Friday, March 27, 2015

Making Paper at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens

I was fortunate to teach Papermaking from Plants last week at the Berkeley Botanical Garden, as part of their Fiber and Dye programming. For the class, I decided to prepare some fibers that grown locally, so participants could learn how to make paper from their very own gardens. I also invited participants to bring plants from home, and asked the garden for any cuttings they could spare.

One of the fibers I prepared was yucca - that's what's beating in Dulcinea above. It's from my yucca plant that I grew in Richmond - you can see it in the picture here - that I'd harvested and dried before we moved. Winnie had warned me that the fiber would foam in the beater, but I didn't realize how much it it would foam! Even dried, the fibers were full of saponins.

Below, the beaten fiber, still sudsy.

I posted a picture of the suds to Facebook, and I think some people found it pretty gross. However, I found the suds almost like a luxurious bubble bath, and I was so enchanted I decided to write about it for Mary's "Eat Your Words" zine.

Every time I do a class like this, the prep exhausts me and I wonder if its worth it. Then I teach the class, and watch how people are transformed by making plant matter into paper, and realize it totally is. I've been thinking about how making paper from local fibers connects people to place, and how paper from local plants has what I think of as hereness - the sense of the landscape in the very fibers.

Along with the yucca, I prepared New Zealand Flax (which really isn't flax, it's phormium), daylily, and corn husk, and during the class we coaked and blendered some pampas grass leaves. It was so, so , so great to teach people how to make paper from scratch from their own gardens.

We started out with everyone making a sheet of each of the fibers from the pure botanical, and then added a little abaca so that we didn't run out too soon.

It was a full class, with very enthusiastic participants. The garden also gave us some banana cuttings, which we didn't get to, but they let me take them home.

Below, Lisa experimented with incorporating fresh plant matter into her paper.

I had been pouring our waste paper onto the plants, and took the press outside to press, hoping the water would drain into the garden - but then was chagrined to learn that the plants were under controlled watering conditions for study. Oops.

We went through almost all the pulp, and I let Christine take the remainder home - she used it up right away.

We ended the workshop with the pampas grass paper - completing the cycle of plant to paper in a day. We didn't have enough for everyone to make a sheet of pure pampas, so it was a pampas grass-abaca mix. All of my prepared fibers has been dried, so the bright green of the fresh fiber excited the participants and felt to me like the grand finale of the workshop.

Tomorrow I return to Half Moon Bay to teach at Judy's again!

In other exciting news, I've been invited by the San Francisco Center for the Book to make a book for their 2015 Small Plates Imprint! I'm going to work with a variation on the flag book structure.

I was also selected for Creative Capital's "On Our Radar" program!

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