Jun 212014
 

Last month, Randi Parkhurst came to town and taught a paper embellishing class. One of her techniques involves using matte medium to laminate together two sheets of a type of translucent paper from the hardware store. We painted the papers before adhering them. Threads and other things were sandwiched in between the sheets. I’d long been wanting to play around with laminating papers, so this was an interesting concept to me.

Once back in my own space, I decided to play around with some other materials. I wanted to use handmade paper. And I wanted to use paste, rather than matte medium. This is just a personal preference. I like paste. I wound up using translucent Japanese tissue-style washi and Thai unryu in different colors. Any similar type of paper would work. I began by brushing rice starch paste over a sheet of the unryu:

Pasting Unryu

Then I placed some linen thread on top of that:

The thread will be embedded between the two layers of paper.

Then, another layer of unryu is pasted on top. It doesn’t have to be all the same color or same piece of paper. In fact, mixing it up a bit makes it more interesting. In the photo here the paper has been arranged on top:

Adding Paper on Top

Then I go back over it with more paste and leave it to dry. The threads appear to be sitting on top because the wet paper is so translucent. Once it is dry, it will be a bit more opaque:

Finished and Drying

While it is still wet, you can peel it off and hang to dry or place it on a drying rack or whatever other surface you like to dry things on. In general, I like to use sheets of spunbonded polyester for this purpose (sold under names like Reemay or Lutradur). They absorb moisture and help the drying process, but don’t stick. It is possible to just leave it to dry where it is if you don’t think it’ll stick permanently, but with a caveat: sometimes if you leave it in place — especially on something slick like glass or Plexiglas —  the side on the bottom will dry glossy and not have a nice paper texture.  The one above is on a piece of Plexiglas. (If you do anything like this with acrylic medium, don’t leave it to dry on Plexiglas! It can become permanently bonded.)

Drying Sheet of Laminated Thread Paper

Here are straight threads using a piece of corrugated plastic as a working surface. I left it to dry on the board and both sides came out the same — no unexpected glossiness on the back.

You can also put things like stamps between the sheets of tissue-style papers:

The side that dried against the plexiglas wound up being glossy.

The side that dried against the Plexiglas wound up being glossy, but in this instance I actually liked it.

Sample Laminated Papers

Samples of dried and finished laminated papers.

I love the texture of these finished papers. They have a nice crisp hand and are surprisingly sturdy. I’ve been using some of these in my latest “plaything” (sketchbook). I’ve been able to layer inks, colored pencils, washes… and more layers of the same, without any tearing. The papers hold up remarkably well. I guess this isn’t surprising, considering that handmade papers can be sized with starch. And if you think of it, these are also the basic ingredients for papier-maché (if you were to keep going with more layers). Here are a couple of Audubon birds collaged onto one of the finished papers. There are also some light colored pencil marks on the page:

Collaged page on top of laminated Unryu

This is the verso of the bird page, which I covered with layers of inks and pencils. Note in the previous picture there is virtually no bleed-through from this:

This is the other side of the birds, which was drawn with layers of inks and pencils. Note in the previous picture there is virtually no bleed through from this.

Next to that is more ink and pencil doodling:

Another example of a drawing on laminated Unryu

On the other side of it are more layers of ink and pencils along with generous sloshings from a water brush. It all goes on beautifully with minimal (if any) bleed-through:

On the verso are more layers of ink and pencils along with generous sloshings from a water brush.  It all goes on beautifully with minimal bleed-through.

Another example of scribblings on a laminated paper page:

Another Example on Laminated Unryu

And here is the other side of it. There’s a little bit of bleed-through, but it’s quite minimal. The orange marks you see came from me moving the pen in the wrong place. It’s not bleed-through from the previous page:

The verso of the previous one. There's a little bit of bleed-through, but it's quite minimal.

Paper with embedded stamps. It’s double-sided — I placed the stamps back-to-back:

Laminated with Stamps

I also drew over them. This is the other side of the previous embedded stamp page:

The verso of the previous embedded stamp page.

At any rate, this is a great way to create durable decorative papers from delicate handmade translucents such as Japanese tissues and unryu. I’m also planning to experiment with using paste as a sizing and/or ground on different kinds of handmade papers, whether I laminate them with other papers or not. [Please note: I slightly edited this post to add more information about drying.]

Jan 202014
 

Pages from one of my journalsSketchbooks, visual journals, daybooks …. Different artists call that book they carry around different things. No matter what I’ve been — or not been able to be —  doing in the studio, I always keep a couple of different kinds on hand. It’s essential. Even if all I do in a day is scratch out some lines, at least I’m doing something. 

One of my take-along books is a sketchbook that’s used mostly for jotting down ideas and making mock-ups of book pages and that sort of thing. I’ve carried one of those around in one form or another for a very long time. The current one is a thin store-bought softcover thing with graph paper inside. It serves the purpose.

 

The handmade paper with flowers was something I'd done a while ago.

The handmade paper with flowers was something I’d done a while ago.

 

The other carry-along book is handmade. Its purpose is to keep me making marks on a regular basis. Often, this is while the TV is on, or while I’m out doing errands and stop for a rest with some coffee. When I go out, I bring it in a sack that’s also filled with colored pencils, pens, threads and needles, a glue stick, eraser, pencil sharpener, brushes, small scissors and scalpel, a 4 x 6″ cutting mat, vial of water, and, occasionally, a small watercolor palette (yeah — I overpack my suitcases as well). I also have a small zippered case that contains an assortment of postage stamps, papers and other stuff.

 

journal page with embedded mirror

The mirror is a scrap left over from another project.

 

I haven’t been particularly satisfied with what to call this book. Although I take it to coffee shops and the like with me, I don’t sketch my fellow visitors in it. It doesn’t seem to be a sketchbook. It’s also, to me, not quite a visual journal, which, in my mind, has a dated and linear progression expressing the feelings of the moment. For the most part, the only dates are the ones to note when it began and when it was retired. I very definitely do not work in a linear, nor systematic, way in them. I make marks — sometimes drawn, sometimes cut and sometimes sewn. The object is not to make art, nor to work out my thoughts or state of mind. It is, rather, my plaything.

journal pages with paper cutouts and stitching

It’s my relaxation, and it keeps me thinking about patterns, lines and colors, even though my one self-imposed “rule” is to not think too much about anything I put in there. Just grab something and start moving over the page. The pages themselves are not plain. This helps keep the flow going and reduces the intimidation an expanse of blank paper can cause. It also simply makes it more interesting to me.

pages made from various items

I took this everywhere with me for over half a year. You can tell.

This was dragged around everywhere with me for over half a year. You can tell.

Drawing in my plaything has become a pleasurable obsession. The latest incarnation of this type of sketchbook-journal-plaything began with a sewn-board bound book (shown here) that I made early last year. I filled it with different kinds of handmade and decorative papers, fragments from outdated science journals, printouts of things like enlarged postage stamps, a postcard, old library catalog cards, and translucent vellum in different colors.

There are small magnets and a metal strip embedded in the laminated page with the pop-up to help keep it closed.

There are small magnets and a metal strip embedded in the laminated page with the pop-up to help keep it closed.

The pop-up page is held tightly closed, thanks to the magnets inside.

The pop-up page is held tightly closed, thanks to the magnets inside.

The binding is actually a bit eccentric. Sewn-board bindings with their drop-down spines aren’t supposed to be thick (it’s usually recommended for books with around a half-inch spine). Plaything number one (with the red spine), however, is more than five times that wide. And I love it. It has a covered spine like a regular book, but the pages fold down flat and are easy to work on. The cloth from the spine automatically folds out of the way when I’m working on it. 

More journal pages with mixed papersI recently (more or less) retired the first one, and have just begun a second sewn-board bound plaything filled with lots of stuff, including photos of foreign money, guilloché patterns, postcards, Yupo, decorative and handmade paper, library catalog cards, lotus-fold pages… It is covered in silk that I made into book cloth. (Local friends — Eureka Fabrics has wonderful silks and cottons that make gorgeous book cloth, and their prices are reasonable for the excellent quality.) It took me weeks to actually make the book, but planning it out has been part of the pleasure.

The Old Icelandic Sagas catalog card is a flashback to my days when I actually did learn a bit of Old English and Old Icelandic. That was in a previous lifetime. It was so long ago the library was still using those catalog cards.

journal page made from a postcard

Handmade papers, paste paper, a postcard …

There’s actually a story behind the silk cover. While adhering the book cloth to the boards, I was very, very careful to wipe all glue quickly from my fingers, and to immediately remove any soiled scrap paper after gluing. I glued with a bad case of bookmaker’s glue paranoia. And so, of course, as soon as the front was adhered, there was a big blob of a stain right to the left of the depression where the label was to go. Impolite things were said.

Sewn-Board Plaything Two

And then I reminded myself that these sorts of accidents invariably lead to something better than what had originally been planned (this really is true). I decided to add a second label to cover up the mess. I tried to impress a recessed area for a label over the stain using my press, but the resulting impression was too feeble for that purpose. And so I put the label on top and added a silk-covered “frame” around it. It worked. To make the other label match, I added a second frame. I put images from Chinese and Danish banknotes in them. Happy things were said.

Handmade journal bound with silk coverAs for size, this one is a pleasingly eccentric nearly 3″ thick. Special considerations come into play when lining the spine of the book block and making the cover when the spine area will drop away that much from the book. But those sorts of small technical details are for another day.

If you’d like more information about making sewn-board books, here are a few links:

  • Bookbinder Henry Hébert usefully details the steps for making them on his blog.
  • Gary Frost, who devised the structure, discusses them here (PDF).
  • A PDF handout from a Karen Hanmer presentation on Drum Leaf and Sewn Board Bindings is available at the Guild of Bookworkers site. Also, the bookbinder Erin Fletcher recently featured Karen on her Flash of the Hand bookbinding blog. This post provides more background to Karen’s GBW presentation.
Sketching things on table in coffee shop

A good way to have coffee.

Do you have a favorite way to keep a journal, sketchbook, daybook or plaything? What do you bring along in your to-go kit?  Have you discovered the perfect drawing tool or organizing device you now can’t live without? Do tell.