Friday, April 12, 2013

Papermaking on a grand scale

Last Saturday I travelled north of Gympie to Dion Channer's PaperMill and Studio to start work on some large paper works for my upcoming exhibition at the Caboolture Hub in October (with Pattie Murray).

Dion has a vacuum table which can allow the creation of sheets of paper approx 2m x 1m.  To create the sheets, botanical pulp is thrown/poured/flicked onto the table which is covered by a couching cloth.  The water is then extracted from the pulp using a pump - this is the vacuum.  The couching cloth with the pulp attached is then hung up to dry, and the paper is finally released carefully from the couching cloth to reveal the finished sheet of paper.

Dion had prepared some mulberry pulp from me.  He has imported a substantial quantity of mulberry bark from Italy, and processes it into inner bark (white) and outer bark (brown).  The mulberry makes a beautiful and strong paper, so I was keen to use it for my works.  I also brought along some lemon grass fibre that I had prepared at home during the week.

The theme for the exhibition is 'Passage' referring to the tidal zones of Moreton Bay, and I wanted to create large sheets of paper that reflected my memories of standing in knee-deep water, looking down at the ripples in the mud with the sparkling reflections of the sun dancing across the surface.

I'm extremely grateful to Dion for his generous advice and wealth of experience, especially when it came to thinking about practicalities of 'how are you going to hang this'.  Of course I would have left that to last, but I learnt there are ingenious ways to incorporate hanging systems within the paper as its being made.

It was a very enjoyable but long day, I finally packed up after dark and headed back to Gympie with my very soggy rolls of paper.   Now that the paper is dry and removed from the couching cloths, I can see the results of my papermaking and I'm excited about the possibilities. I'm planning to find a gallery where I can roll out my paper and see what it looks like under gallery lighting and in a big space. 

Lemon Grass Pulp ready to use.

Pulp on the couching cloth

I'm pouring pulp onto the couching cloth on the
vacuum table.  Extreme concentration!

A sheet ready to go, note the wave-like pattern
I have formed with the pulp.

Lemon Grass Sheet with mulberry outer bark

Mulberry sheet with threads, a very delicate and fragile paper,
will look great with the right lighting.
The thread is eco-dyed silk.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Eco-Dyeing on Holidays

Going on holidays to the Sunshine Coast with Mum?  Lets do some eco-dyeing!  Believe me, its an obvious choice to an enthusiastic artist who can't sit still when relaxing.   I was keen to try a few different dye baths, inspired by a book on natural dyes from the QSWFA library.

Things to think about before packing:
1.  Instruct Mum not to pack too much to allow lots of room in the car for my art stuff.
2.  Is there a lift?  The amount of art equipment I can take depends on whether I have to walk up 4 flights of stairs or not.
3.  Allow plenty of time between walks on the beach and drinking coffee to get art done. I've got my priorities right!
4.  Remember that there are plenty of charity shops, $2 shops and craft supply shops within an easy drive if I leave anything at home.
5.  I'm only going for 5 days, so I can't take every project that I'm currently working on....

Learnings from doing eco-dyeing on holidays:  ITS MESSY!  ITS SMELLY!  Probably wasn't a good idea....   Luckily for me I was able to clean it all up before we vacated the unit.


Firstly, eggplant peelings from my vege garden.  This wasn't successful - obviously I was missing something in my brew, needs more investigation.  Not to worry - I've still gots heaps of eggplant in the garden.

Tumeric and ammonia - didn't produce the expected results and the fumes were really strong.  Not a good idea indoors.

Then I tried red cabbage and copper sulphate.  This produced pleasing results, but the QSWFA book advised that this dye was very fugitive.  And I agree, it faded off as it dried.  However, I am still very pleased with the soft greys that it has produced.

I don't normally work with textiles, but Mum and I had bought some silk scarves using a gift voucher, and I also had some cotton garments I wanted to dye.  I also had a beautiful silk overdress made by my dressmaker Patricia Ingram-Johnson.

The photos below show some of my eco-dyeing results from both my holiday and continued dyeing efforts when I returned home.

The pots during the eco-dyeing process

Silk bundles pulled from the dye-baths,
beautiful objects in themselves.
I used pieces of driftwood and old wooden
salt and pepper shakers to wrap around.

Silk bundle in the process of being unwrapped. 
Can you feel the excitement and anticipation???

I held the silk up to the light before I unwrapped it.
The true beauty is yet to be revealed...

Silk scarves after dyeing.  The bright yellow colour is tumeric.

Detail from the silk scarf dyed by my mother-in-law, Jan.
Mum and I encouraged her to have a go, and I
think she'll be pleased with the result!

Silk overdress, front view.
The colours are perfect - grey/blues, purples, and
 orange leaf prints.

The back of the silk overdress - I concentrated the leaves
around the bottom edge of the dress.
You can also see the purple marks from where I rolled it
when bundling.

An eco-dyed book using Hahnemuhle printmaking paper.
I folded and tore the paper before dyeing
making gorgeous dyeing effects on the torn edges.