Friday, October 16, 2015

Islamic World Papermaking at the Morgan Conservatory

Its been a while since I posted, and that's because I was busy getting ready to move to Cleveland to start working at the Morgan Conservatory! I have now been here for about three months and its been busy, busy, busy. I started off my time here by teaching what is known in the western world as Islamic World Papermaking workshop. Of course, there is nothing Islamic about this type of papermaking, just as there is nothing Christian about western style papermaking or Buddhist about Eastern style papermaking.

We started with slides, and videos of Mohammad Hussain Kagzi making paper. You can read more about him, and his beautiful traditional handmade papers here. He sells these papers online in the US, here.

The impact of Islamic papermaking on the west is little known. During my research and time spent with the Hussain Kagzis I realized that they are a precious link to our history and provide an insight like no other. In an effort to highlight and promote their exquisite craft, skill and history, I have been giving presentations, demonstrations and now, a workshop on traditional papermaking in India or Islamic world papermaking.

The day began with a brief history, and exquisite paper samples from Mohammad Hussain Kagzi's paper unit in India. The two highly burnished papers are made by him. The white sheet of paper on the right, by me.

I had brought some fermented hemp with me which I cooked and prepared for the class. Watching over a cook and monitoring the beat was part of the first day of class.

We then had a demonstration of the papermaking technique as seen in the video of the Kagzis, and everyone was left to practice sheetforming themselves for the rest of the day.


 The vats were set up to emulate the dug-out vats that the Kagzis use in Sanganer, Rajasthan. Their way of having a slanted bottom helps use less water during sheetforming- a brilliant innovation for papermaking in the desert!

We had vats of hemp half-stuff, a cotton-abaca blend and the fermented hemp fibers to work with.

On the second day, we tried out different sizes and some brushed-on natural dye. We tried ahaar, or egg size, wheat starch size, and dye made from heads of Dahlias.

Finished sheets were burnished using bone folders on smooth wooden boards.

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