May 142013
 

Last Saturday I taught a paste paper workshop for NORBAG, our local book arts guild. Happily, they are all nice people and most of them are used to my eccentricities. Even so, I barely arrived in time for my own workshop(!) after a little paste (among others) malfunction. It wasn’t that the paste didn’t cook well–it did–it was that I hadn’t realized that if you make 24 times the usual amount of something, it takes longer to come to a simmer and can be a bit unwieldy. Silly me. I’d never taught this big a paste painting class before.

Dominic watchingAt some point during the kitchen proceedings Dominic the cat hopped up onto the refrigerator to get a better view. He looked positively spooked. I was awake (well… maybe more animated than awake) much earlier than usual, stirring a vat of paste and muttering things under my breath. Maybe in his earlier days as a stray he’d heard stories about strange women, cauldrons and cats…

I had fun thinking of things to bring to the workshop, in terms of tools. I found some interesting rollers at an educational supply place and at a ceramics supplier. I wanted the workshop to provide more than the usual chipboard comb and cheap paper. And I wanted it to be a little eccentric. I wanted to convey the joy of being experimental and using unusual things to make marks in paint. So, along with the commercial rollers and rubber dog combs, etc., I assembled a kit for everyone with some weird, and not quite so weird, finds from the hardware and dollar stores. It looked like something kids might get for craft time at a somewhat deranged day camp. Perfect!

A glimpse of our work space

We were very fortunate that a church in town kindly allowed us to use their large facility. We not only had room to comfortably fit 24 and all their painting gear, but we also had yet another room in which to dry their output. Anyone who’s ever taken or taught a paste painting class knows how the amount of wet paper grows exponentially! This space was almost too good to be true.

Things were such a whirlwind that I neglected my bloggerly duties. I only remembered my camera after everyone was packing up and taking away their papers! Yike! So I hobbled around in a frenzy snapping pics of what was left. There were some really impressive papers there, far more than what I was able to get snaps of. I left with new ideas for patterns I’d like to try myself.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to identify the makers of all of the papers. If you were in the class and recognize yours and would like to be credited here, let me know.

Blue chains and combing

Great use of a patterned roller and combs.

magenta-and-ultramarine-stamped-grid

Combing and stamping by Dolores G.

brownish-comb-waves

Nice comb waves.

blue-comb-and-reen

A bit Art Deco-ish.

light-brown-roller

Grace M. did this with a patterned roller.

purple-combed

Grouting comb!

red-bursts-and-blue-roller-and-comb

So colorful. The blue one on the right was partly made with a roller.

red and purple combed

Different ways of using combs.

orange-chains-and-2-toned-combs

Neat.

Blue comb twists

Nice comb twists by Grace M.

green-duralar

We did a few on transparent Dura-Lar and Yupo, too. This one was done by Dolores G.

purple

Interesting comb pattern by Dolores G.

And an especially huge thank you to everyone there who helped set up, lug around heavy tables and unload and load my car! It went well beyond the call of helping out.

PS In case you were wondering, I discovered it takes 4- 5 cups of cornstarch to make paste for 24.

 

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.

 

Toothbrushes.

 

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.
Sep 022011
 

Tip of the day: if one has difficulties with concentration, one should not watch TV while gluing together pages of a book. One might discover, after the books have dried, that some of them are missing pages. Just sayin’.

I’ve finally almost assembled (reassembled?) an edition of 15 petri dish books. The title is Mysophobia: Mainstream Culture. The pages are individual circles that were scored and glued together at the side.

I’ve discovered that scrapbooking toys have their uses. My 3″ circle punch is now my friend. And… I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the Internet… the Martha Stewart score thingie. I remember seeing this very item in a store a while back and sneering. Then came the need to score lots of circular book pages. I could’ve done it with a ruler or a jig. But then I read this blog post from Ginger Burrell. I have to agree; it’s a nifty tool. Who’d have thought…?

The book is about modern germ paranoia. The “cultures” are paste paint and acrylic paintings that I manipulated in Photoshop. I find it fascinating how behavior that is now seen as normal would’ve, not long ago, been seen as compulsive and disordered. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but here in the US–at least where I live–every big store now seems to have disinfectant wipes at the door. Anti-bacterial soaps are big business. Yet, do we actually get fewer communicable illnesses these days? I doubt it. Outside of a health care context, all this disinfectant wiping and dousing comes across as some sort of quaint evil-repelling ritual.

Of course, ironically, all the evidence suggests this germ phobia is only creating more antibiotic-resistant germs.

   

Jun 172011
 

Papers drying.

Yesterday was my first time teaching a paste painting class, held at Origin Design Lab in Eureka. I hope the afternoon passed as quickly for them as it did for me. In addition to painting on paper, we also did some Tyvek and Wet Media Dura-Lar. Perhaps not traditional, but strangely satisfying.

Painting on Tyvek.

Trying out some Dura-lar. We decided that if you're going to work with clear plastic on a colored backdrop, it might be wise to stick a plain piece of paper underneath!

More papers drying.

More finished papers and the odd couple of pieces of Dura-lar.

Admiring another's Dura-lar comb design.

Mar 012011
 

I discovered that the paste-painted Wet Media Dura-Lar that I mentioned in the last post can be cut, folded and stitched. I made a miniature book with it. The only problem was that it didn’t stay shut. The pages insisted on staying open.

However, magnets in the covers solved that problem.

And the magnets can keep the book open in a circle too. (My favorite source for these is K&J Magnetics.)

The bits of colored plastic visible in the top picture are vending machine capsules. They will be explained soon.

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.
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.