent all the teaching years on safety in the studio.  But it's nice to be concerned, it's appreciated.  And yes, I do know that natural doesn't mean nontoxic, very respectful around plant life for that reason.


Handsome Son has grown up with fridges and freezers stuffed with (nontoxic) art materials, and with inquiring whether there's any actual food in the freezer...at the moment the chest freezer is duking it out between papermaking supplies and food. His own art materials at his home are more like pens, Fimo, etc., no refrigeration required. But since  paper materials are organic, they need to be preserved to avoid rotting.  Once they're paper, they're stable indefinitely.

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