New City, New Studio

How-To

It’s been a painful amount of time since I’ve posted, so here it goes.

Me, my hubby, and my dog have moved to Providence, RI, leaving dear old Baton Rouge behind. The trouble with moving, as an artist, is finding/creating the space to make work. Thus, I’ve been jerry-rigging a hand papermaking studio for myself in a wee corner of a very dark basement.

After gutting and cleaning out years of dust, cobwebs, junk, and general neglect that tends to happen in basements, it was time to paint! I used mold and mildew resistant paint on the walls, since paper studios tend to get wet. Thankfully, the floor is just concrete, so I just have to be conscientious about the amount of water splashing onto the floors.

critter holland beater papermaking

The Critter Beater: This little guy is made by Mark Lander in New Zealand. Portable with a collapsible tub, I gave mine a permanent home on a water-proofed table. A hollander beater is an essential part of a papermaker’s studio equipment. It is what we use to beat and cut fibers with water to form pulp, and from pulp, to form sheets. Read more about it on Paperslurry.org. Mark Lander deserves a medal for making these convenient, portable beaters that are affordable. Critters allow for not only small-scale, artist papermakers to create work, but for great paper projects such as Combat Paper and Peace Paper.*

*EDIT – Peace Paper actually uses the Oracle beater, created by Lee Scott MacDonald in Charlestown, Mass. My mistake! The Oracle beater is also portable, and allows Peace Paper to beat rag into pulp at a much faster rate, for overbeaten pulps that are great for pulp painting and printing.

book paper press

The Paper Press: Well, not quite. This is actually a large book press that I purchased from Beck Whitehead of Picante Paper Studio in San Antonio, Texas. But, a book press can work as a way to press paper sheets with a good amount of pressure, and is far easier than pressing fresh paper sheets by hand with a sponge & roller.

papermaking wool felts

Another essential part of a paper studio are felts. Wool felts are traditionally used in Western style papermaking, and are what you use to press wet paper sheets onto from a paper mold. See more process photos on this older post. Real wool felts are quite expensive, so a wonderful alternative are army blankets. I found mine at GI Joe’s in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

paper making mould deckle

I’m in the process of collecting and constructing molds and deckles. Here’s the thriftiest way to make one: Use two picture frames of the same size (thrift store!). For the mold, I used a staple gun to attach window screening to the frame, and covered the edges with duct-tape (really, really, jerry-rigged but almost free to make!). For the deckle, I used window and weather seal along one side. This makes for a better seal when you put the deckle on top of the mold to form a sheet from a vat of water and pulp.

clothesline

sink

Many, many buckets, a mini-fridge (to store pulp & additives), a clothes-line (to dry wet felts), a sink (still bugging Derek to make a real drain to it), and a metal work table are also convenient things to have in a paper studio.

papermakingtools

papermaking additives

paper pulp vat

My favorite studio tools: brayer for printmaking, turkey baster, ketchup bottles and dental syringe for pulp painting, empty febreeze bottles are the BEST spray bottles for pulp printing, windshield wiper for clean-up of water and adventurous pulp on table surfaces.

Additives for papermaking: Pigments, Sizing, Formation Aid, Methocellulose. Order from Twin Rocker or Carriage House.

A papermaking vat (cement mixing tub from Lowes/Home Depot).

The next piece of studio equipment I’m working on getting together is a vacuum table. I received a wet/dry vacuum for Christmas, and now am making plans for a table. A vacuum table is perfect for forming larger paper sheets (I used one for this work), and for pulp painting. I’ll let you know when I have that up and running!

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