Summertime Paste Papers

Paste Papers array

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.

Painting papers underwriting with Inktense pencils

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.

Painting Papers iridescents

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.

Painting Papers iridescent layer

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.

Painting Papers pasted

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.

Painting Papers light catching

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.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Mary Elizabeth 08/16/2012, 5:30 pm

    Love your Summertime paste paper…please post the books you make with the papers.

    • Cari 08/16/2012, 5:40 pm

      Mary Elizabeth, I surely will when they are done, and will link back to this post as part of their process. You are a paste paper and book artist too, I see – I was just over on your site the other day after you posted something to Book-Arts_L, looking at your work! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Michele 08/21/2012, 8:47 pm

    Oh my, those are positively LUSCIOUS!

    • Cari 08/26/2012, 2:03 pm

      Thank you, Michele! You are such a faithful reader. Yes, these almost seem complete in themselves, except I did make them with particular words in mind and will probably add them. I hope they will only become more interesting once I do. I do love working in layers.

  • Pat 09/26/2012, 12:43 pm

    Cari, Thank you for sharing your work. I am a novice book maker, and I find I am having trouble understanding the purpose behind paste paper. I do like colorful end papers to my books, but why not make a small acrylic painting for this purpose? Why go through the elaborate process of producing paste paper? Is the paste “paint” more durable or flexible? Thank you for any information you can provide.

    • Cari 09/26/2012, 5:37 pm

      Hello Pat, These are good questions. I do wonder myself, and especially with this batch, why so elaborate a process? I may have gotten a bit carried away with these and am now trying to figure out if words can even go on these pages. I think the reason I like paste paper so much is the watery, translucent aspect of it. I am most happy in a watery art environment; it is full of surprises. I could use acrylics alone, but do not feel as skilled with them. Many calligraphers have become enamored of paste papers because the paste allows marks to be made in the pigment and the paste holds the mark. The paste also dries to a nice velvety matte surface to write on, whereas acrylic is usually too slick. But care must be taken to keep the paste thin because if too thick it will crack when the paper is folded. I have used pigmented paste in a painterly way as well, but it was very freeing when I first discovered this process to just finger paint and make marks. Many of my book works in the Gallery section have paste painted pages.

  • Pat 09/27/2012, 4:53 am

    Thanks for your help Cari. I will try to think of paste paper as a pale, matte surface that I can write on. I believe I can see possibilities for that. The reason I’m asking is that I’m signed up for a book making course at Penland School of Crafts, and I know paste paper is part of the lesson plan. I sort of resent taking time away from making books to make paste paper, but I want to achieve a positive attitude. I need to conceive of an application that would benefit from paste paper sheets. I will check out your Gallery for inspiration.

    • Cari 09/27/2012, 8:00 am

      That sounds great, Pat. Who is your teacher at Penland? Yes, paste papers can be soft and subtle; they do not need to be heavily patterned to be useful. I think you may like the process of making them and will find a good use for them.

  • Pat 09/29/2012, 6:32 am

    Kathy Steinsberger. She has a blog called Paper Buttons. I have also taken a class there with Julie Leonard, who is a master book binder.

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