What's new here?
5-2-05 A quick (or maybe not so quick,
depending on how I write this) aside. About three years ago, my son began
"fooling around" with wood. This was totally unexpected, though perhaps it
shouldn't have been. Brack grew up to the sound of the beating and
pounding coming from my workshop. He has always had an artistic eye, but
he had never expressed any interesting in carving until, as I said, about three
years ago. I hadn't touched my carving tools since 1994 and didn't
anticipate taking them up again, so I gave the tools to him. Yesterday I
went back to visit, and he showed me some of the things he has been doing.
He is going at woodworking the same way I did, no training, just allowing
mistakes and successes to be his teacher, and I am delighted at what I see.
His eye for the raw materials that nature can provide is excellent, and he is
taking that and running with it. In a fencerow, he found a broken cedar
that had healed and grown with three outreaching "arms." He is in the
process of creating a tri-tiered table
from that. It's rough and unfinished, but the design is good and it has
promise. The bluffs and thickets provide materials for the
walking sticks he is doing.
(Here is a close-up of the head.)
The beginning shapes for each
cane are different, but he is taking the assets each one offers, accenting
and improving on them, and doing it well. He has a good eye for design and
balance, and is turning into a pretty fair country folk artist. This is
good. **On the way back home, I stopped to visit Page and Tim Candler of
I met her last fall at a Kentucky Guild fair and bought one of her jugs.
Talk about an attitude, this jug has one!
5-5-05 I finally got around to beating the
Japanese knotweed I cooked a week ago. As usual, it was a pill to get
started and took a good 45 minutes of fairly close watching before I could go
off and leave it to beat. After two and a half hours the pulp was perfect.
It will pull see-through thin, or
as thick as a book cover.
5-8-05 Today was a totally unfocused Sunday.
No plans, so basically nothing got accomplished, at least not much. Late
in the afternoon I did wander out under the pine trees to gather some winter
creeper vines (Euonymus
fortunei) for a basket. Right now the vines are
lush and green and solidly covering the ground.
I have a feeling they would be a nuisance growing anywhere else, but under the
pine trees they cause no problems. Nothing else will grow there anyway.
The vines are extremely flexible, and when freshly gathered, can almost be
doubled back on themselves without breaking. I've never woven with them,
and that was one of the reasons for gathering, just to play. Too, I have
wanted to do a basket similar to the one
I did last month from mylar covered paper, only out of natural materials and
this seemed like a good opportunity. Someone had suggested using
honeysuckle for the basket, but I seriously doubt that would work given the
intensity of the twist in the reverse twining, particularly when running
side-by-side rows. If this twist were to occur at a leaf node in the
honeysuckle, and inevitably it would during the course of the weaving, the vine
would break. Euonymus, on the other hand, isn't fragile at the nodes.
It's tough and very flexible. In weaving this basket, I was more
interested in whether the materials would work than creating a perfect piece, so
the start was a little rough. Were I doing it again, it's likely that I
would have done the twining around the
plain weave base with either a finer strand of vine or some other more
compactable material. The remainder of the basket went quickly, and the
vine did prove to be quite flexible enough. Only one weaver broke in a
twist, but it was just a partial break. The bast held the vine together
and I was able weave on without problem. I found controlling shape
considerably more difficult using the vine than the mylar covered paper, I
suppose because of the vine's relative stiffness. Forcing the line weaving
down against the previous row was especially hard on the hands. Just the
same, the basket turned out well,
particularly given the little care I took with it.
5-12-05 I give up. It is totally
impossible for me to pull pure white cotton rag sheets without having a fleck or
two of something extraneous in it. I've been down this route once
before...trying to pull pure white sheets, failing, promising myself I wouldn't
do this again...yet here I was this morning, doing it once again. I
religiously cleaned the beater, made sure nothing but absolutely pure cotton rag
went into it, was careful about cleaning strainer bag, vat, mould/deckle,
couching cloths. Anything that could possible get into the pulp was
eliminated. Yet, when I pulled the first three sheets, each of them had
something that didn't belong, and of course, each fleck was dark and stood out
like a sore thumb. So where, pray tell, did the accidental inclusions come
from? I know part of the beauty of handmade paper is its slight
imperfections, those little things that say "this sheet bears the mark of its
maker, not from a machine this sheet." But...but...I wanted pure, perfect,
white paper this time. Given the first three sheets I pulled, it was
pretty obvious that this wasn't going to happen, so I added just the smallest
pinch of Japanese knotweed pulp, just
enough so that it would be obvious that the inclusions were intentional.
The paper will do for what I wanted, but dang it, it isn't pure, perfect white.
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5-14-05 It's strange how involvement in one
field teaches lessons in yet another, totally different field. From
papermaking I've learned a lesson in gardening. A few years ago, I made
paper from some over-wintered iris leaves. The mold and mildew that
had formed on the leaves during the winter gave a lovely
gray shading to the paper.
Last fall, rather than clean the leaves out of the bed, I let them stay there
until this spring, thinking to gather them for paper this spring. What I
have learned is that you do NOT leave iris leaves to over-winter in the bed.
This spring, for the first time, I have a huge infestation of aphids and some
type of leaf-spot problem on the iris. This has never happened before, and
I have a feeling it is a direct result of the ground litter in the iris bed.
In the future, I'll gather the dead leaves in the fall and spread them under the
pines where they won't cause problems. **On an unrelated learning note,
I've acquired a new printer. I had run a Lexmark printer for many years
with no complaints until two years ago when I changed computers.
Unfortunately, the printer did not communicate perfectly with Windows XP.
It would work for most things, but it would not recognize custom size paper
sheets. That was bad news for a papermaker. New drivers didn't help
and Lexmark wouldn't offer technical support. I managed a few workarounds
that let me get by, but it was always a hassle. Still, the print quality
was perfect, and I hated to dump the printer just because of the odd-size
problem. A couple of weeks ago, the printer began streaking and skipping
and in a strange way, I was pleased. The perfect excuse to get rid of it
and acquire a new one. I picked up an HP 1200d small business printer on
sale, and so far, I'm well satisfied with both print quality and speed. The only
things that I find a little annoying are the length of time it takes to come
online when first turned on and the gyrations it goes through to set itself up. Kachunk... kachunk... ching/ching/ching... kachunk... bop/bop/bop... bing...
zert/zert... whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... MEEEEEEEP!
5-15-05 The weather turned rather cool after
yesterday's rain, blackberry winter, I suppose, and it made for a perfect day to
be outside. Late last year Berea's town council purchased some property to
house the municipal utilities, perhaps 10-12 acres. It definitely needed
exploring. Though most of the land is flat mowed grass, an edge of it
borders a creek, and this part is a veritable paradise of plants...bittersweet,
honeysuckle, pawpaw, ironweed, Joe-Pye weed, mulberry, dock...all manner of
wonderful things, at least from the papermaker's POV. The municipal
employees have cleared access to the creek in several places. There were
several pallets of rolled grass sod scattered about, and I suppose the plan is
to blanket these cleared spaces with grass and put in picnic tables. In
one of the access areas, several overhanging limbs on a mulberry had been
damaged and broken. I tried peeling the broken limbs that were on the
ground, but they had been off the tree too long. The ones that were
damaged but still attached to the tree peeled nicely. And while I was at
it, I harvested lowest, undamaged limbs, as well. These would have to be
cut by the utility employees so the area could be mowed, and the way I look at
it, I just saved them the trouble. (FWIW, I do have blanket permission
from the city manager to harvest on any property owned by Berea.) There is
a paved walking track around the perimeter of the property, and it is frequently
used by residents out for their daily exercise. Even though it was a
lovely Sunday afternoon, I hadn't seen a soul until about midway through
stripping the limbs. Three ladies, perhaps in their 70's, walked by and
stopped to ask what I was doing. I explained that I harvested plants and
made paper from them. "Well now, don't that go 'n beat all! I ain't
never hered of such a thang." Love it!
5-16-05 My day didn't go exactly as planned.
(Does it ever?) The morning was lost to grocery shopping and cooking.
This afternoon I gathered up a perfectly good laser printer we had that wouldn't
work on Windows XP, took it down to Rockcastle County and installed it on
Charlie's computer. (For those who don't know Charlie, she's a basketmaker
and dear friend.) We ended up drinking coffee and wasting the better part
of the afternoon down in her weaving shed. She and her husband, Louie,
have several hundred acres that adjoin the Daniel Boone National Forest.
The farm is steeply rolling to hilly, mostly wooded land with scattered open
fields. It's a great place to ride horseback and generally get lost in
nature. (Charlie brought me some donkey dung a few weeks ago, but I
haven't had time to do anything with it. Well, actually, I have had time,
but I'm waiting until my husband is away for a few days before I get into that
stuff. I'm a kind and considerate person.) A month or so ago,
Charlie went to visit her brother in Texas, and while she was there, she
gathered some plant material...long spiky leaves...to use weaving baskets.
Unfortunately, the stuff wasn't working out very well, and she offered it to me
for papermaking. Neither she nor I know what it is, but it definitely has
fiber. The leaves are about one and
one-half to two feet long, stiff, very narrow and needle sharp on the ends.
(I couldn't entice a cat into the picture, so the foot there for size
reference.) There are
threadlike fibers scattered along the leaves, especially at the bases.
I'm guessing that these are some kind of yucca. She said the plant had a
single spire of blooms similar to the yuccas that grow here. If anyone has
an idea of what this is, I'd appreciate a botanical name. I do know one
thing - it's a wicked, wicked plant. It's almost impossible to handle
the leaves without bringing blood, either from the needlelike ends or knifelike
sides of the leaves. [Note: This is likely
soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca). Thanks to Bert Comstock for the
5-17-05 The summer issue of
"Arts Across Kentucky"
magazine has just been released. Inside is a three page article about my
work and includes a poem the editor, Nancy Bronner, asked my husband to write
"about Gin's ways" (her words, not mine).
5-20-05 The Kentucky Guild Spring
Fair is this weekend, and I'll be AWOL from here doing volunteer work at the
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