Thursday, April 22, 2010

Workshop at Trapeze

I was in Bangalore recently, teaching at Srishti School of Art, Design and Techonology.
I had one day off in the middle of the week, and that's the day I took a workshop at Trapeze. A design studio in Koramangala.

Colourful workstations!

Demo-ing the glueing

Cutting covers

Happy Sybil with her books!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Golden Kon'nyaku Workshop

I was recently in the Philippines, in a tiny village called Poking, overnight from Manila. After two straight days of traveling I finally arrived.
Poking is a small village of 40 houses. Pretty much everyone in the village is related and some have been around for more than 60 years. The work day would begin at 7 am. After a heavy breakfast we would work till 10 am, at which time we would break for tea. Then we would work till noon and break for a light lunch. Mr. Shimura's wife made sure I was well-fed on all the veggies she could possibly find. The main dishes were served dry, with a bowl of red rice. It was a healthy diet. After lunch we would work until 3 pm at which point there would be more tea to drink followed by more work and dinner and 7 pm. After this long day, all you wanted to do was sleep. I would be in bed by 8.30 ready to wake up again at the crack of dawn.

Day One
We beat Saba fiber in the Hollander beater for two hours. We also beat some fiber by hand so that we could pull some papers that had the long hand beaten fibers.
(I will be uploading some illustrations of the entire process soon)
At this point, it is important to mention that the village was facing a water problem. So, we pulled small sheets, which required much less water. To wash the fiber after cooking, we walked down the mountain until we reached the source where the village gets its water from. A small pipe with a narrow stream of water. We hauled buckets of water back uphill. These would be used for the entire duration of the workshop.

We also hand beat some New Zealand flax fiber that had already been cooked. These would be later beaten in the Naginata Beater - a beater used for separating long fibers.

Walk to work at sunrise

Saba Banana extracted fibre

Cooking Saba Banana

Saba after cooking

Dispersing Saba into the Hollander

Hand beating New Zealand Flax fiber

Breaking apart the flax fibers by hand after beating

Day Two
On the second day, we pulled sheets out of the Saba that had been beaten the previous day for 2 hours in the Hollander. We also pulled some sheets out the of the hand beaten Saba using the western sheet forming technique. We used a beautiful mould and deckle that Mr. Shimura had been using for the past 35 years.
The paper was then couched and pressed using a 30 ton hydraulic pump. After a few hours, we used a brayer to transfer the sheets from the felt to the wall, where they dried overnight.
We also mixed mesured quantities of Kon'nyaku with mordant and natural dyes. We used, Cochineal powder, that comes from the female cochineal insect and gives a bright red; Japanese Indigo; Achote powder that gives an orange; Alnus that comes from a tree and gives a dark brown; Walnut that also gives a brown; Logwood powder that gives a lighter brown; and Gold dust.
We then brushed large sheets of beautiful Kozo, Gampi, Pina and Saba with Kon'nyaku paste. The brushing has to be done in one smooth motion with a large flat brush. It was hard!

Sheet Formation

The mould and deckle

Mr. Shimura transferring the paper

Kon'nyaku Plant. The Konjac powder is extracted from the dried tuber of this plant.

The tuber. 1 year old tuber (left) and 4 year old tuber.

Konjac/Kon'nyaku Powder. On mixing with a measured quantity of water, this plant extract becomes jelly like. It gives paper wet strength, and was used as a dye base in this workshop.

Carefully measuring out the Konjac

A measured quantity of Gold dust.

Aiko mixing old and smelly Cochineal power with Konjac.

The dyes mixed and ready to be used

Brushing Kon'nyaku onto the sheets.

Day Three
On the third day, we removed the sheets of paper from the walls with a sense of extreme satisfaction. Saba looks so beautiful when its dried. We also pulled out the Kon'nyaku form the formica boards. We then pasted the other side, and began painting with the dyes. The consistency was thick, and so one could carve out patterns onto the paper. When certain dyes were mixed they sometime reacted with one another to form a different colour or texture.
Later in the day, we took a break and beat some New Zealand flax fiber in the Naginata beater. We would pull sheets from this the next day.

Pulling the Kon'nyaku off with Kenji, Mr. Shimura's son.


Joey creating beautiful prints with the Kojac.

Paintings drying in the sun.

Beating New Zealand Flax fiber in the Naginata Beater.

Day Four
On the fourth day, we pulled large sheets of New Zealand flax fiber from the left over water in Mr. Shimura's large cemented vat. We added some quantities of Tororo-aoi (muscellage) to this and pulled papers with a large western-style mould and deckle. Between these, we placed a wet Sha, made of organza. This would make the paper thinner. This also meant that we could only pull one sheet per
Sha. The weight of the mould and deckle can be shared with the edge of the vat. That way, its easier to disperse the pulp without being hampered by its weight. After two or three pulls each time, the deckle is removed carefully and hung on a hook above the vat. All the water is then drained from the mould which is held at an angle. The mould is then carefully aligned to the post, over which it is then laid.
At this point, we put all our weight on to the mould in order to squeeze the water out.
We invented a Poking style Yoga!
The post was then pressed overnight.

Mr. Shimura pulling a sheet

Taking a closer look

Removing the deckle

Letting the water drip drip drip

Aligning the mould


Joey doing some Poking-style Yoga/Couching


Day Five
On the fifth day, we removed the sheets from the press and brayed them onto the walls.
I also worked on a personal project, making miniature books from the Flax (which I was later told are 0.1" too big to be considered miniature). Later in the day, Mr. Shimura showed us how to make Shifu, or paper thread out of Pina paper. A long process requiring alot of skill. The threads are then woven, soaked and stretched, to create fabric that can then be worn.

Removing any fibers from the edges of the Sha after pressing

Pasting the sheets onto the wall with a brayer to dry

Local Pina (Pinapple)

Mr. Shimura rolling some pina paper to make Shifu (paper thread)

Separating the 'threads' before repeating the rolling

The rolling is done on a wooden surface to ensure friction

The finished Shifu. The ends are then torn into half-moons and worked in to make a seamless string

Mr. Shimura's portrait by Joey in Golden Kon'nyaku

Kami Nabe : Paper Cooking. Dinner prepared on the last day by Mr. Shimura and Ms. Andrea

In my second week, we took a road trip to the Mountain Province. Everyday we visited a new magical place. What follow are images from our travels.

Hopao Rice Terraces

Walking towards our hotel in Hopao

Farming carrots

Grinding for Gold

Delicious South African meal cooked by Mr. Shimura

Joey at BenCab museum

The Anthurium. Set up by Ms. Andrea's brother and looked after by his family

The group wearing Shifu jackets. I feel like this picture could be an old black and white picture taken way back when

Local lemon

Ben Cab and Joey at the museum

A collapsed bridge after the typhoon a few years ago

Susanne after harvesting some Golden Cocoons

Cow jaw bones

Orchids growing at Mr. Shimura's