Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Paper Making Workshops

A stack of handmade papers

Recently I've been running some paper making workshops for Prism Arts Studio Theatre West Coast group and students at Distington Community School. Following on from their wonderful Vikings project Studio Theatre are now working on another Heritage Lottery Funded project 'Cumbria's Atomic Story.'  The story starts with Cumbrian scientist John Dalton who began looking into atomic theory. His mother was a paper maker, which is where I come in!

Ripping up paper

Ripping up paper

Ripping and soaking

For the first session I worked with the Studio Theatre participants so that they could get a good idea of the process and help me run the following session where we would be working with the school students. We had a lot of fun experimenting and we had lots of interesting discussions about paper; what we use it for, where it comes from, how it's made and how the process has changed (or not) over the past few hundred years. It was great having this session as it meant the participants were really able to engage with the school students in the following sessions and help them with the process.

Pulling sheets of paper

Pulling sheets of paper

Pulling sheets of paper

Paper making can be very complicated but it can also be very simple, I wanted to use a technique that would work well with a wide range of abilities and that would allow plenty of scope for experimentation. For this reason I chose to demonstrate how to make handmade paper using existing paper. We created a basic paper pulp using sugar paper and a bit of cellulose glue and added a few other bits (such as newspaper) as the fancy took us. The basic process is to rip up the paper, soak it, blitz it in a blender with the glue, pour the resulting pulp into a tray of water to create a suspension and then use a mould (like a screen) to create sheets of paper. Usually you would use a deckle on top of the mould to get nice neat edges on your paper but I felt this was an unnecessary complication for these workshops.

Pressing the paper onto jay cloths

Decorating the paper

Decorating the paper

One of the reasons I chose to use sugar paper was that it allowed us to explore a bit of colour theory and mixing. It's great putting two different colours together in the blender and seeing them being mixed to create a new colour. We also had quite a giggle deciding what food the resulting pulps resembled (we made a lot of mushy peas and various smoothies!)

Decorating the paper

Decorating the paper

Paper drying out

Once we had the basic paper pulp mix and had got the hang of pulling sheets of paper we were able to explore different ways of altering and customising the paper. I think this was the most exciting bit and it was very interesting watching how different people approached this stage. Some people had a very clear idea of what they were after and were very controlled and ordered, others had a much more random approach. The paper can be layered, with or without things trapped between the layers, things can be pressed into the paper, it can be pushed around to create different surfaces, layers can be gently peeled back to reveal what's underneath, the possibilities are endless. I took a limited assortment of things to add into the paper (threads, feathers and sequins) and it was amazing the variety of effects that were achieved.

Interesting textures

Interesting textures

Interesting textures

I've enjoyed running these workshops so much, it is such a fun process and there are so many variations. Seeing how differently everyone has approached it is really inspiring. In fact I've been so inspired that I've been doing some paper making of my own, It's given me a bit of a kick start in my practice as I was starting to feel a bit unsure as to where to go next but handmade paper may be the answer.

Paper Stack

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