Thursday, September 29, 2011

introduction to book arts: marbling

The day has been windy, the sort that bends the trees, limbs and leaves like hair on a woman in a convertible'd car.  There's something freeing about this point past the equinox, where the leaves are just flashing colors, brief head-craning as something brilliant slips by.

Winter will be long here.  It always is.

Show and tell:  silk worm cocoons.  The creatures rattled inside; gifts inside an egg.  Sorrow at knowing they'd boil to unskein.

We discuss the questions that have arisen since last week:  Would autumn leaves make vibrant paper?  Likely to turn brown.  But using some slurry to affix an undivided leaf might maintain its color.  One instructor of the instructor used lilies--the flowers, the stalks, the pollen still clinging--and developed an allergy so strong, she could not even touch the paper when it was done.  How does one make paper in one's own home? Buckets and supplies from a hardware store.  A solid drill.  I'm thinking of collecting, setting up a mobile studio.

Tonight:  sheets of paper and paint in a pan.

One must wake the paint.  Acrylic dries so fast.  Drop color into water, watch it unravel.  It grows and reaches; a second layer and you are gazing at an x-ray film, organs on varicose display. [Recommended:  Golden Fluid Acrylic.]

Alum the paper, let it dry while you work.  Each color holds the paint differently--the darker the paper, the darker the hold.  We use white to start; my purple print is pinked.  

There is:  the stone.  It's beautiful alone, untouched.  One uses a dropper to plunk the paint onto the size.  One uses a whisk for smaller splotches.  The magic number--four to six colors mingle.  Consider the product; consider the book binding, the wrapping paper, the box cover.

There is:  Spanish wave.  One wave is a mistake, a distortion.  One can also start on one side of the paper and galumph it down, rocking the paint, creating an illusion of fabric folding.

There is:  Gel get.  Get gel.  (Get pronounced the same as one might expect; gel with the guh-sound, as opposed to the juh.)  Turkish:  back and forth.  These gel-gets are feathered; one can also keep a straight arm and find chevrons arising.

There are ghost prints.  Sometimes more lovely than the initial.  There is a space in the center where a paper once was.  And the paint circles that have sunk to the bottom of the tray won't change the tenor of your print.

There is:  snail.  Small singular loops with a dowel or use the comb.  My own hands spasmed, the snails a confused, crushed shell.

There is also:  non-pareil, peacock.  There is try and fail and try and find some other unique meeting of ink on paper.

Most of the night, there is attempting color combinations that might appeal to those I love--and left on my fingers, there is a stubborn royal gold-and-purple, on another the red I do not care for but know belongs in the pages of a beloved's scrapbook.

There is the evening bath you take with your daughter, the soapy residue from last night's bubble bath rising up, swirling and spinning beneath the tap, and there is imaging drifting a sheet of paper on top and slipping it away, coming up with the imprint of bodies from before, of patterns upon patterns.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

introduction to book arts: papermaking

Stop.  Reverse.  Begin again, from the beginning.  The fifth in a string of pearls, but this is the one that lives in the sky.  An overview of it all, an introduction.

[I've taken classes at MCBA before:  binding to letterpress to platen press to layout.  I've decided to restart, with the idea of a core certificate in mind.  Maybe one day a mentorship.  Right now, their poet is my girl M.]

These twin mounds of cotton remind me of lungs.   So soft, like little lambs.  Sarah passes them around:  abaca, flax, cotton, papers made at various lengths of beater times.

We apron.  We rubber boot.  I fantasize about Wellies.  I think of puddles and yellow ducks.

We watch the abaca get beat.  A open-top funnel.  A fiber in rotational pull.

We learn the discarded has a home here:  peanut butter jars let us examine the density of fiber.  She holds it to the light and the abaca worms there.  


What makes a good fiber?  Cotton, linen, bamboo.  Sarah tells us of how she blistered her fingers cutting jeans into appropriate pieces.  These are pancakes.  I will show you three more.

What does not make a good fiber?  Wool.  Wool, when agitated, becomes felt.  It does not sift but binds to itself.  Plants can be integrated.  Cellulose is key.

The pulp must be pinched slowly, dropped into the water.  One pound of dry weight; add water to the fill line.  (Imagine it.)  Drain with a bucket and strainer.

The yogurt cup is another essential throw-away.  Scoop two cups slurry into the vat.  Stir with your hands.  Reminds you of:  high school art class, pottery unit.  (I couldn't keep my hands out of the ice cream pails of slip.)  All night, you could trail your hands in this water.


There is the mould and the deckle.  One sweeps the matching components into the slurry, into the vat, and shimmies, as if panning for gold.  I twitch; my hands stutter.  My paper is smoother, the twitchier I get.  I shake before rising.  I learn the warp of the mould can crumple the paper on the felt.  I learn to not shift so violently, or the paper can warp on the mould.  I envy the mistakes of my classmates--the hills that are declared cells, the lines that resemble veins.  I think of my (in)fertility poems, my patient-on-an-examining-table poems, my definition-of-a-cyst poems.  I would press them right next to those throbbing, pulsing failures.

The paper loses its shine as it dries.  Here it is:  wettest in its form.  I cannot help but make, over and over, the smaller size, the one that is closest to the trade paperback.  Others make the larger sheets, varying according to whim.  I am looking ahead, though to what, I do not know.

There is also pigmentation.  Sarah tests the water; the water should run clear when the dye has been absorbed (one uses the slippery retention agent for aid), but this dye is the pigment of her pigment.  Declared close enough, the cotton is called:  salmon, dusty rose, insulation-pink.  I add:  tangerine.  I think of palms.

The paper is pressed, boards and water.  And after all of this, the best system, besides the drying racks or the window pressings, is the restraint dryer, which is little more than corrugated cardboard, blotters, and a linted fan.

They are there, sleeping.  Peeled away from felt.  In the basement of the center for book arts, the security guard leaning over a newspaper.  Traffic has slowed outside; the sun is setting earlier and earlier every day.  Equinox has passed.

I promised three pancakes.  And there they are, free for students to slurry again.  Blue cotton, red cotton, white abaca. Patriotic.

Linger at the installation.  Think of the moon.  Your thoughts will batter tonight; you've been energized.