The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are when I usually find a chance to puddle around in the studio, painting papers for later use in bookworks and whatnot. The hot dry summer heat is very conducive to this activity, allowing me to work in layers, adding letters, paste and inks to the paper and drying between each application. I have long approached the production of paste paper as an intergral part of the finished work, building words into the creation from the first, so they become ground as well as figure. Here I’ve used Derwent Inktense pencils to write portions of the text in large, loose majuscules. When wetted and dried the letters become waterproof.
Because one of the poems I am working with is about mountains, I add an iridescent ink layer to show through, to suggest the shiny gems that are found in mountains.
For this I am using Dr. Martin’s Iridescent Calligraphy Colors for the most part. These inks don’t flow very well through my broad pens, but they do spread nicely with an old cut up plastic credit card, or a brayer.
I like the feeling of the letters to show through, if not the meaning, so I keep a light touch. Finally I apply a layer or two of paste with brayer or sponge. This time I used methylcellulose with Golden acrylic pigments; I do prefer a wheat paste but it doesn’t keep long and I wanted to be able to go away and come back to these papers, and not have to complete them all in a three day period. Unless the pigment is contaminated, the methycellulose will keep indefinitely on the shelf, ready for the next round of play.
In all parts of this process I am making marks in a calligraphic way: writing into the wet paste, or on the first and successive layers. Then the writing takes on an incantatory quality. The words begin to echo in my mind and I come closer to an idea of how they will present themselves on the pages when I add them to the mix. Like a song or a spell, poems are most magical when they contain resonances of what came before, to carry us through the layers of meaning.
I look forward to returning to this project when a few commissioned pieces are finished. Then I will be folding, lettering, stitching and and binding these book pages.
Years ago, a teacher of mine in a weeklong workshop only allowed us one afternoon to make paste paper. She said if she let us that is all we would do all week. She was right! I spent a few weeks happily lost in this process, making some colorful papers for future projects.