Hand papermaking allows an artist to take ownership of their materials. Choosing a fiber for paper pulp, making handmade paper, creating the final form—papermaking is a mutable art medium that allows for a multitude of options. When used in interdisciplinary manner, the process can be a way to add context, content, and meaning to an art piece.
Patrick Blenkarn is a Canadian artist based in Vancouver who recently created Soliloquy in English, a performance piece about English as a second language. It uses a rich combination of materials: words spoken aloud, a book containing varied experiences, and paper handmade from a secondhand dictionary.
Josh Monroe, Staccato Prints: Green/Blue Woodblock and handmade paper, 3.5″ by 3.5″, 2015
It’s a wild, wide world of potential for hand papermaking, especially when paired with other art-making mediums. Paper pulp itself has a huge variety of capabilities, including a remarkable memory suited for casting.
Let’s take a quick look at work by Josh Monroe, an artist who combines printmaking (relief woodcuts) and papermaking.
Hand papermaking conventionally relies on three elements: vat, fiber, screen (click over to the basic handmade paper tutorial if you’re not familiar with the process).
A deckle box combines the vat and screen elements into a single piece of equipment, and holds enough water and pulp for a single sheet—no vat required! This alternative temporarily builds up the walls of your mould and deckle.
Hand papermaking offers a colorful lexicon full of terms like kiss, hog, and slurry (obviously a favorite of ours). One term that often gets an eyebrow raise is couching (pronounced ‘coo-ching’), the term papermakers use to describe transferring a newly formed sheet of paper from the mould to the felts.
Click through to learn the history of this term and how to seal objects between wet sheets of paper!