Adventures in Papermaking: Part 2

I made more paper on Sunday, building on what I learned in my first run to try to achieve effects that are more in line with my current body of work. I played extensively with layering and ended up with 25 more sheets of paper that I’m particularly happy with.

Because I am continuing to work small, my set up was easily translated to a home scenario (kitchen table).

My set up consists of 3 average kitchen tubs collected over the years, 5 screens of various sizes (made using screen stapled to stretcher bars), a stack of couching fabrics and screens, and several towels laid out on the table and floor to catch excess water. This allowed me to have three colors of paper going at any given time.

The pulps I worked with largely consisted of mixtures I had left over from last week that were strained and saved in mason jars. I achieved a denim-like blue by mixing about 30% black construction paper with 70% scraps of white Reeves BFK, a yellow ochre from 90% tan Reeves BFK and 10% white Reeves BFK, and a speckled off-white made entirely of old black and white intaglio proofs pulled on white and cream Reeves BFK (the ink flecks were the best part). By overlaying thin layers in different arrangements I was able to attain some subtle variations of each of these three colors and create interesting blends and shifts between sections.

I did not alter my screens as I’d planned so I had to “roll” the edges of the pulp away from the bad areas on the edge of the screen with my finger – this worked well and I still got a good-looking deckled edge. Despite adequate results, I like the softer feathered edge that is formed normally and don’t think I will not do this again if I don’t have to. I now have a bit better vision of the uber-screen I’d like to create though and so I have no regrets.

I did run into problems couching my pulled pulp sheets though – I ended up using my dried chip boards again because they created a good seal with the wet cotton sheets I use to transfer my paper. I pulled the pulp sandwich off afterward and put them between my acrylic felts.

Freshly couched pulp sheets – each sheet has about 5-7 layers of pulp on it. These layers will lamenate during the drying process. (The cup measure holds the edges I took away with my finger – if these are added back to the vat the remaining sheets will have hard lumps of pulp in the surface.)

I hate my acrylic felts – SUCH a bad idea – they don’t work at all. They are a good surface to transfer my pulp sandwiches while I’m in the process of making the paper though so… they aren’t complete garbage. Their purpose should be to absorb the water from the pulp sheets though and they don’t do this at all. Solution? Hanging them to dry.

After the first 24 hours I realized that the only real way to get my sheets to dry was to hang them like traditional papermakers. I hung string in the dining room windows and in the archway between our living and dining rooms and pinned up all the pulp sandwiches. With nearby vents (and a cold streak which has forced us to turn on the heater the last couple of days) the sheets were completely dry in less than 24 hours.

The finished sheets always dry lighter. I seem to forget this every time despite my considerable experience with gouache and watercolor which do the same thing. I will have to take this under consideration when making my next batch of paper because I really do want to get some darker areas in these pieces.

I really love some of the results I achieved and now have a much better feel for the potential the process has from this point forward.

handmade paper, about 5×9 inches each
handmade paper, about 5×5 inches each
handmade paper, about 5×7 inches each

For now, I’m going to get to work on the paper I’ve already made even though it technically is “waterleaf” paper right now (no additional sizing). Although my theory that the sheets have a fair amount of sizing left in them is sound, I’d like to be able to use watercolor and ink on these surfaces and I think the bleeding is a bit more pronounced than I’d like. I’ve bought a package of sizing to play around with to see if I can get some better results.

Various media tested on a piece of handmade paper (made from recycled proofs pulled on BFK with black ink only). No additional sizing added.

The sizing was cheaply purchased from Daniel Smith in powder form (1lb bag for $15) but I also found a decently reviewed liquid sizing from Dick Blick ($11) as well. A friend has purchased the powder sizing before and had good results with it, and the powder form will be easier to use for internal sizing if I desire a much less absorbent sheet in the future as well. I don’t mind the bit of extra work personally.

I’m going to the ornithology department tomorrow morning to sketch some birds and eggs on the new paper – I’m looking forward to this a great deal. I’ll be sure to post some of the finished products (if they’re fit for human eyes). I cant wait to see how the paper handles.

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