What's new here?
4-1-04 I'm back!
Well...sort of. I'm not back to papermaking yet, though I truly wish I
were. We're experiencing weather that gives us a glorious 80 degrees one
day followed two days later by a chilly 51. The 80 I can handle, but pulling
paper at 51 is impossible, so I haven't hauled out the vats and moulds and
deckles yet. But at least I'm back to journaling. I really missed
it over the winter. Usually I
post to a
bookbinding journal during that time, but instead of binding last winter, I did
butt-in-chair writing on the papermaking swatch book that I promised last
summer. I could have journaled about the writing, but unlike
my husband (who is a
real writer), I didn't. By the end of the
writing day, I was "writ out" with no more words left for the cyber screen.
Too, there was the fear that my daily frustration at working with words would
be boring. I am a tactile person, accustomed to holding the
work at the end of the day, being able to touch what I accomplished within those
hours. My daily collection of words, no matter how few or how many, was too nebulous
that satisfaction. However, the book is finished and is off being edited for the
inevitable errors. (Of course, immediately after sending it off, I found five
punctuation errors and/or missing words. Such is life.)
Also such is life...my camera is off being repaired and there will be no
pictures until it comes back. (The camera has some technical glitch that
causes pictures to disappear, then reappear, then disappear forever.
I'm sure if the camera were running on Windows, this could be fixed by simply rebooting.
Unfortunately, cameras don't reboot.)
4-5-04 Well, the camera has
returned from being repaired (thank you Sony), but it didn't bring any warm
weather it. But according to the forecast, mid week looks good, so I may
take a stab at beating some torch ginger that came from a papermaker in Costa Rica. It
will be good to get my hands back in the vat. Too, I'm anxious to try out a new
handcream bar that an online friend from New York made for me. She made it without
adding any fragrance. It has beeswax, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, shea
butter, tocopherol and glycerin. I have a feeling it will be a good
papermaking hand cream, because when I use it, my hands shed water.
4-7-04 Interesting day.
I am now in the process of binding the book I wrote over the winter. The
official title is A Papermaker's Season. The book is hardbound, 96 pages
in quarter cloth, and covers the 2003 papermaking season. It includes 47
swatches from 25 different native plants, along with information on how the
paper was made. So many books on papermaking are formal and dry.
That's not me, nor is it the way I wanted to share papermaking. Paper is
exciting and fun, and it most definitely isn't dry. (Sorry, that one was
irresistible.) With this book, I tried to share some of that fun and some
of the wonder I find in the entire process of converting plants to a sheet of
usable paper. This project has been in the works for a year -- from
planning to pulling swatches to writing to binding -- and it really felt good to
hold the first completed book in my hands earlier this week. I don't have
a release date yet, but I'll be sure to mention it when I do. (So far in
this journal, I've resisted adding those cute little smilies. With that
last sentence, I feel my resistance crumbling.) **As I said, It was an
interesting day. Combining a day working as bookbinder (everything must be
absolutely dry) and papermaker (everything is absolutely sopping wet)
proved...interesting. There were no disasters, just a lot of paranoia.
**Yesterday I put the torch ginger in to soak. (The fiber had been cooked
in Costa Rica and dried before shipping. It's
interesting, hairy looking
stuff.) After having soaked this stuff for 24 hours, I had serious
doubts. It was tough, and it really didn't seem as if it had absorbed the
water. Though I work with rehydrated pulps often, I've never worked with
plant material that has been cooked and dried prior to beating, so I wasn't sure
what I was looking at. Was this the nature of all cooked/dried plant
material? Was this just the nature of this particular material?
Had it been cooked long enough? Had it not been soaked long enough?
It was so unyielding that I boiled some water and let it sit in that for an
hour. Even that didn't make any difference. Rather than do anything
else at that point, I gave it a try in the beater. No go. It sank;
it made islands; it jammed. The fibers remind me a great deal of hollyhock
and rose mallow bast, both of which were mean to beat and have the same stiff,
horsehair characteristics. I fought it for an hour, but couldn't find any
way to make the material circulate on its own without problems. At that
point, though the ginger had been cooked for four hours in soda ash, I began to
wonder if that had been long enough. The fibers really didn't seem soft or
done, so I drained the Hollander and recooked the fiber for 2 hours in lye.
Even that that didn't soften it, nor did it solve the sinking or jamming
problems. By then, it was dusky dark. I unplugged the beater and
just left walked off and left it. This is proving to be a rather
inauspicious beginning to a new papermaking season.
Back to the top
4-8-04 This afternoon I
revisited the ginger. I could have solved yesterday's problems by adding
abaca to the ginger fibers in the beater. The abaca would have "thickened"
the water, separating the ginger fibers and preventing their sinking and
islanding, but I wanted pure ginger paper. Again, I emptied the beater.
Then I ran about a quarter of the fibers through a blender for 30 seconds.
Doing this did not produce a pulp, far from it, but blending did soften the
fibers and reduced their bulk. When I put the blended fibers back into the
beater, they circulated without jamming, though I did have to stir because the
volume wasn't enough to beat on its own. Over the next ten minutes or so,
I reintroduced the remaining unblended fiber bit by bit. The blended
fibers separated and carried these heavier ones along, much as abaca would have
done. The ginger beat without stirring at that point. Like hollyhock
and rose mallow, this fiber collects on the sides of the drum, and had to be
cleared often, but that was the only problem that remained. Why some
fibers pack alongside the drum and why some don't is a mystery to me, but these
have to be cleared often and put back in circulation to prevent ruining the
pulp. I let the fibers beat for 2.5 hours and it appears the ginger will
make a good paper, but I ran out of time. I may beat it an additional half
hour or so in the morning, depending on how the pulp pulls and how the paper
looks. I'll decide what to do at that point.
4-9-04 I'm trying to juggle
two things at once -- bookbinding and papermaking -- and it's proving to be
interesting(?). Despite the fact that they're related fields, they are
not compatible. There is the conflicting "sloppy wet/must be
absolutely dry" problem. About the only way to manage both is to do one in
the morning and the other in the afternoon or one one day, the other the next.
Not sure yet how I'm going to handle this. It was late afternoon before I
got around to pulling test sheets from the torch ginger pulp that was sitting in
the Hollander. It pulled sweet. The pulp had a good consistency and
the drain time was good, and I opted not to beat it longer. The quality of
the torch ginger paper is
excellent, though the picture doesn't do it justice. It isn't as roughly
fibrous as it looks. The sheet is quite thin and smooth and surprisingly
tough. I suspect the fibrous appearance look is caused by the variation in
the fiber colors, making some stand out from the background, but all the fibers
are fine. The color leaves something to be desired, though. I'm not
sure what the specks are, but they may have come from leaf bases, a few of which
were included with the cooked stalk material. I bleached some of the pulp and it
came out a lovely cream with no specks. Didn't have time to pull sheets,
4-10-04 The weather isn't
cooperating. Much cooler today and the forecast doesn't look decent until
the middle of next week. At some point when it warms back up, I'll pull
the bleached torch ginger. **This has nothing to do with paper, but I
can't help sharing that I had the opportunity to become a child again today.
Hey, everyone deserves to relive some moments. Doug Haley, a Berea
woodworker, has created a super size rocking chair, which is on display at the
Kentucky Artisan Center this month. Today I ran into Doug at the Center
and talked him into posing for a picture with me. Until you have some size
reference, it's impossible to grasp how large
this chair and footstool
are. Looks fairly normal, doesn't it? But the perspective from
sitting in the chair is totally
different! Climb into that rocker with your feet dangling over the edge
and suddenly you become a child again.
4-13-04 It's snowing.
4-14-04 It's 62 degrees
outside. Typical Kentucky spring. And I took advantage of the day.
I've been binding books inside and until now, that's been fine, but the sunshine
and warm weather today killed any urge to stay inside. I filled the vat
and finally got around to pulling the
bleached torch ginger
pulp. The sheets are a cream or very pale yellow, smooth and excellent for
writing. The tear strength is good. I had saved back some of the
underbeaten, unbleached torch
ginger pulp and mixed that in with the bleached pulp to pull a few sheets.
(The weather may be warm, but the water from the hydrant isn't! I have a
feeling I'll be heating water and adding it to the vat for awhile yet.)
Back to the top
4-20-04 Took a break from
bookbinding to play in pulp with Brenda,
a friend who had never done paper. She's a quick study.
4-21-04 Some time ago, I sent
sample papers to a Montessori class in Virginia. The 6 to 9 year-olds were
studying the history of Asia, and the teacher was interested in information
about paper to share with them. Today I received a thank you note along
with their comments:
Bennett - "I think the paper
is fasanating! I never new there were so many vergins of paper!"
Luke (age 6) - "I like the
things that they wer made out of."
Daniel (age 6) - "I like
gingko because it look smooth."
Al (age 9) - "I think the
pieces are very colorful. It's nete."
Demetri (age 7) - "I like the
striairias and sircals in Jacobs lader."
Catie (age 9) - "I think its
intresting that paper can be made with horse dung. Also I never knew that
can be made from gingko."
Nguven (age 7) - "Some of
these samples are very colorful! Is horse dung paper stinky??"
4-22-04 I did an Earth Day
demo at the
Kentucky Artisan Center today and had a ball.
Julie (age 9) - I think that
all the papers are interesting. I like the colors and textures."
After finishing their studies, they
made paper from mushrooms and
shared a sheet with me. They were very proud of their paper, and they
should be! I think we have budding papermakers here!
4-22-04 I did an Earth Day
demo at the
Kentucky Artisan Center today and had a ball. I used a pulp
with cotton rag so the participants could iron them dry and take the paper home.
To make it truly Kentucky, I added cooked, partially processed Kentucky
Bluegrass, which gave the sheets a
delightful spring green color.
The visitors ran the gamut from high school kids on an Earth Day outing to a
touring group of antique car
collectors. Age didn't
seem to matter. They all wanted to pull paper. The
kids' enthusiasm and curiosity was a
delight. I let them pull,
and then required that they do their
own ironing. This paper was their project, start to finish. (The
trick to getting the paper dry enough to iron was placing the freshly pulled
sheet between newspapers, putting that between boards, then allowing the budding
papermakers to do a paper dance
on the boards to squish the water out.) They were happy.
I was happy. It was a good day.
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