Last weekend I was back at Morley College, but this time as a student rather than as a tutor. I was doing a two-day workshop on making paper vessels (3D papermaking) with Lucy Baxandall, a paper and book artist based in Northumberland.
The first day we focused on cotton, using pulp and making sheets to put into or around moulds to form 3D shapes. On the second day we used overbeaten abaca pulp (abaca comes from a banana plant grown in the Philippines), which shrinks much more than cotton as it dries. We experimented with dipping different armatures or structures into an abaca vat, and also making sheets to drape on moulds. Abaca is very thin and transucent but also incredibly strong.
Because I use paper yarn a lot, I was interested in seeing what would happen if I dipped an openwork twined vessel into abaca.
As you can see, the abaca forms a paper film across the gaps, filling some of them completely, some only partly, and some not at all. And it seems to be pure chance whether it fills a gap or not, which I rather like. As it dries and shrinks it also distorts the shape – I deliberately made the vessel irregular, but the shrinkage distorted it some more. Again, I really like this.
I also dipped one of my bindweed pods into the abaca vat. I originally wove this pod with bindweed that was quite fresh, so as it dried and shrank the weaving became a bit looser. I thought that dipping it into abaca would tighten it up – and it certainly did! The more shredded texture that you can see in the centre of the second photo is where I put the pod down on newsprint to dry after dipping. When I picked it up some of the abaca had stuck to the newsprint, resulting in this tattier texture. Another happy accident, as I like this too. 🙂
The other piece I’m really happy with was made around a balloon. I teased out some mulberry fibre (kozo) around a balloon, covered it with small sheets of abaca paper, and left it to dry. After removing the balloon I was left with a beautiful delicate bowl.
This workshop was a revelation for me of how I might combine papermaking and basketry. The only issue is that the abaca needs to be pulped for six hours in a Hollander beater – it’s not a process I can repeat with a blender!