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Monday 19th November
Abaca is a fibre that comes from the stem of the banana leaf. It hydrates well when beaten and produces a string crisp paper.
I experimented with beating times for the pulp, then methods of sheet forming and drying; I then compared the results. The longer the pulp was beaten the finer and more translucent the paper. If the pieces were restrained when drying then sheet was more translucent, and created a crispier sound. If left to dry on the frame the paper responded like the skin of a drum. I then experimented with pouring the pulp and letting the pieces dry freely in hope that the fibres would shrink when drying created effect.
Monday, 12th November
As I mentioned above paper pulp can be made from any fibres that yield cellulose; at the beginning of the residency I imagined that I would be able to work with lots of fibres, I soon realize that the six weeks would just be taken up with preparation such as cutting, soaking and cooking unless I narrow the fibres down to three with a high cellulose content and long fibres, and concentrate on experimenting with beating times. Working with the knowledge that the more you beat a high cellulose fibre, the more the fibres will hydrate and absorb water, therefore when the fibres dry, they will shrink.
My research aims were to record and document this shrinkage and the effect on the papers, and then use the findings as the bases of my palette. (For samples of the process described below, refer to data folder.)
Tuesday, 6th November
To begin with I was so overwhelmed with the idea that I had been given time to start experiment and create that I felt like a headless chicken – not sure where to start. As my backround training is first in Theatre, then linguistics I was alien to the concept that I was allowed to sit and think; I was putting myself under pressure to produce something immediately. I also found it very difficult to start a sketch book as I felt I had to be producing something of quantity. All this worry wasn’t helping the creative process!
A quick phone call to Mary Butler was re assuring and I made a start. I spent the first few days moving the beater into the studio and setting up the space to enable me to carefully record and document the fibres I was working with, as the results would become my palette.
Setting the Scene
Since moving to Ireland 5 years ago, my main aims as a paper arts educator have been to improve my practice and raise the profile of the medium of paper making in Ireland.
The art of contemporary paper making is a growing artistic medium through out of the USA and much of Europe, yet not much is known about it in Ireland. As a medium it is extremely versatile, as it lends itself to a variety of treatments and uses. Paper pulps can be created by any fibres that yield cellulose including numerous indigenous plants and seed heads e.g. bog rushes, flax, straw, wheat, thistle down, artichoke down. These pulps can then be used as paint, or poured over screens to create large pieces, or used to cast objects, sculpted.
As Arts in residence for the Castlecomer Community Art projects ‘Layers & Imprints’ (jointly funded by Kilkenny County Council ‘Percent for Arts’, and BNS Leader) I began to realize some of these aims. In order to facilitate the project some of the funding was used to purchase a specialized piece of paper making equipment that enables a variety of fibres to be beaten in different ways.
This machine (shown above) is called a ‘Peter Beater’. Based on the original Hollander Beater, this machine was designed by Dutch paper artist Peter Genenaar in order to allow him to beat raw fibres without clogging the blades of the mill. This machine enables fibres to be beaten to a fine consistency.
During the year long residency I worked with several community groups in Caslecomer creating handmade paper pieces that ranged from Book Works to Wearable hand made costumes.
Sing the experiment gained from the ‘Layers & Imprints’ residency as a starting point, the aim of the Kilkenny County Council Arts Development Residency was to facilitate more in depth research and experimentation with the ‘Peter Beater’ machine in order to further extend this innovative art form beyond the usual 2 dimensional form.
I set myself the aim of looking at the following areas:
• Size, shapes and structure
• Effect of light
In order to do this I had to first experiment with a range of different fibres and methods of preparation and document these. The idea being that findings from these experiments would be the starting point for bigger pieces. But first I had to set up the studio !!
In the morning an interview with Martin Brennan (Kilkenny Advertiser and Kilkenny People).
I arrange the work in the portfolio.
During the afternoon Gypsy Ray and Alan Counihan help roll up the work for storage. He has been a consistent visitor throughout.
Steven Aylin helps me move these and the equipment back to my small studio.