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.]