5-4-06 - Thoroughly enjoyed
Lisa the past few days. (Dave is from New York and Lisa is from
Australia. Each has a unique accent, and surprise, my Southern
ears actually understood both of them!) We spent two days wandering
all over Madison County, with a couple of forays into Rockcastle and Jackson
Counties, as well. We visited
Jeff and Sarah at Tater
Knob Pottery, Janet/Charlie Northern (who does delightful baskets but
has no Web presence), and nearly every shop in Berea, some of them twice.
Lisa was particularly impressed by
Kentucky Artisan Center. Tuesday night we all went to Hall's on
the River for dinner ("A Kentucky
Tradition for over 200 Years"). Hall's, as its name states, is on the
Kentucky River, which has a tradition of its own. The river floods
regularly, and because Hall's is so close to the water and so low, the
restaurant is flooded just as regularly. That doesn't deter the
owners. They make use of
depth statistics in a delightful way. That is ground floor.
There is a banquet hall downstairs and the flood stage records extend right
on down. No way to get a picture of the entire chart. Just so
you'll know, the food is better than decent and the atmosphere is worth the
5-5-06 - Some time ago, I designed
a book targeted specific at people
who travel. It has a handmade paper cover and commercial text blocks
on which I have printed various travel related quotes. It also has
room for the owner's own scribblings. I've been marketing these and
some small baskets through the Artisan Center, and sales have been good.
While I was out there earlier in the week, the director ordered both books
and baskets, so I've been working on the books today. There are two
different covers - hickory and a mixed tail-end-of-the-year paper that has
daylily inclusions. Both papers will hold up well to wear and tear.
As for the baskets, yesterday I had a doctor's appointment, so I started one to take with
me so I would have something to do during the interminable wait.
Finished weaving it this evening.
5-8-06 Crazy spring weather this year.
In early April, we had a few days in the mid to upper 80's. Now it's
May, and we're having some days when the temperature doesn't even reach 60.
Given that I'm a warm weather person, this is miserable. I stay drawn
up in a knot, unmotivated to do much of anything. I did finish up
five baskets for the Artisan
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5-11-06 I will be teaching a
Coptic bookbinding class next month in Lexington. Students will be
creating their own covers in the morning, then Coptic binding six signatures
into a book in the afternoon using covers that I have created beforehand.
(Because of drying time, it isn't possible to use the ones created in the
morning.) Because we only have four hours class time, in addition to
creating the afternoon covers, I've opted to
cut all the covers to save that much time. So, today I cut
covers from heavy binder's board. I had forgotten just how much fun
this can be. (Reread that with the proper amount of sarcasm, please.)
I will be covering half of these, enough for eleven books, with handmade
mulberry and hickory paper. This combination, along with a couple of
ginkgo leaves, yields a lovely book cover.
Now, I just need to get some decent weather to cook/beat/pull the paper to
create the covers.
Back to the top
5-18-06 It has been a cold, wet spring
here, and until now, I haven't even considered breaking out the papermaking
equipment. A couple of weeks ago, just about the time it began to warm
up and I could think about it, a low formed over the Great Lakes. For
the last week or ten days it has been circulating cold air, clouds and rain
down over Kentucky, and the temperature two days never even reached 50.
Definitely not conducive to papermaking. However, it appears now that
the low is either weakening or is moving out. Today's forecast was for
the 60's and sunshine, so last night I put some hickory in to soak. I
truly love hickory bast for paper. While the fibers aren't as super
fine as, say mulberry or abaca, they are quite fine enough for a nice,
smooth sheet, consistent in size and create a wonderfully strong paper.
The bast that I begin with comes to me as
scraps. I cut this into 1"
lengths, soak overnight and cook in a stainless steel pot for 3.5 hours in
lye. (As an side, the pot I use most often fhas
a glass lid. I can highly
recommend this type pot cover. It allows for monitoring at a glance,
and this has prevented boil overs for me more than once.) After
cooking, the hickory is placed in a paint strainer bag and thoroughly hosed,
squished, rinsed and squished again, until all the chemicals and impurities
are removed. The impact of the water actually begins to
break the hickory apart.
Once rinsed, I work my hands through the mass of fibers, squeezing and
feeling to find any pieces of bast that are firmer than others.
Usually there will be five or ten of these. They're thicker than the
rest and I'm assuming that they come from the section of the tree nearer the
base. While these are fully cooked, they have not come apart under the
pressure of the hose, and must be
pulled apart by hand. (Pardon the dirty fingernail, but that's to
be expected when you work with a dye fiber.) I could leave these
pieces whole, but they usually create problems in the beater. Dealing
with them beforehand prevents that. I cooked about a quarter pound
more hickory bast than I intend to beat. At some point, I'll beat some
abaca and add this hickory to the last few minutes of beating. The
result is a lovely pulp of fully beaten abaca with delicate swirls of
partially beaten hickory throughout it.
Kentucky Guild Spring Fair begins tomorrow in Berea. If you're in
the area, stop by and check out the artisans. I'm not exhibiting this
spring, but I'll be around taking pictures and visiting with friends.
**It's still cold in the mornings, so it was this afternoon before I filled
the beater. Well cooked hickory beats like a dream. After it has
made one round, there is no standing around stirring to encourage
circulation. It takes care of that on its own. Thank you!
(There is nothing I hate more than processing a fiber that sinks to the
bottom.) Total beating time is about 3-4 hours.
Back to the top
5-21-06 Beat a load of abaca, pulled about
half of it out to use for other things, then added the unbeaten hickory I
had saved a few days ago and beat it for about five more minutes, enough to
break the hickory into heavy strands. Before I emptied the beater, I
pulled a couple of test sheets to make sure it would look the way I wanted.
I have done this particular paper before and love it. There is more
hickory in this sheet than I
intended, but it's fine. I wasn't trying to match what I'd done
5-23-06 For several years I've wanted to
try lilac bast. Each spring I've trimmed a few stray branches off our
lilac to keep it from taking over my flowerbed, and the bark seemed to peel
easily enough. The bast looked interesting, but I never had enough to
make cooking it up for paper worthwhile. Last year must have been a
banner year for lilacs. There were sprouts everywhere in my flowerbed,
and the larger limbs were bowing over the bed, shading the flowers.
Time for a major trim back and finally a chance to try the lilac bast.
And in doing this, I broke one of my cardinal rules - only harvest and work
up small amounts of unknown fibers just in case they don't pan out.
The limbs had already past the stage of easy peeling, so they had to be
cut to pot size and steamed, adding an
unplanned step to the process.
stripped beautifully once steamed, with the added advantage that the
bark slipped off the bast without a problem. Nice.
Unfortunately, only the larger, older branches (3-4 years old) produced
enough bast to make stripping worthwhile. I had far more small, 1 to
2-year-old branches than I did the larger ones, and I did strip a few of
those, but out of pity for my fingernails, I quit after a short while.
This cut way down on the amount of bast I thought I would have, but as it
turned out, stopping was a wise decision. Standard procedure is to
cook unknown fibers in soda ash, then if that doesn't break them down, move
on to lye. 2.5 hours in soda ash did nothing to the lilac bast.
The long fibers were still far too tough to pull apart. No problem.
I just switched to lye. However, after 3 hours more in lye, they
really didn't feel much different. Hmmmm.... I didn't think
cooking longer would improve the situation any, so I rinsed the bast and ran
a handful through the blender.
was the result after 45 seconds. In some ways, the heavy
individual strands remind me of hollyhock bast after it has been cooked and
washed, but not beaten or blended. And hollyhock does make an
excellent paper, but it won't work in a blender; it has to be beaten.
It may be possible to make paper from lilac bast (and I stress
"may"), but it looks like it is a Hollander fiber, not something that can be
done in a blender. I had quite a bit of the cooked fiber, but it
really wasn't enough to run through the beater. I can use it as an
inclusion, but there really isn't enough color or character to the fiber to
make that sound appealing. I think I just wasted an afternoon.
Back to the top
5-25-06 For me, there is a certain
satisfaction about making something from nothing, or rather, I should say,
making something from a material that is otherwise useless. It's not
the money angle, I don't think, and it's not always the "waste not, want
not" bit, because much of the material I use isn't even mine initially.
It's someone else's scraps or trash. Take, for instance, the hickory
that Kathi Pruett gave me
yesterday. She works at the Artisan Center, but in her spare time
she re-bottoms chairs.
Kathi asked the other day if I would like the hickory that came out of the
bottom of 100-year-old settee that she was reworking.
The hickory is dark and brittle,
and whether it will work for paper is something I don't know, but it will be
cooked and tried next week. With this material and if it works, I like
the idea that it will have yet another life, that it won't be tossed into a
trash bin and sent to a landfill.
5-26-06 Today's project was the front
covers for the Coptic book I'll be teaching June 10th at the
League. I did the back covers a few days ago from plain hickory,
but I wanted something more for the front of the book. Last fall I
gathered and pressed ginkgo leaves with no particular purpose in mind, but
they seemed perfect for the front of this book. I planned to sandwich
those between a base sheet of hickory and an overcoat of super thin
mulberry, so yesterday I cut up up a small batch of
mulberry bast from some I had
harvested last May down
alongside the creek. I cooked it for around an hour and a half in soda
ash, then ran it through a blender for a few seconds. (Don't cringe.
I know handbeating is preferred, but my shoulder rejected the idea of
wielding a mallet for twenty or thirty minutes. It said, "Blender,
yes, definitely the blender.") The blender created
a lovely, creamy pulp
of super fine fibers. There are two sides to handmade paper -
a top and a bottom - and sometimes there is a vast difference in appearance
between the two. This is especially true for hickory. The bottom
side of the sheet - the side that is against the screen - is always darker
than the top. Normally this makes no difference when pulling and
pressing because I have the option later of determining which side to use
for a project. This time was a little different. When the sheets
are couched, the bottom side (the side which had been against the screen) is
up. If there had been an easy option for switching sides, I would
probably have done it, but as it turned out, the darker side worked well.
I pulled a 8.5"x11" sheet, placed two ginkgo leaves on it slightly off of
center (I'll explain that later), then pulled a super fine sheet of mulberry
using the mould without the deckle and couched that over the first sheet.
After these were pressed and dried, I mounted the sheet on bookboard and
trimmed the excess, leaving 1/2" around the sides to paste down.
Because the ginkgo leaves were offset, there was a wide strip of excess
paper on one side. I used that, reversed so the hickory showed rather
than the mulberry, as a binder's strip on the right. This is the
book cover before anything else was done.
From past experience with mulberry, I know that waxing thin layers will make
them seem to disappear. I melted a mixture of beeswax and paraffin and
coated both sides, then wiped off the excess. I'm well pleased with
the way the waxed cover looks. (I
use a mixture of the waxes because of pure beeswax's affinity for dirt.
This book was covered with about a quarter beeswax and three quarters
paraffin by volume, rough estimate.)
5-28-06 Whenever I'm writing instructions
for a class, there is always an uncertainty about how much information to
include in written material. Some of it truly isn't necessary to
complete the specific project, but is simply informative (such as why
a specific step is done a certain way). That information may be
helpful to someone who has a certain mastery level, but including it may
actually create confusion or, worse, participant paranoia for beginning
bookbinders. Too, there are always the steps that are done slightly
differently for those who are starting out because it is easier to teach,
easier to do. How much of that do I explain? I know for the
Coptic class there is one participant who has some binding experience.
Today I went back over the existing instructions I had with all of the above
in mind. I'll set these aside for a few days, then look back over
them. (It's amazing how the distance of time can make errors or
omissions jump off the page.)
5-30-06 There is something terribly,
terribly wrong with our society. (No, I'm not turning this into a
socio-economic-political journal. Merely registering two complaints.)
Today I was in a restaurant and on the menu, listed under beverages were
these two entries: Milk $.75 and Bottled water $1.50. Excuse me!
A serving of water costs more than a serving of milk. No wonder dairy
farmers go out of business. The other complaint is more directly
related to the craft end of this journal. Because of the number of
participants in the Coptic class, today I purchased a second Dremel tool.
Because it will only be used for drilling, I opted for the version with the
fewest extra components, the one that cost $20. For that, I got the
tool, a charger, a collet and five or six sanding/cutting attachments.
Fine. But when I got home I discovered that I would need a smaller
collet to fit the 1/16" drill bit we would be using. Went back to the
hardware store and found that, for this $20 tool, an extra set of collets
cost $8. My husband said "stocking fee." I say "rip off."