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.]

Nov 092011

I’ve been a bit more quiet than usual, as you might’ve noticed. Mostly I’ve been recovering and trying to get things back together after last month’s show. The current decorative motif in the studio is Hoarder Nouveau. I’ve been attempting to shovel out. For a while I thought I was making good progress. I now don’t feel like I’m making good progress. It’s pretty hard to do anything in there at the moment.

However, last week I decided @#$% it, and managed to move enough piles aside to make room for a little paste painting. I’d come across an interesting set of scraper/spatula things at a store that were, the package said, for the kitchen. (Really–are you going to scrape dough and not paint with something that looks like that?) I also recently found some interestingly shaped toothbrushes and a square wire whisk. I’ve been wanting to try out my new toys tools.

 (Clean and unused) cat litter pans of water are great for wetting sheets of paper.

I like to work on a sheet of plexiglass. The white surface you see underneath is a super absorbent incontinence pad. It was a gift from a friend, who told me they’re wonderful for when her kids paint and do messy things. She’s right–it makes cleanup easier and keeps all the nasty stuff off my cutting mat underneath. This has been a very thoughtful gift.

A square wire whisk was new for me. This definitely has possibilities. This is painted on Tyvek.




This one was made with miscellaneously shaped cut-outs of sticky-backed fun foam mounted on a rolling pin. After it was dry, a second layer with a comb was added.


This was originally done with a fat grouting comb and a golden color that I didn’t like so much (nothing against the tool–I just didn’t like the paper). Then I went over it again with a different color, and liked the result even less. So most recently I went at it a third time with a thin rubber comb pattern and a different color. Now I like it.

I added some more to a paste paper set on Flickr.
Feb 222011
I experimented the other day with non-paper materials for paste painting. One of my more interesting discoveries was that you can paste paint on Wet Media Dura-lar. It won’t curl, and the paint doesn’t flick off (although I haven’t yet tried to fold it…).
I’ve paste painted on Tyvek before, but I thought I’d try some texturing tools I hadn’t used much yet. In general, results on Tyvek often seem more textured than on paper, and it usually doesn’t curl. Here, I twisted a square cookie cutter in various directions:
This was done on Tyvek with foam letter stamps, stamped in all directions until the letters themselves became mostly illegible :
This is on Tyvek again. The paste was brushed on and then dabbed at with a towel:
And then I played around with the scans in Photoshop, to see how the textures could be further altered:
This was a paper that I’d begun a while ago. I first made a faux-wood pattern in a greenish-blue color. I then later went back and added a fresh blue layer on top and dabbed at it with a rag:
And then played around with the scan a bit in Photoshop:
I discovered that you can paste paint on synthetic Yupo as well. I thought the result was rather interesting, although I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with it.

It occurred to me that a long time ago I said I was going to add a paste painting tutorial on here. It seems I never got around to it. Someday… However, there are many tutorials online, easily found with a search.
I just discovered this good recent one from Lili’s Bookbinding blog. I’d never prepared cornstarch paste using her method before (my method is mentioned here), so I decided to give it a try. She doesn’t simmer the paste on the stove. She makes a slurry and adds boiling water to it while mixing well with an electric mixer. It was fun to watch the paste suddenly whoosh up into form in the bowl this way. I found this paste differed from my usual version. Not bad. Just different. I thought it tended to form a skin more quickly, but otherwise it had a nice consistency. I’d like to use it again. The recipe is on her post at the above link.
Another tutorial I’ve liked is at Buechertiger’s blog (here and here). She also provides links to further resources.
If you know of any other good paste painting tutorials or resources, please feel free to recommend them.
Apr 052010

As I mentioned before, I wound up waxing inkjet-printed papers for use as covering material for my latest books. I’ve been quite pleased with the result. I thought I’d outline the process.

First, rub an even layer of wax over the paper. Since this is for a miniature and my block of beeswax is rather large, this is fairly easy. (This fantastic block of beeswax, by the way, was found in a local health food store for less than beeswax costs at an art supply place.)

I then experimented with different ways of sanding the waxed paper. Regular fine grit paper did not work–it rubbed off some of the ink. I found this rubber sanding pad at the hardware store, and it works well. I can also roll it up to make it a little easier to grasp. For some reason, a regular sanding block with the same grit number did not work.

Then smooth with a buffing pad, also from the hardware store.

Wiping with tack cloth helps smooth out the wax, but it can leave a little stickiness. I buff some more after this step. Repeat until the desired finish is obtained.

Even though this is a small area to do, this process was causing me problems. I have painful and not very strong hands. I got the idea to try a cheap electric toothbrush to do some of the buffing. It works…up to a point, although I found it actually was not that much easier. However, it is another option and does allow for some finer finishing. I discovered at the drugstore that the toothbrushes are not all equal. Some only vibrate, and others simply don’t feel nice in the hand when they’re turned on, and, on some, only a small portion of the head moves. If you like this idea, take advantage of the ones that allow you to turn them on in the package at the store. That way, you can get a better idea if it might work for you.

In spite of the hand thing, I’ve been excited about this. The finish is just perfect for this project. It’s smooth and glossy, and is far more durable than regular unfinished inkjet paper. It also deepens the colors of the printouts. I use an Epson with pigmented Dura-Brite inks. I’m not sure how others would hold up to this process, but I imagine they’d be similar.

Apr 022010
Book blocks made from pharma inserts, waiting to be cased in.

Here’s some more background on those miniature books I mentioned in the last post. Several months back, I found a 7-compartment weekly pill organizer in the drugstore. There was just something about the size of it—slightly larger than usual—that screamed “art supply.”

I decided to make little books that look like day planners, one for each compartment. The pages come from copies of the pharmaceutical inserts from my meds. They are 7/8″ x 1-5/8″.

I’ve been trying to find a suitable covering material for the little books. I’d been thinking of using Tyvek, but in the end it didn’t look “day planner” enough. Mostly, the tiny lettering just didn’t look right no matter how I tried to affix it to the Tyvek. I opted, instead, for inkjet prints on paper.

I made a solid black background and used white lettering. But then the coated inkjet paper scratches so easily and the texture wasn’t quite right — what to do?  I decided, as a protective gesture, to coat the papers with beeswax, which was something new for me. It turned out that the coating not only offers scratch resistance, but the texture of the wax rubbed into the paper definitely suggests “day planner” to me. I was quite pleased with the result. They are smooth and glossy and not “waxy” at all (unfortunately, the picture doesn’t convey this very well).

I made the first one last night and eagerly showed my husband, who said, “Wow, a bible–how funny!”

I had to confess, it did look more “bible” than “day planner.”
At any rate, I can recommend wax-coating inkjet printouts. I’ll explain a little bit more about my process for coating them in the next post.
A finished “day planner”
Mar 272010

Tyvek is so versatile. I’ve been trying to find the right cover material for a set of miniature books (more on them later). I decided Tyvek might be the way to go.

My favorite way of decorating Tyvek is to use a foam cosmetic sponge dipped in acrylic ink. I evenly smooth the color over the Tyvek, rubbing it in with the foam sponge.

It’s best to work on top of some scrap paper and to wear vinyl or rubber gloves (I like the close-fitting kind, not the dishwashing kind).

Rubbing an even layer of the ink into the Tyvek brings out the patterns of its non-woven fibers. And one of the nicest things about acrylic ink is that it doesn’t leave any discernible texture or tackiness–perfect for book pages. It just soaks into the Tyvek.

Once the Tyvek is decorated, it can be used for all sorts of things. Cut into strips, it can be used as decorative tapes to sew signatures onto. Keith Smith, in Non-adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue, says of it: “Archival, flexible and strong, Tyvek seems perfect for pages in a book. It can be sewn…and since it is strong, it can be a substitute for book cloth. PVA must be used for the adhesive…”

I’ve used it for accordion pages and small book covers. Most of what I’ve read claims it’s archival, although I think nobody will know for certain until it has been used for more decades. Keith Smith cautions that some binders are skeptical, warning that the plasticizer in it may eventually dry out and shatter. That said, the stuff is used to wrap houses and it’s a popular art material. I just use it and enjoy.

This shows a little gift book I made a while ago. The cover material and the pages are paste-painted Tyvek. I wish the photo could convey its tactile quality — very sturdy, yet people seem to like to pet the covers and pages.

Sep 202009

A while back I was on the hunt for a decent pasting brush. I’d been using standard cheap brushes, and had invested in a more traditional round brush (for clear paste), which wasn’t going to be helpful for painting. None of the brushes I’d tried really worked well.

One day I was browsing in the hardware store. On a whim, I decided to treat myself to a fairly good synthetic house painting brush. The bristles were firm, but not too stiff. As it turned out, it was the best brush I’d ever used for such purposes. Paste  flows smoothly and the hairs don’t fall out. It’s quickly turned into one of those things I wouldn’t want to be without. I wound up getting more in different sizes and with different handles. You really do get what you pay for. Now that I’ve experienced these, I never want to go back to the $1 specials!

If you want to make paste paper, good brushes will make a difference. My favorite paste recipe comes from Diane Maurer-Mathison:

Blend 1/4 C. cornstarch with 1/4 C. water.

Add 1 C. water and heat on medium high, stirring with a whisk until it thickens.

Remove from heat. Add 1/2 C. water and let it cool thoroughly. Strain if necessary. When cool, divide into containers. I use roughly 1/4 cup of paste for each color, but this can be varied. Add a teaspoon or two of acrylic or watercolor paint to each portion of paste.

This paper was done with copper acrylic paint mixed into the paste, painted on black paper. The pattern was created with a dental tool that came as a freebie from somewhere. I think it’s supposed to be some sort of tongue cleaning device, but I much prefer it as an art supply. This dental tool decorated paper is in honor of a friend who almost just needed a root canal. (Hi there, M!)

The blue one below was done on Tyvek. The results tend to be a little more muted than when done on paper, but that often adds to the interesting effect. The golden pattern was done on the shiny side of some Japanese Masa paper. Most of the others (examples in the previous post) were done on Strathmore drawing paper, which I’ve found to be extremely versatile.

Sep 152009

I went to a paste paper workshop last weekend. The instructor was nice and the company fun. I hadn’t had an extended stretch of paper decorating in a long time. I picked up a few new tips and tried a different way of making paste paper. It was enjoyable.

But, as it turned out, I wasn’t crazy about the way we were doing the papers. I’d originally learned to do paste painting on wet paper stretched taut on plexiglass. In this workshop we worked on dry paper. Judging from what I’ve read over the years, some people can do it this way. But I don’t seem to be one of them. The paper curled and I found the process exasperating. Furthermore, we were using methylcellulose. Again, a lot of people do it this way. I’ve even made some pleasing methylcellulose paste papers over the years. But I usually prefer to use some kind of starch-based paste for the better detail provided. Once the papers from the workshop had dried, I wound up with hardly any that I liked.

However, I still found the class valuable. It reminded me how much I used to like to decorate paper. A few days later when I was back in my own studio and had access to my stove, I boiled myself up some paste, pulled out my sheet of plexiglass and a tray of water, and treated myself to some paper decorating satisfaction. The designs you see here are details from a couple of those papers.

I’m highly gluten sensitive and have some weird allergies, so I have to make my own baked goods from scratch. The upside of this is I get to have on hand all kinds of ingredients that some people might find strange, including a variety of wheatless starches—tapioca, arrowroot, and amaranth—along with the ubiquitous corn. I’ve made paste out of them all, as well as out of rice flour and some rice starch that I’d actually bought for making paste rather than for baking. Most starch-based pastes are pretty similar in texture and workability, although the amaranth is a bit heavier and has a warm color cast to it and potato can be a bit hard to spread.

The canister of methylcellulose that I’ve been using for years, in fact, came from a gluten free food supply company. It was meant to be used as a gluten substitute in baking (although I’ve never used it for that, only for bookmaking and paper work). It was less expensive than any methylcellulose I’ve ever seen in an art store, yet seems to be exactly the same stuff. Out of curiosity when I was writing this post, I looked to see if that company still sold it (it’s not actually a popular gluten free additive for home cooks). Sadly, they do not, but I discovered some interesting facts about our old friend methylcel. In addition to being used by bookbinders and food manufacturers, it is widely used as an emulsifier and thickener in cosmetics and shampoos and is a common ingredient in pharmaceuticals. In fact, it is the “cel” in the laxative citrucel. Gelatin-free capsules are often made of it, as are the eyedrops that I use. Virologists and stem cell researchers use it in the lab. It is a base for creating fake slime and goo in movies (it was used in Ghostbusters, for instance). It is also, alas, used in the porn movie industry to simulate…things best not thought about.

Miraculous stuff, but nonetheless I prefer my starch-based painting mixtures. I have a further thought on paste painting, but it will have to wait until the next post.