Sunday, January 10, 2016

Banff Recollections, Part 2



Work continues on my print about the mountains around Banff. Each panel is a reduction print, first two layers are the uppermost image, with the addition of the third layer for the bottom. The imagery with this third layer of color doesn't quite make sense yet, but it will soon.

While at Banff, I had the fortune of watching an Islamic World papermaking demo by Radha Pandey. She pointed out that there is nothing particularly Islamic about this style of papermaking, it's the technique that was developed in the Middle East by papermaker prisoners of war, adapted from the traditions that had developed in East Asia.

Her demo took place in the paper studio, which I described in a previous post.


Like a su in Japanese papermaking, Islamic world paper is made on a flexible screen called a chapri. In India they are woven from grass. Radha here is showing the chapri she wove herself, adapted from bamboo splints. She writes about her experience making her own chapri here.


The chapri rests on a frame, and then deckle sticks are place on either side of the chapri, which fit against the wooden dowels at either end of the chapri.


Seeing this contraption, it was easy to see how, as the craft of papermaking spread from East to West, the tools adapted as well. Instead of using deckle sticks, Western papermakers transitioned to using a full deckle.

The process of pulling a sheet also suggests the shift in papermaking from Eastern to Western. Rather than the multi-dip system of nagashizuki or webal tteugi in Japanese or Korean papermaking, or the single dip method of Western (tamezuki), Islamic World paper is made in systematic, controlled, double dip system.

In her demo, Radha said she was using a cotton-abaca fiber blend with no formation aid. To use the chapri, the papermaker first dips into the vat, much like a Western-style dip. After pulling the sheet, the chapri is then placed on the surface of the water and carefully pressed down until the fiber just floats off the surface of the chapri. Then the papermaker lifts the chapri. The chapri is then dipped to make a second collection of fiber. According to Radha, traditionally, a second float is not performed, however; she has added that to her practice of the process.


She has a video of the process here.

In India where Radha has done her research, water is limited, so papermakers use vats that are angled at the bottom to lessen water usage. She compensated for this by placing a block under the vats. Coming from California where we may just be starting to recover from the drought, I thought this was a brilliant idea.


I tried this recently while pulling sheets Western style, and it worked amazingly. In fact, I think it actually worked a little better than with the vat flat on the table.

Radha also gave a presentation about her research, and discussed how the mill operates in detail. Some of what she discussed can be seen here. She also described their intricate system of cleaning and recycling their water, which I scribbled down in my notes but my description just doesn't do it justice.

I'm interested how Radha's artwork is going to develop as she incorporates this research. I'm also thinking about how crafts can build bridges, and wondering how Islamic World papermaking could develop understanding when Muslim intolerance appears on the rise in this country. One demo does not make me an expert in this tradition, but I wonder how this tradition could open up conversations. Something to think about.

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