Five Days of Making and Experimenting

The past five days I was working on experimenting with materials. Sunday a friend and I tried coloring cloth and papers with eucalyptus leaves in iron baths and steaming. The steaming worked best for getting the intense color. And silk fabric worked better than cotton, linen and papers. And the intense orange that colored my large silk piece was quickly given to my friend because she loved it and I did not. Way too orange. The dull greys from the iron pot seemed more appealing. Could be I am tired of looking at botanical print images on cloth and/or paper. And that likely is because I have some that turned out so beautiful in Australia that it is hard to duplicate that here. The folios, though lovely, just sit on a shelf waiting to moved beyond what they are….nice colored leaves blurred on pages.

But Sunday night we started our workshop with paper maker/artist, Claudia Lee. I took a seat close to the door in case I might like to escape early. Dipping in pulp and trying to easily get it off the screen onto a felt to be pressed and dried….and then all that waiting to be able to do something with it seemed like an endeavor I was a bit reluctant to do. It was the “stitching” part of the class that drew me in the first place, so I was thinking sewing bits of paper together…..maybe into a shirt.

But I got the hang of it. Made some nice long narrow sheets of abaca, some with hemp and more with a combination. Then came the resisting with wax, the walnut and/or pigment coloring and of course the indigo vats. We even rusted several sheets in old pans.

Above are a sampling of some of the many sheets I made. Some from scratch in the vats and some of my printmaking papers taken in to experiment with. I was thinking of using them as backgrounds for block prints. But they are so beautiful on their own, that it is hard to see them other than as book covers and screens and lanterns. And that is what Claudia does. Hers are stunning and my colored papers though terrific looking, looked like hers. So most of them will be cut into small pieces to be stitched with shifu sections and journal entries, etc into larger pieces so they are not so much about the paper but about what they have become as part of something greater.

BUT when I made the kozo paper in the Japanese style vat that Matthew made and saw the crude results of my efforts, things changed. Would this thin barky paper cling not only to itself but to a structured form? Would it shrink like the model airplane coatings for tissue covered ribs does? Just how far and how much could I expect from the new to me material of koohiyaki be pushed?

The next two days was given over to making this boat, the fish with shifu lines attached, the one oar, bundle with a small golden bell enclosed, a scroll, navigational tool and the batiked and colored rock that sits inside as another metaphor for the inevitable.

I loved making this. The long rectangular rock just in front of my car in the parking lot made the perfect finish for this piece. It lifts the bundle up and makes it easy to pick up and give it a shake to hear the bell as in memory jogging…”oh, that rings a bell.” Arranging the entire piece in a curved orientation is a reminder that things will continue to go round and round. A single oar just about guarantees that to happen. It also pulls at other things like the fish who join in the vortex of what is happening. Yes, I really did love making this while the others went on making and coloring paper.

I stayed with my idea of pulp on thin cotton and ended up with some pieces that can be used sculpturally in my studio. They were so ugly and cloggy looking while drying but became just what I would have wanted after the wax and walnut.

And here are some more of the papers and cloth.

And of course one of the best things about being in a class is the people around you. They were wonderful, supportive and interesting. Claudia Lee is the most amazing giving, sharing an certainly knowledgeable instructors I know. Her paper making skills are extraordinary and if you ever get a chance to take one of her classes, do it. Register as soon as possible.

More next week on whatever happens after cleaning up the mess we made here and in the studio.