Participant at ‘The More We Get Together’, Artist with gallery visitor at the hand-papermaking station, 2015
What’s currently topical in the handmade paper world? Projects and artists that explore alternative, local fibers for papermaking. These are paper projects that often connect with broader circles, from community organizations to environmental agencies.
Hand papermaking allows an artist to take ownership of their materials. Choosing a fiber for paper pulp, making handmade paper, creating the final form—papermaking is a mutable art medium that allows for a multitude of options. When used in interdisciplinary manner, the process can be a way to add context, content, and meaning to an art piece.
Patrick Blenkarn is a Canadian artist based in Vancouver who recently created Soliloquy in English, a performance piece about English as a second language. It uses a rich combination of materials: words spoken aloud, a book containing varied experiences, and paper handmade from a secondhand dictionary.
Josh Monroe, Staccato Prints: Green/Blue Woodblock and handmade paper, 3.5″ by 3.5″, 2015
It’s a wild, wide world of potential for hand papermaking, especially when paired with other art-making mediums. Paper pulp itself has a huge variety of capabilities, including a remarkable memory suited for casting.
Let’s take a quick look at work by Josh Monroe, an artist who combines printmaking (relief woodcuts) and papermaking.
Hand papermaking conventionally relies on three elements: vat, fiber, screen (click over to the basic handmade paper tutorial if you’re not familiar with the process).
A deckle box combines the vat and screen elements into a single piece of equipment, and holds enough water and pulp for a single sheet—no vat required! This alternative temporarily builds up the walls of your mould and deckle.
Hand papermaking offers a colorful lexicon full of terms like kiss, hog, and slurry (obviously a favorite of ours). One term that often gets an eyebrow raise is couching (pronounced ‘coo-ching’), the term papermakers use to describe transferring a newly formed sheet of paper from the mould to the felts.
Click through to learn the history of this term and how to seal objects between wet sheets of paper!