What's new here?
8-4-06 Not a particularly auspicious
beginning to the month. We're in the midst of a heat wave with
temperatures in the mid to upper 90's. That's bad enough all by
itself, but earlier in the week, the pool sprang a leak and had to be shut
down until the fix-it folks can come locate the problem. That means no
swimming to cool off. Then day before yesterday the air conditioner
quit and it will be the 7th before the Lennox folks can get here.. Arrggghhhh!
Someone has asked me why I don't start a blog instead of journaling.
The main reason is that Gin's Place started as a simple website. It
wasn't until later, in 2001, that I added a journal, and this was before
blogs were popular. The thought didn't even occur to do it that way.
There would be several advantages to blogging instead of journaling now,
primarily the RSS feeds, but there would be no way to convert past entries
into that format. I would have to start fresh I'm not going to give up journaling here, but at
some point I may hedge my bets and start a blog that ties back to this site.
If I do, you can be sure you'll know about it.
August of 2001, on a lark, I made
paper from horse dung. While the
quality of pure dung paper isnít the best (horses arenít especially picky
about what they eat), it is interesting both in appearance and as a
curiosity for the weird source of papermaking fiber. Back then I took quite
a bit of ribbing for doing it, and it still comes back to haunt me
occasionally. Not long ago I received an email from Lauren, one of my
journal readers. She was doing horse dung paper as an art camp project, and
the process resulted in a rather unique discovery. I asked if I could share
her experience here and she agreed. Below is her email:
dear gin, hello! i am getting prepared to teach a
papermaking class next week. this will be the largest class that i have ever
taught, at thirty students, and they will all be rather high income kids
from a town about half an hour from me.
its an art camp, for teenagers, that focuses on nature and when they said
that i couldnt help but remember a journaling of yours that i had read two
years ago on horse dung paper. Really, it stuck with me.
as i was harvesting and rinsing it i wanted ten times to e-mail you with
questions and concerns; this was totally different that any other plant
fiber and i guess i was feeling a little insecure about doing it wrong.
it was a wonderful process, from taking my kids to see the horses and
collect manure to watching it rinse clean and become a sweet smelling grass.
well, sweet if you like earth. i tried your pillowcase technique (except i
stitched a rather large pillowcase from white muslin) and found that it
retained too much water. after finding a tightly woven metal basket i absent
mindedly discarded the muslin in a twisted pile and continued rinsing the
dung and cooking some other fibers for several hours. when i was done and
began cleaning up i realized that the white muslin had taken in the dark
olive color and because of the neglectful way it was laying for so long it
took on a tiedyed effect also, in different hues of green. i sew for income
and cant help but be pleased with unusual fabrics. does this sound
appalling? it is washed and laying out to dry, still strongly tinted and
awaiting its future life as a handsewn something.
i cant even tell you how pleased i am with this and all because of some
teenagers that i thought might enjoy some paper that's as natural as it
comes. handdyed fabric from horse dung, can i even tell people about this?
i'm not sure yet. thank you for the inspiration!
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8-9-06 If you're
interested in papermaking, I suggested that you check out the Yahoo
papermaking list. It's a wonderful resource full of helpful, friendly
people who can answer just about any question related to papermaking.
(An added plus is no flame wars...period.) Great group. To sign
up, you can visit the homepage at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/papermaking or you can send an email
firstname.lastname@example.org. **Someone on that
group asked about making paper from corn husks, whether the fiber would make
paper on its own or whether it needed another, supporting fiber. While
corn husks will make paper on their own, it's a quirky fiber. Because
of that, I'm not sure I would recommend it for beginning papermakers.
There definitely is enough fiber in the husks, but there is also a great
deal of non-fibrous mush (which I call gunk, because that's the way of think
of it). This fiberless material is the reason corn shuck paper cockles
so much. Rinsing out as much of the gunk as possible will improve the
quality of the paper and reduce the tendency toward cockling. It's
possible to remove almost all of it by cooking the husks, just partially
beating them (either by hand or running briefly through a blender), then
rinsing and straining the pulp through a wire strainer. The open weave
of the strainer allows the gunk to escape, yet retains the fibers.
Paint strainer bags are useless for this purpose because the fine mesh
prevents the gunk from escaping. Once you have eliminated as much of
the gunk as possible, you can continue to beat or blend the fibers to the
consistency you want for your paper. If you want
highly fibrous paper such as
this, only beat or blend briefly. If you want a
smoother, less textural paper
such as this, you would probably need to use a Hollander beater.
It might be possible to do this with a blender, but it probably wouldn't be
time/labor effective. Another interesting thing you can do is to dye
the corn husk fibers. Cook, partially beat and rinse the husks well,
then use dye according to directions. After dyeing, these fibers can
then be added, without additional beating, to other pulps to create highly
colorful and figured papers.
8-10-06 Got a call from the Artisan
Center. Seems a signature in one of the Traveler's Journals that I
sell to them was bound in upside down and they wondered if I could pick it
up and fix it. No big problem, it's easily done, but I'm surprised it
was only one signature of the three. A couple of years ago, I bound a
whole Papermaker's Season upside down, and that was a casebound book with
six signatures and 96 pages. No fixing that one. I discovered it
when I opened the book to put the swatches in. I must have been in a
perverse mood that day because I went right ahead and pasted in the
swatches. The book sits on my shelf as a reminder to to keep my mind
on my business. Not working very well, is it?
8-11-06 I'll say
it again...I have never tried anything as challenging or as frustrating as
watercolor. (We'll not count playing the banjo or shooting pool,
neither of which I mastered, and both of which I had the good sense to put
behind me.) I am beginning to grasp the meaning behind some of the
things I've read and been told about watercolor, but grasping and executing
are two different matters. Still, with every picture I paint, I'm
feeling a little more confident, a little more in control. Of course,
with every picture I paint, I find more places to make errors, perhaps
because I'm pushing, trying to do more than I'm able. Right now, I'm
not trying to create lovely pictures. Instead, I'm painting things I
know, things from nature, such as this picture of
I'm satisfied with some aspects, and terribly dissatisfied with others,
primarily the background and perspective. Still, this was an exercise.
In this case, it was "what if" I use this to create the bark on a tree...and
I found out what if. Won't try that again, at least not on such a
large scale. (As an aside, you don't know how difficult it is for me
to share this learning experience. I'm a solid, professional level
artisan in four fields. My feet are firmly underneath me with those.
With watercolor, I'm a dead flat novice, and I'm on shaky ground. It's
hard not being proficient at what I'm doing, and it's even harder sharing
8-23-06 I've been busy.
Unfortunately, most of the things that have kept me busy weren't things
you'd want to read about, so no journaling. I do have a project
coming up that I think is going to be interesting. I'll be working
with a couple who are photographers. They want to take their
business in a different direction by using handmade paper for printing
their digital photographs. They know photography. I know
paper. We're going to try to merge what we know into a viable
product. I will be teaching them how to make a quality paper, and
in the process, I may learn something about photography, at least the
printing end of it. It should be fun.
didn't get back into watercolor until yesterday. In searching
around for something to paint, I thought about Sherry Chandler, one of
my favorite Kentucky poets. She has
a profile picture on her blog that would allow me to try a portrait,
yet avoid having to do eyes. (Hey, I'm a coward. Even though
I've never done a portrait before, I know eyes are difficult,
particularly in a small painting, and I'm not ready to tackle them yet.)
The painting isn't perfect, but I think I managed
Sherry's likeness well enough
that someone who knew her might recognize her from the painting.
(BTW, I hope you'll take a minute to browse through
She runs the gamut...from poetry to politics to pets to fun things in
everyday life. I've known her more years than I care to admit.
She's one very special person, one I didn't mind picking to be the first
subject.) I am having a great deal of trouble forcing myself to
put enough paint on the paper and as a result, the paintings are washed
out...way too light. Nearly everything I've done is that way
unless I make a concerted effort. I know part of it is fear that
I'll get too much on the paper. This is evident even in the
painting I did a while back of the false turkeytail mushrooms.
It's dark enough, but I became afraid to put shading and shadows in.
So, while I had the paints out today, I took
that picture, killed
some of the background clutter, darken the background and reworked the
shadows, hoping to
it some of the depth that was missing. It does look better.
8-25-06 Honest, I am a good-hearted person with the best of
intentions, but sometimes things just don't work out the way I
envisioned. Not long ago, I found a sphinx moth in the enclosed
back porch, a victim of Caesar's late night hunting, I'm certain.
He was fluttering around, basically unharmed. Okay, I caught him
and released him out the backdoor. Fine, except he didn't even
make it to my neighbor's yard before a cardinal caught him mid-air.
So much for that good deed, at least as far as the moth was concerned.
Now, this morning I happened to be outside when I heard a plop in the
pool. It was a mile jumper. He was thoroughly enjoying the
water, frogging around, bobbing up and down, as frogs are wont to do,
but since there's no way out, he would drown if left there. Being
the kind, good-hearted person that I am (have I mentioned that before?),
I got the strainer and pole and fished him out...twice. First time
he leaped from the net, hit me in the chest, pushed off and landed back
in the pool. Well, duh. Second time, I was a bit faster and
quickly flipped the net so he landed well away from the pool...right in
front of Caesar, who had come out to see what I was up to. Now,
they've gone off together to play somewhere. I'm not sure whether
this qualifies as a frying pan/fire thing or not. Maybe not.
Caesar tends to tire of his playmates before they expire, so there is
8-26-06 I had planned on going to
Zoe Speak's Clear Creek Festival this evening, but got up with a
sore throat, stuffy nose and running a low grade fever. Didn't
feel all that bad, but didn't figure the night air would do me any good.
8-27-06 A few years ago, my husband and I did a cross Canyon hike
from the north rim to the south. To say it was an experience would
be an understatement. Between the heat and the incline, those
thirty some-odd miles were the most grueling I've ever walked. The
last few steps coming out of the Canyon and looking back where we'd come
from, I realized we had done something that few other people have,
relatively speaking. And if pride is a sin, I was a true sinner.
I didn't retire my boots, but they've had little use since. Most
walking I do doesn't require extreme ankle support, so I hike in softer,
lighter weight, suede boots. The heavier Canyon boots sit on the
top shelf of the closet, I suppose as a reminder of our past travels.
This morning I got them down and, ahem,
immortalized them in watercolor.
(I know...trite subject matter, but hey, I'm still caught up in the
sinful pride of hiking accomplishment.) As usual, I blew the
picture. (Pray tell, when comes the point when I can be sinfully
proud of a watercolor?) I'm reasonably satisfied with the boots,
but I blew it with the background. I forgot the shadow. Did
the 'cart before the horse' thing. It would have been so easy to
wash it in before I ever started on the boots, but no...I was too intent
on getting to the meat of the picture. I think it would be
possible to put the shadow in now if I'm careful, but I'm scared of
leaving drying lines..
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