How I Make my Paper Pieces


I start with an armature or frame made from wire or basketry reed. I build the frame so that it is sturdy enough to withstand the pressure from the drying and shrinking paper. Sometimes I factor in only a small degree of distortion, making a very rigid form.  Sometimes I leave large portions of the frame unsupported, counting on the aper to twist the form dramatically as it dries and contracts. bfinalarmsm1

Once the frame is ready, I make the paper sheets to cover the frame. In order to make the paper, I have to start with paper pulp – plant fibers mashed in a machine called a beater until they are a consistently fluffy mass, like very wet paper towels. The fibers I use most often for the majority of the pulp are highly beaten (for 5-8 hours), unbleached, and uncooked abaca or flax. For added texture, I usually add a handful of mulberry bark (kozo or gampi) that I have cooked and then handbeaten with a wooden mallet on a hard surface.


Next, I fill a large vat with the pulp and water and I make sheets of paper using a framed screen, draining most of the water out of it and then pressing it onto a damp surface.


At this point I sometimes paint or print the surface of the paper with water-based inks or acrylic paint. Because the paper is still wet, I have to be careful not to smudge the pigment or to rip the paper (by pressing too hard).

I rip pieces of the paper off of the sheet and drape and pinch them over the frame. I use uncooked, unbleached pulp because it has a wonderful property of sticking to itself when wet and becoming firmly glued to itself when dried. By overlapping the wet edges and sometimes pinching the points of contact on the frame, the bond will stick.fcoverarm
Because flax shrinks so much as it dries, it changes from a very damp and floppy piece of paper wrapped around the structure to a tight and strong dried surface.

Finally, I usually seal the surface with wax. This keeps the paper from deteriorating if it gets wet and enhances its translucent quality.