Thank you for looking at this blog. I haven’t been writing much this past year, for various reasons, but I hope to share more with you in the coming months.
Last year was dedicated to working on some projects I’d started, but never seemed to have the time to finish, like the Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project. I learned that sometimes if the ember is still burning inside, and you wait long enough, the right people will come along to help.
Also during this past few years of uncertainty, due to the words and actions of corrupt officials at the highest levels of government – I needed to make art for myself as a way of processing what was happening in the world around me. The losses to all of our communities of so many treasured loved ones; the loss of innocence as those whose histories have been all but erased and buried are boldly being told. So much loss, yet so much goodness in the world. Art-making helps me find that goodness, that treasure. But it’s a process, so there may be tears in it, there may be some burning of it, there may be time spent sweeping out the corners of the studio over and over again, till I’m ready to make art for others.
And when the heart and thoughts are right again, as I’ve been counseled to be sure about by weavers from First Peoples cultures – then I’ve been grateful to have had the opportunity and the time to complete art commissions for some very special people. (If you are still waiting, please know I’m working on them and I thank you for your patience!)
Since mid-summer, I’ve been having so much fun experimenting with making papers from the plants that grow all around me. I first learned to make paper back in the 1980’s from a Texan Basket Weaver named Sue Smith. Sue had come to the Seattle area to teach a workshop for the Basketry School, a wonderful place to learn weaving that once existed in Fremont. Michelle Berg, the co-owner of the Basketry School, brought Sue Smith over for a visit to learn about the cedar weaving I was doing and to collect some of my scraps. I loved how Sue talked about sweeping up the scraps from her weaving studio each day, cooking them in a pot outside, molding paper out of those cooked and blended scraps, and then naming her papers after the date she swept, like “Sweep 9-9-2021”. She made the whole process seem so easy and practical. I became hooked, because as many weavers know, it’s a lot of work and time gathering all the materials, so even the scraps seem worth using.
I’ve taught several paper-making workshops over the years, but as I prepared and did research, I never had the time I wanted to experiment with all the plants I was curious about. But this year, is different. I’ve had the opportunity to do some mentoring too, and soon will be co-teaching a paper-making workshop with Kara Horton-Wright, specifically for Port Gamble S’Klallam weavers, at the Heronswood Garden in Kingston, Washington.
I hope to post some of the paper-making successes and sing praises for those wonderful plants that have plenty of good fibers.
Last spring I gathered stems from the Wood Hyacinths that emerge in early spring and fill the air with a sweet scent. Even though they are not a Native plant, they compete well with the Native Vanilla Leaf and Bleeding Heart that grows here. I made paper with the stems I’d gathered in June just after the plants had bloomed. That paper is pictured at the top of this image. I gathered again in August, after the stems had completely died back and were bleached out by time. That paper made is pictured at the bottom.
I found that the fibers were abundant in this plant. I cooked the stems for two hours. I never use any chemicals in my cooking process. No cotton linter or sizing was needed. Naturally light colored papers are harder to make since many materials tend to be shades of tan/brown/green; so learning that I could let time help me find a way to make a light colored paper that was strong and beautiful, was a delightful gift.
Having a light color paper that can be semi-translucent makes this a great paper for showing off contrasting inclusions such as flower petals from sweet peas, or pansies.
This paper isn’t quite dry yet and will become lighter in color and more translucent as it does. To shape the paper I formed it in a ceramic bowl lined with cling-wrap smeared with Vaseline. I used methyl cellulose glue to strengthen it.
Thanks for listening. Be well and please take good care of yourself.