What's new here?
7-1-03 A couple of months ago,
my husband donated a pair of cotton pants to the papermaking cause. They
were brown with a grayish cast, and I thought pulp from them might be usable
mixed with plant fibers. I beat the rag today and I'm having serious
second thoughts about it. The wet pulp looks terrible, a dirty gray/brown.
No time to pull anything today.
7-2-03 Umph! Not only is
the pulp ugly, it's full of unbeaten threads. When I was beating the pulp
yesterday, I had fifteen other irons in the fire, and looking back now, I
realize that it only beat an hour, not two. Given the wretched color of
the stuff, I wasn't about to put it back in the Hollander and beat it again. I pulled a sheet to
see what it looked like, and actually, it isn't all that bad.
threads save it from being totally commonplace. Whatever. I can
always use it for playing around with weird ideas without feeling like I'm wasting
good pulp. I pulled a few
cards and played around with
some cotton netting, but the
rest of the pulp is in the refrigerator. **A few days ago I was at Wal-Mart and
cut through the children's aisle to get to the light bulbs. Along the way,
I ran across the foam tubes that children use as floats while swimming, and the
papermaker's mind kicked in. These things are slick. Paper will not
stick. They would be ideal for forming paper tubes. Now...until that
moment, paper tubes had never occurred to me, and I haven't the faintest idea
what I wanted to do with them if I did make them. However, one of the small diameter floats
came home with me. And it did work.
These are only 2.75" in diameter, too small
for votive covers, but they would make nice paper "wind chimes" if I can figure
a way to string them up. A problem for later.
7-3-03 Today I had the
delightful experience of sharing a day pulling with Dorie Hubbard, the woman who
taught me to pull my first sheet from recycled paper. Her focus is
actually weaving and she had never pulled plant pulps before, so this was a
unique "teaching the teacher" experience for me. We had a ball, and
she went home with 40 or 50 sheets
7-5-03 The paper
tube thing was still floating around in my mind this morning, so I made a
special trip to Wal-Mart after the larger diameter tube. This one worked
beautifully for forming votive covers. To prevent the problem of a
cover shifting or blowing over too close to the candle, I formed bottoms that the
container can rest on. Because this is done when the paper is wet, it's
easy to make the bottom, pulling off the excess and
forming a feathered
deckling around the edge. When the wet paper is wrapped around the tube,
it is sealed to that bottom with a touch of wheat paste and the seam is
invisible. I made two, one with the
darker edge of the sheet at the top and the other with the lighter
area at the top. They're 4" in diameter (14" in circumference).
Neither has been treated with beeswax or paraffin yet. Both of the covers were simply tests to work through the details, and I didn't take much
care about decorating, but I can envision any number of things that can be done
that will make better use of the light.
7-6-03 The front flowerbed has
two huge early spiderwort plants, each with something like 50 stems or more.
I've done this plant before, and it makes a lovely, though glutinous, pulp.
One of the plants blew down this spring, but continued to bloom beautifully, so
I just left it until it began crowding the mums. This afternoon I cut
stalks off at the ground (it will come back), and stripped the leaves and flower
heads off, leaving the stalks to cut up and make into paper tomorrow.
Initially, I planned to save and cook the leaves separately, but after taking a
good look at them, I changed my mind. They're parallel veined and more
than large enough to fool with, but they're much like Peruvian daffodil leaves.
The leaves offer no resistance to tearing across their width and
show no sign of
internal fibers. I'm going to pass on doing them, making a guess
that they would cook up into gunk and little else.
Back to the top
7-7-03 Cooked the spiderwort
stalks this morning, and they
produced quite enough gunk of their own without including the leaves.
Washing with a hose cleaned them
well enough, but it sure reduced the amount of plant material available. I
had intended to to this bunch in the beater, but after washing, there wasn't
enough left to justify using it. I have to keep reminding myself that the
gunk needed to go. Instead, I used the blender. The spiderwort stalks were
tough to process that way, and that surprised me. I figured 30 seconds
would do it, but sheets pulled from that pulp were too fibrous, so I processed
it another 30 seconds and the paper improved. This is a picture of
both sheets (right is
underprocessed, left is better paper). Neither was very impressive.
I had saved some unprocessed stems to add back to the pulp, and those
improved the appearance.
**Last month when I harvested red elm bast, I also stripped the
bast/bark from the tiny elm limbs
and dried and saved it. This afternoon I cooked that. I had done the
bast by itself and the pulp was a delight to work with,
making a lovely thin mahogany colored sheet.
The pulp from the bast/bark pulls very similarly, though the paper is totally
different. Only had time to pull a couple of test sheets, but they're as
thin and smooth as the pure bast, but the bark stains the bast to more of a
brown than a mahogany.
7-8-03 Pulled a little over
200 swatches of the red elm
bast/bark paper. **The "soup" from cooking the bast/bark was a deep,
dark mahogany, and I had saved it simply because it was so dark. When I
was stripping the tree limbs, the bark stained the pair of jeans I was wearing,
and I haven't been able to get the stain out. That made me think the elm
soup might be a fairly permanent dye. So, just for the heck of it, I tie
dyed a new white tee shirt with the stain. There was no mordant used.
This is the shirt after dyeing,
rinsing and washing twice. Okay, so my tying techniques could use some
work, but the dye does seem to take and hold.
7-9-03 I'm leaving tomorrow to
play basketmaker for a few days, so I spent the day cleaning up odds and ends
pulp. Among other things, I pulled some
stationery sheets from mixed
pulps using elm bast for edging.
7-14-03 Before I left I
spotted some immature northern catalpa beans alongside one of the city streets,
but they were out of reach. When I contacted the city street department to
see if they could assist me in gathering them, I was told that the cherry picker
couldn't be taken out to help an individual with something like that.
However...if the limbs needed trimming... This morning the cherry picker
truck lopped two small limbs off the tree, then the employee spent the next few
minutes pulling beans off, throwing them down and asking a million questions
about papermaking. The beans
are 18"-24" long and about 3/8" across. They were immature, the seeds
and their coverings not fully formed. I had done matured and dried pods
before, but they were tough and made a
heavy, dark, fibrous paper. I was curious whether the green pods would
be easier to process and whether they would make a finer paper. Cut the
beans in 1"-2" lengths and cooked them for three hours in lye. The
immature seeds, seed coverings and inside sheath of the pods cooked to mush
leaving only the outside pod fibers.
This went into the beater for two hours and made a pulp that is a mixture of
very fine fibers that bond around heavier fibers forming a lovely sheet.
It pulled easily and drained well. Paper from the immature pods is
smooth and surprisingly light in color.
Backlighting shows the heavier
7-16-03 We have a couple of
mini-mall flea markets in town. I really, really hate going to them
because I always see something that I can use sometime or another, and I can't
resist buying. Then I have to wag it home and find a place to store it
until that "sometime" comes around. This may be next week, or it may be
next year, or it may be some nebulous time in the future, which may very well be
after I die. So you see why I hate shopping there, but these flea markets
are my source of rag for the beater, and I was out of white cotton pulp and the
rag to make it from, so I went. I was good. I was very good. I
passed up shelves (which I could really have used in my storage closet), I
passed up an extensive rack of books without even turning my head (well, almost
without); I walked past the tool section (though I'll admit to giving it a good
look on the way by); and only came home with two pair of size 28 white cotton
jeans. (Sure wish I'd bought those shelves, though.) One pair, after
cutting, weighed 13 oz. I added part of an old tee shirt, and made up the
remainder of the pound and a quarter with abaca. I prefer some abaca with
cotton rag to give it a bit more body. For the record, I this time I DID
remember to rinse the cloth twice before pitching it in the beater, so no
trouble with suds. However, about an hour into beating, I was in the
kitchen when I heard a change in the tone of the beater....no thump-bump, just a
steady hum. When I got out there, there was no circulation, but there was
no pulp jam, either. Huh? The pulley was turning, but the drum
wasn't. Took the shield off, held the pulley steady and turned the drum,
which spun easily and freely. The set screw that secured the large pulley
to the drum shaft had backed out enough to free the shaft. Dug out the hex
wrenches, but it took me three trips around the shaft before I found the flat
spot where the set screw seats. Tightened the set screw and tested it, no
problems. It wasn't until after I put the safety cover back on that it
dawned on me I should have marked the flat spot on the outside of the shaft.
Back to the top
7-17-03 Ran into Jane at the
Honeysuckle Vine this morning, and she said she had more yucca, so I stopped by
her house and loaded it up. This time there was enough root material to
run through the beater. Peeled, cut and cooked the roots for three hours
in lye, then beat for three hours in the Hollander. These roots were like
the others -- expandable and very elastic -- and it was strange watching go
'round and 'round. They would flatten and expand as they passed under the
drum, then on the trip back around the tub, shrink back into themselves and
become a tight knot again.. The expansion/contraction stopped as they
began to disintegrate, still it was funny. (Doesn't take much to amuse
me.) The yucca root paper is cream colored, featureless and extremely
smooth and slick. It pulls thin easily and is slightly softer than most
papers when pulled thick.
7-22-03 I wanted some swatches
from cattail heads, but I was afraid it might be too early to gather those.
I had saved some heads from last fall and dug those out. (Before storing,
they had been treated to a round in a 200 degree oven to kill off the worms, and
were in good shape.)
Stripped the fluff, cooked it for 1 hour in soda ash, processed it in the
blender, and pulled 112 swatches. Cattail head paper is interesting
because of its texture and weight. Even very thin sheets are heavy (by
weight) and the texture is almost
that of pigskin. **In addition to doing paper stuff, I'm a baskemaker.
I'm also a compulsive keeper. I was rummaging around my basket closet for
something when I ran across a couple of coils of hickory bark. Hickory
bark? Bark? Ack! This stuff is BAST, not bark! And bast
is a prized papermaking material. Of course, I'd never done hickory and
had no idea whether it would work or not. On top of that, hickory is known
for being tough, both bark and tree, but that didn't stop me. I cut
one of the coils up and cooked it in lye for 3.5 hours. A major
thunderstorm came along just as I turned the pot off, so it sat for another hour
or hour and a half before I could rinse the material. The cooking "soup"
is a deep chocolate brown that stains
everything it comes in contact with and takes forever to wash out of the
cooked bast. It took even longer yesterday evening, because a young skunk
came ambling up and I had to wait for him to check things out (from the safety
of the porch) before I could finish. ('Possums, skunks and groundhogs in
the backyard are among the joys of small town living.) By then, it was too
late to process the washed material.
7-23-03 Since I wasn't
certain hickory would process, I only cooked enough to try, not enough for the
beater. However, it processes perfectly in a blender and makes excellent
paper. The bast processes into a slick, smooth pulp that pulls
lovely, featureless sheets, which have
a toughness equal to or greater than mulberry or hemp. Even the tissue thin
sheets are hard to tear. The picture hardly does the paper justice, and does
nothing to show the lovely, fine, shiny fibers of the sheet. I haven't bleached
the pulp yet, and may not get a chance to till next week, but even with the
color as is, I can see many, many uses because of its toughness. And another
plus factor for the material is that it does not require sizing. This is one of
those plant fibers that behave beautifully from beginning of processing to end
result, a real pleasure to work with. I am impressed.
7-24-03 On the
list we've been discussing the dyes from plant "soups" (leftover cooking
water). Just out of curiosity, I've started a
"dye shirt" to use for each of the
plant material soups. I pour or dab a bit of the dye onto the shirt, let
it begin to dry, then finish ironing it dry and indelibly
label the spot with dye source and
date. I realize this isn't the proper way to dye cloth, but it will
give me a general idea of the color. At some point, I will begin washing
the shirt to see how much each stain fades, but for now, I'll continue to add
spots to it. And of course, sometime down the road I'll actually put the
shirt on and wear it, probably to some artsy function.
7-28-03 Ugh! My paper
pulling station stinks! Something (hopefully just a very small animal type
gift from one of my cats) has died under the deck. Add to that odor a well
skunk sprayed cat, who is sulking on the porch, and I find it impossible to work
outside. I cleaned house instead.
7-29-03 In the process of
cleaning house, I found a stash of Bradford pear bark, and of course, it went
into the pot. It was pretty much a lost cause as far as pure pear bark
paper. The cooked fiber broke down easily enough, but the individual
fibers won't fray or hydrate.
Additional cooking and beating only shortens the fibers. The
cooking soup does make a permanent dye, that I've used on basket material
before. I tried the cooking water from this batch to
dye some cotton rag with
marginal results. (The sheet on the left is undyed white cotton rag;
the sheet on the right was treated with the Bradford pear bast soup.)
**Pulled an 8.5"x11" sheet of Joe-Pye and cast it onto a ceramic dragonfly tile.
I sprayed the underneath side of the sheet with walnut juice stain before
placing it on the tile. When paper sprayed in this manner dries, a portion
of the stain migrates to the highest point, which is the dragonfly, creating
a darker image. Contrast that
picture with this one done in hickory
with no stain sprayed underneath. **I was in Bowling Green last
weekend at Western University, and while I was there, I gathered some insect
eaten basswood leaves. For all intent and purposes, these leaves were so
well chewed, they amount to skeleton leaves. While I had the hickory pulp
in the vat, I pulled several
cards using a lead on the front. Because the hickory pulp is so fine,
every vein of the leaf
imprinted beautifully on the backside of the sheet. I may have to
follow up with this using the leaf only for an imprint, not an inclusion.
**The hickory bast that I used on the 24th came from a chairmaker here in Berea
who uses it for caning his work. Last week before I went out of town, I
stopped by his shop and talked with him about how he harvested and processed the
hickory into strips. He said the bark comes rom trees that are cut by loggers in
the spring. He takes a crew to strip the bast from the green logs before they
are cut into lumber. The crew brings the wide strips of bark back to the shop
where they are run through a machine that cuts the wide strips into 3/4" ones.
At this point, these strips are quite thick and covered with bark that must be
removed. He has another machine that essentially cuts these strips into four
parts along the thickness. The first strip is comprised of the bark which is
discarded; the second strip he calls "thirds," which contains both bast fiber
and a rusty brown corky material (these strips are also discarded); then come
"seconds" (all fiber, no cork); and the last is "firsts" or the finest
next-to-the-trunk bast. He uses both the seconds and firsts for weaving seats in
his chairs. The bast that I used for paper was either firsts or seconds, don't
know which. I didn't know enough about the hickory at the time to recognize
which it was. While I was at the shop, he gave me some strips of thirds to try
as paper. I cooked and processed it yesterday and I'm not happy with it at all
because of the crumbly, corky material. This stuff does NOT belong in paper, but
I haven't the faintest idea how to remove it from either the raw material or the
cooked bast. It pops out of the raw material fairly easily, but is scattered
throughout the strips and would be too labor intensive to remove before cooking.
Cooking softens the cork and turns it black, but then the stuff is lost in the
mass resulting from cooking and rinsing with the hose. Simply processing it
along with the bast results in fine black chunks scattered throughout the paper.
Pressure doesn't do much to flatten them, so there is a certain amount of
texture to the sheet. The paper is still as tough as that made from better bast,
but the appearance and texture are a poor second. :( Here are the two
sheets contrasted -- left is
hickory paper made from the better bast, the right made from the "thirds" bast.
You can see the specks of black corky material.
7-30-03 Okay, the
Center ribbon cutting is over, and now I can share what I was doing out there at
the construction site all last summer. In April of last year, the state
commission me to create a book for the Governor of Kentucky in appreciation for
his efforts in gaining the $8.7 million to build the facility. The book
was to be made from the plants that were growing on the construction site.
If you read the journal entries for last summer, you know I spent the better
part of the season out there harvesting plants in front of the bulldozers in
order to make the book. It was presented to the Governor at the ceremony
yesterday. Here are pictures of
the outside, the Artisan Center logo
page and a sample paper page
(the paper samples are broomsedge, natural and bleached). The area where I
live is strongly craft oriented toward wood, metal and pottery, so most award
pieces are from these fields. I count it as an achievement for all
papermakers that the presentation for the Governor should be chosen from the
field of handmade paper.
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