Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Combat Paper Project

The Combat Paper Project is visiting UA this week. They are a remarkable group of people pursuing art and engagement through powerful and difficult conversations while deconstructing the military uniform and reforming it into a cathartic piece of artwork. Drew Luan Matott, one of the co-founders of the project, initially started the project intending to send an anti-war message. Soon he discovered that he "could not guide people's voices." The project takes on its own personality and voice with each group of people who work on a project; a new voice, a new message. Sometimes the message is positive, sometimes the message is angry, each time it is infused with the emotions of the individuals who participate. Each member of the group emphasizes that the purpose of the project, beyond creating art, is to engage in a conversation about war, patriotism, service, home, and identity.

We live in a time where some of our children have never seen a day that our nation was not at war with terror. Yet so many of these children aren't even aware that we are at war. As a nation, we are fatigued by war and not just our soldiers. Our relentless 24 hour news media seems to have said what they have to say and public knowledge of the war has all but disappeared. Is it because we have forgotten? Or are we just tired of hearing about it? Soldiers currently deployed are angry that the country seems to have forgotten them. How do we express our support for the individuals when so many are opposed to the cause of their absence? Or not even opposed but merely fatigued?

The focus of this project seems to be revolving around the notion of coming home and raising awareness that we still are at war. CPP has only been here for three days but already it had been a powerful and very emotional experience. They will be here until Friday. I'm excited to see what else develops, art and conversation wise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What do you do again?

R ecently, a dear friend of mine, Noelle, wrote about the transformation she has undergone since starting her graduate schooling and how, against all odds, she finally sees her place in the world. Graduate School has been the greatest thing I have ever done. Sure, I haven't had a good night's rest in over a year, and yeah, the massive amounts of debt resting on my shoulders keep me tethered to a Mr. Burns-like posture... But  similar to Noelle, graduate school has transformed my life.

I have always been a bit of a hippie child, thanks to my Dadu. But at times I have also been complacent with the convenience and consumerism of mainstream American culture. Book Arts works in direct opposition with these trends. The notion of craft is impossible to concretely define, as so many people have differing perceptions of the word and its meaning. But for any person who has labored consciously and deliberately with their hands to produce a piece of work which inspires reverence for the beauty, the precision, the form, and the execution of the piece understands what I mean when I say craft. It is the craftsmanship required in letterpress printing, bookbinding, and papermaking that makes the art form so valuable in our culture of consumption and disposal. When you hold a book in your hands and realize that the papers made from old rags, formed by precise and acute muscle memory of the maker, each letter in each word in each sentence in each paragraph on each page was set individually, one at a time, spaced specifically such that the text is most easily read by the viewer, the form of the book has been pieced together deliberately, each section sewn into the following, the spine covered with various adhesives, papers, and fabrics to allow the most flexibility for function and the most strength for longevity, you soon see the value in the object, the craftsmanship of the maker, and just how much we take for granted. How easily we forget what gratification can be had with working with our hands, how life altering it can be to create something, how grounded one feels when they remember the feeling of touch. How easily we forget this country was built by craftsman, artisans,  and farmers; how easily we forget this country was built with hands. Prominent culture in America places highest value on monetary gains, rather than personal gains.

My graduate experience has reinforced to me the power and importance of individual achievement concerning the expansion of ones knowledge, intellect, craft, and self fulfillment. Like Noelle, I am doing that what I love and can't express how happy I am to be able to do it, how grateful I am for the opportunity to cultivate these skills and values, and just how lucky I am that I found not only something that will make me happy, but something I am meant to do. I will never be rich doing what I do. But I will be happy and fulfilled. How many insurance salesmen can claim that?

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project. 

First Big Conference

Last month I had the privilege to attend the American Printing History Association meeting, hosted by the Chesapeake chapter, held at the Corcoron College of Art + Design in Washington D.C. My professor was one of the main speakers and what better opportunity to attend my first conference.

Before the conference started the participants were offered a variety of tours to places like the the Library of Congress Rare Book room, the Government Printing Office, and the National Museum of American History. I chose the NMAH. First we traveled to the bowels of the building to visit the print shop. Due to possible lead contamination from the type, we all had to wear little hospital booties so we wouldn't track the lead through the rest of the museum. Inside there were a number of presses including a Chandler & Price clamshell platen press, a Vandercook SP25 Power flatbed press, three Civil War era  proof presses that were used on the battlefields, and a couple other presses I've never seen or heard of before and sadly don't remember the names. Then we moved onto the print collection room on a different floor of the museum where I got to see and touch an original Kelmscott Press Edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales!! I was so transfixed, I took about a million pictures of it, but of course nothing can compare to seeing the real thing. After the print room we went to the Dibner Library to look at collections of rare books including an original Galileo printed text about the moon, and a medieval medical text depicting "Wound Man," an illustration of a man who suffers all manner of wounds likely to inflict a medieval man.

After a short walk across the Mall, I enjoyed some refreshments and conversations at the Corcoron before listening to a beautiful talk by Boot Arts scholar Betty Bright. The New York Center for Book Arts had a panel discussing how they manage their facility. The Chesapeake chapter of the APHA had a panel discussing how they became printers, how they acquired equipment, and how they function as a group. Kathleen Walkup discussed the program she runs out of Mills College in Berkley, Ca. Lyll Harris, Kathleen's student, gave a wonderful presentation on one of the projects she has been working on involving using an medieval italian text as inspiration and model for a piece of her own. My professor, Steve Miller, spoke about his history in the Book Arts, how is work is driven by collaborations with authors and artists, and the people who have been most influential to him. His speech was so inspiring and encouraging for an up and comer as he illustrated how open and supportive communities are and the importance of establishing and maintaining them.

We also were able to go to the Corcoron's Georgetown campus and check out their printmaking facilities and listen to many more small sessions from how to use book arts to artfully represent scientific research to the logisctics of running your own shop, either independently or within an institution. It is amazing how inventive people can be in order to do what they love. We were so blessed to be able to have our closing reception in the Georgetown University Library, over looking the Potomac. The whole experience was so wonderful to experience and inspiring to know there are so many other passionate people who are excited and active.

While I was in DC, I was able to spend some time with my brother, Danny, who I don't get to spend much time with. We had a glorious few days of reckless dining, rogue pedestrianism, and irresponsible consumption of cheap doemstic beer which we are both too old to really do anymore. It was lovely. Highlight of the Weekend: Danny holding this puppy like a tuckered out toddler.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuna Deliciousness

Need I say more?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book Binders Thumb

There are three binding activities which make the part of my thumb under the nail so sore, yet I can't stop pushing on it:

  1. Sewing a long and link stitch 
  2. Boxmaking
  3. Paring leather with a spokeshave

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project. 

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Lessons learned about Papermaking from Letterpress Printing

    Funny thing about Graduate School is that you never have any time for anything but school, work, and a little sleep. I've been told this is not everyone's experience with grad school. My dad brags about how he had more time in grad school than any time in his life. I do not, hence my ghastly maintenance of this blog. It should be of comfort to all that my absence is merely a result of throwing myself head first into my program and not just being lazy.

    This semester has been a whirlwind of making paper, designing, printing, sharpening knives, and paring leather plus so much more. Its amazing how much work 15 credit hours really is. I recently finished a recipe book of my family's Thanksgiving recipes. Its a powerful experience when you come to the end of a project and reflect back on the efforts extended to create this object. This was my first project in which I made the paper. Let me tell you, there is nothing that teaches you about papermaking more than printing on it. I learned so much about how you want to form the sheets for letterpress printing. I used old cotton t shirts Boy and I had lying around. You would never know that the cotton had pit stains and the like from the bright white sheets I pulled. I don't know the science behind it, but somehow when I turned off the Hollander beater to drain my pulp, that cotton looked virginal, as my friend Mukti would say.

    In pulling the sheets, I was too stingy on the amount of pulp in the vat and too generous with the amount of water. The result was very thin sheets. And I mean thin. I was determined to stick with them for my book however.

    As for the book cover, I made the paper from seasonally patterned fabric I found at the fabric store. At the time I was more concerned about the color and didn't really think about the quality of the fabric. Big mistake. The fabric was similar to the cotton calico prints you can get for quilting but was very low in quality. The Hollander blew the fibers apart such that running your fingers through the pulp, you felt nothing. Ordinarily, you can feel the pulp run through your fingers with the consistency of whipped rice, or shredded wheat.

    Each couch (pronounced cooch) resulted in half a sheet on the felt and half still on the mould. Out of the whole vat which should have rendered 20ish sheets, I only got out 5. I was so disappointed. I did the math and were I to be creative, I could still cover the majority for the edition. And the color was spot on.

    During for first print run, I realized that I really needed to dampen my paper. Dampening paper, while it sounds scary, is actually one of the best things you can do to produce a quality print and impression. Imagine you spilled a glass of wine on the counter. You grab your dry, hard kitchen sponge to clean it up. You get some of the wine, but you certainly didn't absorb very much. But when you dampen the sponge and then lap up the puddle, you are able to really absorb it. It is the same with dampening paper and printing. Moisture is attracted to and bonds with moisture. It works that way in papermaking, it works that way in printing. The ink absorbs so much more on dampened paper. You have cleaner lines, more even inking, gorgeous impression, and a print that is so fun to roll off the cylinder you get chills every time. With each meeting of paper and type, the printer feels the embrace which really teaches you what it means to create a lasting impression. But all puns aside, it is a practice altering moment for printers and one that not many practice anymore in the interest of speed and convenience.

    So what did I learn about papermaking through printing?
    • Thicker is better (within reason)
    • The quality of your fibers will determine the quality of you sheets
    • Dampen. Always. (within reason)
    *The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

      Sunday, September 12, 2010

      Very Important Article

      I saw this article and couldn't keep it to myself. If you value reading, education, society, and this country, read this...

      Sunday, August 15, 2010

      Blueberry Crumble and Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

      E arlier this week a couple friends, boy and I all went to a farm outside of town to pick blueberries. This is one of those fun, cultural things I have wanted to do since we moved to the south. I think there are three typical views westerners have regarding the south: the poor white trashy part (which I have seen a lot of), the rich white trashy part (which turns out to be T-Town in a nutshell), and the cultural part full of history, romance, and charm. Sadly, that part of the South has been hard to come by in this college town full of privileged frat kids.

      When we moved here I had dreamy eyed aspirations to find the romantic side of the south where we would eat good southern cuisine, drink sweet tea, go to a club and listen to that olde tyme blues. That kind of culture is thriving in places like NOLA, Memphis, and Atlanta. Tuscaloosa does not have a lot to offer in the ways of good ole southern culture, at least my vision of what I thought it would be. So I was so excited when we embarked on our own, tiny, cultural adventure.

      I grew up sort of a city kid and all our dreams (boy and I) currently involve living in places with large, multicultural cities. But every once in a while, while driving through the country, I imagine how amazing it would be to live out there. Your closest neighbor would be half a mile away and you could go a whole day without hearing a train whistle, police siren, truck horn, or even a single car. Twenty minutes outside town, we arrived at the farm where you can pick your own blueberries for $6 a gallon. We were the only ones there. I guess not a lot of people go berry picking at 6pm on a Wednesday evening in the dead of August heat. We were a little late in the season and certainly did not get the pick of the litter. But at least 3/4 of what we picked was juicy and delicious. The whole time we were there I didn't see or hear a single car. An old hound dog wandered over from the neighbors to play with the farm's dog. It was lovely. Such a fun experience. Next summer we will definitely do this again, although probably go earlier in the season. So what did we do with all those blueberries? We made the most amazing, delicious, moan inducing blueberry crumble ever!!

      Sadly, nothing remains of this masterpiece. We shared some with friends and consumed the rest as neither of us have much self control when it comes to amazing food.

      As if you didn't think we were domestic enough, I made whole wheat bread from scratch. I have always wanted to bake my own bread and have only been able to master the lemon-poppyseed bread (which is amazing). I tried a couple years ago to make wheat bread at my parents house and ended up with two tiny loaves with the outer crust similar to a slab of granite and the inner meaty part the consistency of Alabama clay. It did not turn out well.

      I have persevered this time with a dilectible, moist triumph of bakery! This loaf is perfect for Sunday morning toast, weekday PB & J's, and Tuna Melts!! Oh, the tuna melt...

      *The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

      Tuesday, August 10, 2010

      What Summer?

      O ne thing about getting two masters degrees in three years, you have no life. For me, this includes summer break. I mentioned previously about my awesome time at the University of Utah's Book Arts department in May. Sadly, this remains the extend of any exciting summer activities. Instead of hitting up the beach or travailing about Europe like other people I know, I chose to stay in this sweaty little burg and take some much needed Library classes. Thats right, ladies and gentleman, I voluntarily stayed in 105 degree heat and humidity to learn about the Dewey Decimal *ahem* Classification (not system, get it right...), HTML coding, and just how much money academic libraries spend on databases. Some of my classes were wonderful, some were not so much.

      Now, I'm consumed with thoughts of the impending semester which start in a mere week. Not much of a break. The good thing about this experiment they call graduate school is that because I am doing two programs, each semester is a chance to mix it up, do something different, and prevent the fatigue of doing the same thing all the time. Now my mind races with prices of sharpening stones, goat skins, making my own paper, the complexities of really good typographic design, and how the hell I am going to exert any kind of authority to the newbies when I still feel like the newbie. This semester is going to be a doozie for me. I've got a full plate of classes, plus an assistantship, all while still working at the special collections library. Here is what I'm going to be taking:

      Printing III - Students initiate and produce an edition of a relatively extensive book and/or participate in production of a Parallel Editions volume. Emphasis is on production, with manuscript selection and editing being critical aspects. Photopolymer platemaking processes are introduced in a desktop publishing environment adapted to historic tools and mediums. Such subjects as marketing and distribution of limited edition books are covered.

      Binding III - A concentrated study of the use of leather as a binding cover material. Various binding styles and structures appropriate to leather treatment are studied. Familiarity with the preparation and application of leather in bookbinding is achieved through a series of assigned projects culminating in a final project. Though not the primary focus of the course, binding design and innovation will be studied and explored.

      Tool Sharpening - For all my new fancy leather paring tools, and perhaps, my kitchen knives.

      Book Repair - I don't even know where this class is going to go, but it will be a great way to learn to repair books and will let me know how I would like conservation type stuff.

      Directed Research - 100 hours of papermaking. I will be making all the paper for my projects this year using old t-shirts and bed sheets.

      Practicum in Teaching in the Book Arts - I will be assisting my printing professor with the first year printing class. I'll be there to help the students and do demonstrations.

      Graduate Assistantship - With the help of another second year student, I will be assisting the Book Arts Department with any and every thing that they need. I'll be maintaining the work spaces, organizing and managing the exhibition space on the fifth floor, as well as planning for local events we are involved in.

      In October there is a conference for people who wish to teach letterpress in Washington DC that I am going to look into going to as well.

      A lot, right? Its going to be a lot of work. I will be tired and often. I will be cranky at some points, but I also will have a blast for most of it. I'm already looking forward to Christmas break back in the snowy mountains where it will be cold and I can sleep in!

      *The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

      Thursday, July 22, 2010

      Quarter Life

      Things I have accomplished before I turn 25:

      Graduate college

      Buy and almost pay off a car

      Climb Mt. Olympus

      Master the art of reading while walking without getting seriously hurt

      Start graduate school

      Discover that the greatest comfort food of all is tri-colored pasta with fuzzy Parmesan cheese

      Gain financial independence (mostly) from my parents

      Killed a roach... by myself

      Move away from home and know it will all be ok

      Maintain the ability to fit eleven dimes in my belly button

      Find something I'm passionate about

      Run at least three miles consecutively

      Find the love of my life

      Cultivate a diverse cast of noises, voices, and characters with which to entertain myself and others

      Lose and regain to ability to sleep and dream

      Learn how to carve linoleum

      Do something drastic with my hair

      Visited two continents other than the one I inhabit

      Learned to drink, appreciate, and abhor cheap beer

      ...amongst other things.

      Friday, July 9, 2010

      "The Complex of All of These" - Amazing Video

      I discovered this amazing video a few days ago and am transfixed by it. I find myself watching it over and over. I love photo streams like this. The artist really shows how intricate and difficult it is to make something completely by hand. So much skill and patience is required for this kind of work and her process is mesmerizing. For those of you interested you should check it out. This is the kind of stuff I'm learning to do and its so wonderful to see the process.

      Wednesday, July 7, 2010


      Monday, July 5, 2010

      Happy 4th of July Y'all!!

      Believe it or not, but the weather has been quite pleasant this last weekend. Of course, there is a nice thin glaze of perspiration on the skin, yet somehow its been tolerable. Late evening has brought with it gentle breezes which have cooled off the sweltering heat from the hard ground and made evening walks a pleasant refuge from the day to day.

      This was not my first 4th of July away from home. In 2004 I went to Australia to pick up my brother from school and he made sure to welcome me with an impromptu 4th of July BBQ for us Yanks. But this is the first 4th of July living away from my family, friends, and the traditional festivities I normally attend with great excitement. So to celebrate in our own little way, Boy and I made sorbet from all the seasonal fruits that have popped up recently.

      It was super easy and lots of fun. All it took was lots of strawberries, several peaches, a few scoops of blueberries, some stevia leaves, a pinch of salt, and a healthy dose of Vodka all tossed into our food processor and TADA...

      Pretty much the most amazing summer-time-in-the-sweltering-melting-heat-of-Alabama after lunch, after work, after dinner, after hard day of reading and napping treat possible.

      Survey says: Yumm...

      A lovely weekend, we've had here. Friends, food, a teensie bit of fireworks, and to top it all off, a good read. In honor of the book, and my profession's honouring of it, I have started To Kill a Mocking Bird again. I loved this book the first time I read it and it feels only fitting to read it again now that I live in Alabama. I decided that I am going to read southern books for the rest of the summer. What better way to learn about the culture you live in, than through the stories people write about it.

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010

      University of Utah Book Arts

      Earlier this summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work (albeit briefly) at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library in the Book Arts Department. I feel like such a fool not knowing such an amazing program existed in my fair home town. I moved so far for something so close.

      I felt truly humbled to be able to jump into such an exciting work space and welcoming atmosphere. Marnie Powers-Torrey, Managing Director of the Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press , welcomed me with open arms and put me straight to work in the stunning facility. Over the last several years the Marriott Library has undergone an extensive renovation to make the Library ready for ever encroaching, impending earthquakes. The end result is a visually stunning, research drool inducing, librarian, bookworm, and artists wet dream of windows and light (oh yeah, there are books too). And at the end of this transformation, the Book Arts Program was given a floor to ceiling paradise of glass and light on the east side of the building to house the 10+ presses, 20, 000 zinc cuts, row upon row of movable metal and wooden type, classroom for thirty, lobby exhibition space for students, and the Red Butte Press. On a clear day, you can see Mount Olympus from the presses.

      The majority of the work I did in my two week express internship consisted of shop upkeep and material prep. I helped sort metal furniture which had not been addressed since the big move. I scrupulously scrubbed 50+ years ink and dust off a tiny portion of the zinc collection. I had the wonderful opportunity to print and catalog several of these zinc cuts on a Vandercook 4 Proof Press. I had never printed on a 4 before and I think I may have fallen in love.

      U of U Book Arts Program runs a K-12 reach-out program, Treasure Chest, during the school year where people will go out to local schools to teach kids history of the book and some basic bookmaking skills. Last year the program reached 10,000 school children and expects to reach even more next year. I assisted in prepping materials for all the different structures that will be taught. This included a lot of cutting, scoring, folding, gluing, and sanding. I got to use a Guillotine which I had never used before.

      Marnie was kind enough to arrange for me to visit the Special Collections Lib to spend a few days looking at, holding, examining, and being in awe of real life Artist’s Books. I was able to see works by Ken Campbell, Julie Chen, Claire Van Vliet, Timothy C. Ely, Jan and Jarmilla Sobota, and Karen Hamner amongst others.

      Working with this program and its wonderful staff was an amazing experience and I hope to stay in touch and work with them again in the future. I really want to thank Marnie, David, Becky, Amber, Mary, Laura, Claire, and Shidasha who I worked with.

      Thursday, June 3, 2010


      Spring semester I letterpress printed a 20 page, 5 folio, single signature chapbook containing images and text created and written by yours truly. This part fact, part fiction piece pushed me from the ends of devastation and euphoria and everywhere in between.I was faced with, what felt at the time, insurmountable obstacles.

      Writing your own material to print is incredibly rewarding and highly frustrating. I am not the creative writer in this little duo, and I have always struggled allowing people read my writing. But I wanted to get this idea that has been rattling around in my head. Boy was going back to where it all began, he and I. And it got me thinking about this cool idea for a chapbook. Only trouble with that is the words you write need to be worthy of being printed on the page. Pressure to write something good...

      The extent of my previous art training was an AP Art History class I took in high school (that's right, I got a 5, people). I have no formal training in design, drawing, or even the most basic functions of photoshop. The most consistent thought in my brain during that semester: "Why the hell did I think I could get a master's in ART when I can't even draw?" The artwork to accompany the text was the biggest struggle I encountered. I spent tens of hours pouring over certain images I was determined to make work. Finally, with the support of my professor, I had to abandon all the work I had done and start from scratch. I was faced with not relying on other sources but having to create the images all on my own. Again, I was faced with creating something worth creating.

      After hours of toil, tears, and a few break throughs I have my first printed chapbook, The City.

      Wednesday, April 21, 2010

      Printing Project: French Fold

      First Semester of my printing class was mostly just to get us used to the processes. We had five different projects ranging in different styles of printing and as of yet I still don't have any pictures of all of them. This semester was meant to get us into larger projects and teach us how to plan several elements at once.

      The relationship between text and image, letter and letter, baseline and baseline is a delicate, complicated balance between white space and legibility, readability and optical alignment. I've read all kinds of essays, papers, and chapters from old typographic style manuals explaining how all the different styles of type faces interact or fight against the reader. In any project where you have a body of text, more energy goes into the planning than into the printing. You spend hours pouring over the text not only looking for typos but line spacing, letter spacing, how many words are in a line, how many lines are in the paragraph, where the text lies on the page, how does the text interact with white space, does the text belong on the recto or the verso, how close should the text lie to the fore edge, how close to the gutter? Hours and hours of planning...

      French Fold Assignment: Our first project this semester is called a french fold wherein everything is printed on one side of a sheet of paper then the paper is folded twice. I chose to make a traditional french fold, like the birthday cards my brothers and I printed out from the family computer back in the good old days of dot matrix printers and Prodigy. Anyone remember that? Anyway, in terms the kids from day care would understand, you take a piece of paper and fold it hamburger style, then fold it again hot dog style and you've got yourself a traditional french fold.

      For the text I had boy write a short short (a short story aboout 200 words or less) and I created the images.
      The images are the nutmeg tree and the nutmeg seed. I found the images online, traced them and transferred them onto a linoleum block. The linoleum block is then carved around the image, leaving a relief block to be printed. First I printed the lightest color, in this case white. Then I carved away all that I wanted to stay white and printed the next darker color. For the cover the next color was light green. Then I carved away all that I wanted to stay light green and printed the last color, dark green. This exact print cannot be printed again, because by the end you only have the darkest color of the block left to print from. This process is called a suicide block. This process is incredibly time consuming with all the carving and multiple press runs, but incredibly fun and exciting. I personally love the raw, jagged lines. Its almost like a wood cut, but not quite :)
      The inside image is made in the same process. You can only barely see the white in this photo (an argument for artists books in person, not online). I printed the red next, then the brown.
      In the long process of planning the text, I had the crazy idea I would have this display letter at the beginning of the text. So I had to figure out just how much room to make for this O, what size font to use and just how to place it so it looks optically aligned. I printed the text first. I struggled soo much getting that damn little O in just the right place. But finally I got it right!

      Making up for lost time...

      I know, I know what you're going to say... And for all the aunts and mothers and dear friends who have been wondering where the hell I've been, allow me to just say, it's been a hell of a semester. That said, I'll try and post as much as I can about all the crazy things I've done this semester.

      But before I get into that, just look and see how pretty my yard is :)

      Sunday, January 31, 2010


      This semester I am taking papermaking. After only a few weeks, I am already officially hooked. Fun, deeply interesting and incredibly hands on, Papermaking totally changes the way you think about paper, the craft of hand made objects, and the time, effort, money and skill required to be a true artist. UA has made a reputation for itself for making Banana paper. Our professor and headmaster of our humble book arts program has been given the grand task of making samples of banana paper for Papermaking Magazine. So we intrepid few endeavored to make the 1700 samples.

      First, the banana stalks were chopped and soaked overnight.
      Then the stalks must be cooked for about 45 minutes with soda ash to begin to break down the banana.
      Once the cook is done, the banana is rinsed and then placed into a Hollander beater to break down the banana into fibrous pulp.

      All this prep can take anywhere from a couple hours to several, depending on the fibers you use. In the mean time, the moulds and deckles are soaking in water so they will be ready for the pulp.
      Then with a little conviction, several tries and a well practiced wiggle...

      After letting the water drain, remove the deckle and couch (sounds like cooch) your paper onto a felt.
      After we had a large enough post of felts with our paper on it, we placed the post in a press to squeeze out all the excess water.
      Then we took the sheets up to the library to dry.

      The whole process was long and by the end of the day I was a little sore and ready for bed. But I am so excited for the rest of the semester. I'm sure I've caught the papermaking bug.