Thursday, August 30, 2012

Leafy paste papers

Just for fun, the next time you're making paste paper, use some leaves! Here's one that I did, pressing a leaf into the paint. I think it turned out great!

I used a small leaf on this paper. I just used the same leaf over and over, until I covered the whole sheet. It was quite a large sheet of paper, this is just one corner of it.

I did another sheet with a large fern too, that also worked well. I know it's been done before, but it was new for me!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guest Blogger Sandra Anible, Decorating Handmade Paper

Sandra Anible is a book artist living in Madison, Wisconsin. I met her at PBI in May 2011, when she was a PBI participant and one of the lucky scholarship students who was on hand to help keep PBI running smoothly. Sandra also wrote for my blog about one of the other PBI 2011 classes, making conservation enclosures with Denise Carbone. This time she has written a review of Bridget O'Malley's paper-making class, also from PBI 2011. Thanks for sharing your class experiences with us, Sandra!

At the 2011 Paper Book Intensive, Bridget O'Malley taught a class that featured several creative methods for decorating freshly couched handmade paper. O'Malley is co-partner with Amanda Degener of Cave Paper ( in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She first taught us how to create sheets of handmade paper using both cotton and abaca fibers. After we became comfortable with the Western method of pulling sheets, she provided instruction on how to screen-print pulp onto the handmade paper.

Some of the papers made in this class:

The method entailed painting a piece of stretched polyester fabric using Speedball drawing fluid. After flooding the fabric with Speedball screen filler, the water soluble drawing fluid resisted the non-water soluble screen filler, and the painted image was washed away with water after the screen filler dried. This created a means by which the imagery would be screen-printed onto the newly made paper using a finely beaten, pigmented pulp.

We then used our xacto knives to cut pieces of mylar film in order to create stencils. A mylar stencil could be placed over a freshly couched sheet of paper, and pigmented pulp could be applied over the stencil in order to make creative, editionable papers.

Blocks of Easy Cut were made available, as were relief cutting tools. We were encouraged to cut designs into the blocks for impressing into the handmade paper during the pressing and drying processes.

A few more papers made in this class:

These and other techniques were all employed for the grande finale--a class-wide portfolio exchange. Each member of the class was given the creative freedom to make an edition of papers using any combination of the techniques that had been taught. For a celebration of the anniversary of Hand Papermaking, an exhibit of one of these portfolios was later displayed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Throughout the class, Andrea Peterson ( was on hand for management of the studio space and work flow among the students - necessary because our class was highly prolific, churning out collections of paper that kept Andrea busy, and kept the dryer full for the duration of the class. Our collections overflowed the show-and-tell table at the end of the week!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Blogger Erin Sweeney, In Emulation of Books

Erin Sweeney is an artist living and working in New Hampshire. Her current work combines fibers, text, and the book form. She is interested in all forms of building, be it conceptual or physical. Making handmade objects, manipulating space, and utilizing printmaking processes in non-traditional ways are all a part of Sweeney’s vocabulary. Be sure to visit her website: I had the great fortune of meeting Erin at PBI this year and she graciously agreed to share a little report on one of her classes.

“Follow your instruction sheets!” Mindy Dubansky’s mantra to us during In Emulation of Books: The History of Objects in Book Form class at PBI this past May. I’m here to vouch for those instructions. I did this project again recently with the fine conservation department at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, and the instruction sheets were working quite well.

Jumping immediately into our Shaped Boxes, as it was imperative to have the first layers dry for the next day, there was no time for introductions or other bothersome chatting. Working from the inside of the box out, we started with marbled (or other decorative paper) and cut it to size, based on the size of our form. After wrapping our custom shaped length of 2’ x 4’ form (sanded on one side to imitate a book spine) with wax paper, we wrapped our marbled paper around, facing in. (The author struggled with paring paper edges, but that’s another story.) Next, we took strips of Bugra, made by Hahnemühle, and dampened and pasted these strips. We wrapped and wrapped our forms, slowly and carefully.

Erin's finished book-shaped container:

It was a mental mind-bender to understand we were working from the inside out, so the next steps needed to just be done and not over-analyzed—and we successfully planned where our lids would be, making jigs so we’d remember later. After adding spacer layers, more decorative paper to line the inside of the case, and the little gap that would let us know where to stop cutting later, we wrapped more Bugra around the form, for a total of 12 wraps.

After setting our forms in a hot room to dry more quickly overnight, the next morning we were ready to cut. We trimmed the tops and bottoms and cut the whole box down to that little gap that we left (gasp!), slid them off our forms, sanded, and got ready to make the tops and bottoms—very simple, it turns out, as we traced our tops and bottoms onto Museum board, cut them out, and then cut out two more small pieces to be glued on for insets. I was expecting a monumental feat of measuring with complicated tools, and was relieved to find that we were simply tracing!

Finishing these cases took the most time—and I discovered first-hand the delightful camouflaging qualities of marbled paper. More sanding, gluing on strips of leather on the spine to imitate bands, applying the leather spine over the bands, and finishing the outside and top and bottom of the case came next.

Several of the 'blooks' made in this class:

The highly finished look of this piece is marvelous, as is the delight in imagining all of the things you could wrap paper around to make your own shaped objects—when trying this again at Dartmouth, I made the Scroll Case instead of the Shaped Box. It is slightly easier to wrap, and less finicky to finish. We used heavy cardboard tubes instead of PVC pipe, and they worked well.

Mindy’s passion is “blooks”—book shaped objects and their history. Her personal collection and depth of knowledge is impressive and she was more than ready to share. Her slide show reflected well the depth and breadth of her knowledge. Additionally, Mindy’s extensive materials list, tool hints and tricks of the trade were most appreciated. Recently on the Book Arts listserv, she sent out instructions on how to make “A Successful Ball Point Water Pen, Recycled.” Perfect! She lists in succinct detail exactly how to do this. I want to make one just because she sent out the instructions, and I don’t even need a Successful Water Pen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guest Blogger Margaret Braun, Printing with natural dyes

Time for another guest writer and another PBI class. Margaret Braun is an artist in Edmonton, Alberta who has been to PBI three times, and last year was my roommate. This year she was in a class that I think would have been really fun, making dyes with natural and easily obtainable materials. Margaret has agreed to share a little bit about it here on my blog.

Stirring and Stirring and Stirring the Brew...

You may wonder, why bother using natural dyes?

Well, in a course at Paper & Book Intensive (PBI) 2012 entitled, "DIY Screen Printing with Natural Dyes and Materials" with Denise Bookwalter we found out! What fun it was!

Seemingly alive, the organic inks reflect the light in interesting ways. The subtle colours seem to harmonize with each other. One-of-a-kind colours become more mellow, softer, and more beautiful with the passage of time. There is something primitively satisfying about picking weeds and re-routing them into your dye pot to make something useful.

A couple of Margaret's prints from the class:

Concerns for the well-being of our planet can promote avenues for an alternative resource to printing. Vegetable-sourced colours do represent a realistic alternative -- using berries, leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, bark and insects. A mordant (we used alum) can help the dye colour become permanent.

The screen-printing process offers artists a way to produce multiples without the investment of a press and other large apparatus. The basic equipment consists of the screen (a wooden frame with a fine-mesh fabric stretched over it) and the squeegee. This is a rubber blade set in a handle with which the organic ink is pulled across a prepared photo-based screen. The mesh transmits an even coat of ink which adheres to the paper below the screen.

Basic Ink Recipe:
  • bring water to a boil in a pot over a stove burner
  • add plant matter of your choice (chop or break apart plant fibres) and stir occasionally
  • turn down the burner to simmer until you get the desired strength of colour - stir
  • strain
  • add mordant into the coloured liquid until dissolved - of course, stirring
  • sprinkle starch into the pot as you would when making gravy - more stirring
  • continue simmering until ink becomes the consistency of a thick gravy - continue stirring
  • remove from stove and let ink cool - stop stirring
Remember: Not all natural plant materials are safe to use. Search your local library for books or the internet for advice.

Natural dyestuffs produce unique colours that may vary widely from dye lot to dye lot. The temperature, growing soil, cooking times, volume of matter and other elements will cause variations. Most natural dyes are soft shades that reflect the natural world around us -- greens, yellows, blue, browns, grey, soft rose, peach, deep burgundies and a range of violets. Whether it is from the garden, grocery store or the other side of the road you will be sure to discover amazing colours! Most of all, experiment and enjoy your journey of your own personal discovery on a road of many colours!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Nova Scotia, book of photographs

I have always called it an "open edition" but this is the last available copy. I made ten of these, with the intention of making more at some time. I suppose that time is now, but I'm not going to make any more like this.

This is a small book, with official Nova Scotia tartan on the cover and it contains a set of my photographs taken of Nova Scotia's rural and coastal areas. It is a hardcover pamphlet structure.

This last copy is now available on Etsy.

I continue to save my favorite photographs of Nova Scotia landscapes so I have a whole new batch of photos that could be used for something like this. Perhaps I'll have to consider designing "Volume 2" of the Nova Scotia book.