Monday, December 30, 2013

Paper Sculpture with Matthew Shlian

This summer I went to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. It is a beautiful and wonderful place for creative work. This was my third time there in the capacity of a TA to Matthew Shlian for his Paper Sculpture class.

The forest surrounds the campus

The trees lead out onto the rocky beaches and the ocean

The unreal sunsets made each evening complete

Matthew was a wonderful and generous instructor. We spent the week folding, folding, folding! It was a real treat

We explored the possibilities of the fab lab that is available on the Haystack campus for use by 
the students in classes taking place at that time. For this particular demonstration, Matthew suggested we use the laser cutter 
to make score lines that make the paper much easier to fold, and give them a really interesting finish

The whole class, with some of their finished work!

Making cut scores originating from one point, makes the paper look like whipped cream!

One week was nowhere near enough time to get my feet wet. It took a week to get a hang of things, 
and start thinking of applications for all the techniques we learned.

The walk through on the final day showed that everyone had a really productive week! 
The tables were full of different experiments and amazing creations that people had managed to churn out in such a short time!

In fact, someone form the Fibers studio came in and got inspired to make a paper quilt!
 Ms. Patricia Johnson, AKA Eloise Twilight form Still Water Bindery, Vermont. 
She was one of the first people to teach me about Book binding many years ago.

When I got back to Iowa, and had some time on my hands before the semester really swallowed me whole,
 I managed to make this for one of my classes. A rotating ring, made from over beaten abaca I had made last semester. 

 Every alternate part of the ring has a little cut out of a plant form

Its also tiny!

Museu-Molí Paperer de Capellades

This summer I went to Barcelona, and from there to a small town an hour away called Capellades. Capellades used to be a thriving town with 16 paper mills. They all had their own source of water, they all ran successfully and made beautiful deckled paper as well as cigarette paper that supplied a majority of markets in Spain, South America and the Philippines for a long time before the introduction of mechanization. The museum itself is housed inside what used to be a papermill and has been set up to resemble a mill from the 18th century. The mill itself is functional and continues to make high quality paper till today. To learn more about the museum, visit their website.

The city of Barcelona is beautiful and full of character

There is a lot of attention to detail. Even the undersides of balconies in apartment buildings are given thought!

There is a huge cactus garden, with many wonderful cactii to look at

And of course, the Mediterranean... what a sight for sore eyes

Museu-Molí Paperer de Capellades. The museum has a beautiful 'Bassa' or small pond outside with bright orange fish.
The water from this pond was used by the 16 mills of Capellades 

The re-created part of the mill and the part that is still in use are on the lower floor. 
The first step is to sort out of the rags and cut them into small pieces or strips. 
The baskets here are filled with linen and cotton rags that were sorted by women and children and shredded into smaller pieces.

They were then put into this large container with mesh on the outside and spun to let out any debris before retting

Here is a photograph that gives a more accurate representation of how this device was used

The rags are then retted for sometimes months at a time in a pit with water and lime. 
They are turned from time to time and eventually when ready, they are beaten using wooden stampers

The space is large and leads from one room to another with these beautiful arches

The wooden stampers were powered by this waterwheel, which was powered by the lake, pictured in the first image. 
Now the water rushes in to turn the wheel at the flick of a switch to demonstrate its operation

These wooden stampers were used to beat the rag into pulp. They are still operational, but are not connected to the waterwheel. 
They are run with electricity, again to demonstrate their operation

Each set of three hammers had specific heads. The pulp would be beaten in one 'vat' and then move on to the next two 
which would beat them into finer and even finer pulp, until it was ready for sheet formation

An example of a fine cigarette paper mould. Note the strips of wire mesh that are interwoven to create shadow marks in the finished sheet

This part of the mill is clearly still operational. This is where paper was and is still made. 
Originally there would have been three people working to make paper. 
The vatman, the coucher and the layer. Today, there is only one person doing the job of all three.
 Of course, we must consider that paper of this type is no longer in demand by the thousands. 
Click here, to watch a video of the vatman, coucher and layer at work at the Oakdale paper facility at the University of Iowa.

The paper was then pressed in this big press! It would take all the men working at the time to lower the press

The paper was then hung to loft dry on ropes that were strung across the ceiling of the loft. 
The windows on either side were left open depending on the weather, temperature and humidity

The papers were then gelatin sized in a tub. The excess was squeezed out carefully in this press.

This is where the stacks of paper were glazed. A finishing touch. The person actually handling this aspect would sit by the machine, 
his legs dangling in that space below, rapidly moving the stack under the unrelenting pounding of the glazing hammer. 
He would have to be careful not get his fingers pounded in the process! 

Papers were stacked up in this contraption and tied tightly together

The deckle edges were sliced off using a big sharp knife 

Finally, at the end - the finished paper would come to this table for grading.
 The final decisions on whether each sheet passed quality control was made here. 
Women handled this part of the process. Towards the right of the image, you can see the tub used to size the sheets in

There is a separate room that is a dedicated space for demonstrations and workshops that are conducted with the tours. 
This space is also used by artists-in-residence to produce work.

This is where I gave a demonstration of Islamic style papermaking after giving a presentation
 on Papermaking in India at the museum. 
After the demo, people came over and tried their hand at making a sheet

In exchange for the lecture-demonstration, I was given the space to create work at the museum!
 I drew the fish in the pond outside the mill and began another stop motion animation

The instances were cut out of vinyl. They weren't high enough, so each one was stacked one on top of t
he other three times before being attached to the mould surface

The idea was to have the fish swim across the page, as if looking at them from above swimming in water

The vinyl was adhesive backed, but needed to be attached with wires to secure it to the mould surface

I used some of the leftover fermented hemp form the demo, and some of the cotton rag they use to make paper at the mill

I also tried to make a second piece with the fish a whole shape, instead of an outline

It looks like its underwater!

A happy accident! I love how the paper looks like ripples in the water surface. 
The actual video is still being edited! Its a long process...!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Historical book Structures: The Wax Tablet and Palm Leaf binding

A long overdue post from the semester before this one :
The Spring of 2013 I took the amazing and extremely intensive Historical Structures class with Julie Leonard. It was at the end of the semester that we realized how much work we actually did! We took on five major time periods within which we could pick 1-2 structures to take on and complete in the few weeks devoted to each section. The deadlines on all projects were rolling, so we could work on everything simultaneously through the semester. This was a boon, because as expected, some books took alot longer than others. The first books I made were a wax tablet and a Palm Leaf binding. The University of Iowa Special Collections recently acquired a large number of Palm Leaf bindings! I went to look at them carefully before starting on my own.

Two small blocks of walnet were carved into with a chisel and hammer. Its hard to leave a little rectangle in a center if you haven't worked with wood too much, so I cheated.
I chiseled one out separately and pasted it in the center with wood glue.

I stuck some masking tape down to precent the wax from spilling onto the edges of the boards. This ended up being a bad idea because the heat from the wax melted the glue of the tape and left tiny white lines along the edges. They were easily removed, but a step that could also be just as easily avoided. 

Filtered beeswax was melted down and pigmented with a green pigment.
Traditionally these books were pigmented green or black.

The wax after pouring. I was amazed at how evenly it poured!

It took a while to cool and dry.

The finished tablet


 The sharp end of the stylus is used to make incisions with

 The flattened end is used to scrape or 'erase' the wax and start over

What follows next are images from the University of Iowa Special Collections' Palm Leaf Binding collection. Really quite amazing!