This past weekend I took a class at the Morgan Conservatory and made a ton of paper. Tom Balbo taught our class several techniques including pulp painting, stenciling onto wet sheets and couching directly onto objects. Even with 20-some participants the class ran extremely smoothly; there were plenty of pulp vats to pull sheets from and there were opportunities to learn from others as they experimented with the techniques.
Never having made paper before, this class provided an overwhelming amount of new information. But once we broke off to independently make sheets the process made sense – another sign of the excellent teaching. There were several different types of pulp to use: abaca, hemp, flax and cotton. Some of the fibers were dyed (we had blue, black, yellow and red cotton, a grey abaca and a grey abaca/cotton blend) and others were beaten longer to create a sheet with more shrink-ability … there is probably a term for this that I am forgetting. If I’m remembering correctly the longer a fiber is beaten the more transparent the resulting sheet will be, but I may be getting this backward.
Just pulling sheets of plain paper was seductive – the physical work of forming a sheet in combination with the atmosphere (a beautiful warehouse on E. 47th) created a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that was pretty awesome. I am a sucker for anything process related – it must be the printmaker in me. Once I got the hang of pulling plain sheets and couching the wet sheet onto the felt I started to experiment. I layered different pulps together, used stencils I cut from foam and did a little bit of free-style pulp painting.
Here are two of the stencils I cut from foam and a sheet of paper formed by couching a sheet of hemp onto the felt and then using a squirt bottle to lay down the grey cotton fibers.
This sheet was made of hemp with dyed cotton dropped into the lamp stencils.
Hemp with stencils laid down, sprayed with black dye and then surrounded with grey cotton fibers.
A drawing laid between a sheet of flax and a sheet of abaca.
One of the layered sheets I made: this is cotton on flax.
A layered sheet with cotton, abaca-cotton blend, overlaid with flax.
Cotton on flax.
This is my direct couche example – where a wet sheet of paper is laid directly over 3D objects. Most of the texture on the paper is from the table we laid the sheet onto but the shooting star and the rougher textures on the bottom were individual objects. This technique was very cool and sparked some ideas.
One of the final techniques Tom demonstrated – this sheet was created by using old silk screens and dyed pulp directly on a newly pulled, wet sheet of cotton. This was the most like painting as the pulp and dye stayed on top of the screen and allowed more time to push the dye around.
Now that I’ve had some time to look at and handle the sheets I made I have a million ideas of how to use this process conceptually. I have an idea for a book and for a series of cast images. This was a fantastic experience and am looking forward to going back and trying out the new ideas.