Paste Paper Workshop (Making Paste for a Crowd)

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.
Combing and stamping by Dolores G.
Nice comb waves.
A bit Art Deco-ish.
Grace M. did this with a patterned roller.
Grouting comb!
So colorful. The blue one on the right was partly made with a roller.
red and purple combed
Different ways of using combs.
Blue comb twists
Nice comb twists by Grace M.
We did a few on transparent Dura-Lar and Yupo, too. This one was done by Dolores G.
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.


13 thoughts on “Paste Paper Workshop (Making Paste for a Crowd)”

  1. Oooh. Some wonderful work there. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that you also came away with some new ideas. The magic of creativity.
    Dom’s alter ego on this side of the world is also always intensely interested in unusual activity – particularly in the early morning. Though Jazz has to put his paw into things as well. Cat paw prints, cat fur, cat tail swipes….

    • I must say, I am only able to do things like this at home because I have a space I can shut the cats out of. The one time Dom came in the studio while I was playing with paste paint… well, let’s just say the papers wound up with an additional cat paw motif that hadn’t been part of the original design plan.

  2. I just discovered your wonderful site. I’m an illustrator and part time art teacher for very small children at a Montessori school. We made paste paper a couple of weeks ago as part of a unit I’m doing on making books. I’ve bookmarked your page and will be checking back often. Thank you!

    • Vicki, thanks so much for your kind comment. I just looked at your delightful blog and started to browse your Pinterest boards… wonderful stuff! Your Montessori kids are lucky! I’ll definitely be back to browse some more (alas, I have to go offline at the moment). Thanks for “introducing” yourself!

  3. Congrats on a successful workshop of this magnitude! It is recognizable in the – beautiful – results that they not just copied you. In my experience this is the hardest part of teaching, to let them feel confident enough to just try something on their own. Good job! Apparently you managed to let creativity spark.

    • Thanks Hilke! It was a little unnerving before the day–whenever I’d mention the size of the class to friends who’ve taught similar workshops more than I, their eyes grew huge with alarm when I mentioned how many there were going to be. But it was fine (after an initial moment of me feeling like a deer in headlights trying to figure out the logistics of setting up stations so they could wet their papers, etc). Unfortunately, I think some of them “trying things on their own” was because I realized (too late) that I hadn’t demonstrated some of the things I’d intended to explain! Such as explaining why I put certain things in their kits and what they could actually do with them. On the other hand, paste painting is a lot, I think, about the joy of exploration. In the end, I think it was all ok. At one point I overheard two happy-looking women whispering “great workshop!” That made stirring a cauldron of paste well worth it!

      By the way, I’ve only been online in brief spurts the last few days. I saw that one of your bottles was found! How exciting! I wasn’t able to comment at the time… I’ll be back…!

  4. Fantastic effort Ellen! I wish I could have gone to your workshop. It looks so much fun! And all those rollers! I never knew such things even existed. I really need to get out more! I was wondering where on earth you found a pot/cauldron large enough to make all that paste, but of course you are in America – the land where everything is bigger!!! ;-)))

    • Aww… thanks.

      As for big… I thought Australians did big as well? It was actually more like a cauldron and a half… two batches. But, yes–I remember coming back to my own kitchen after being in the UK and feeling as if I’d stepped into a land of giants. The stove, the refrigerator–everything was humongous after having become acclimated to European-style sizes!

      • Yes it’s true, we do admire Big Things –'s_big_things#

        Locally we have The Big Pineapple, and my personal favourite The Big Mower (WTF??) although hold onto my aspiration to see The Big Potato I mean, what an architectural feat that must be!

        Also, we do have big natural things – like big rocks (Uluru/Ayres Rock) and big creepy crawlies.
        Nevertheless, Americans do outdo us in terms of the personally big, I think – like really big cars, bottomless cups of coffee and so on. We stand back and admire your personal ownership of big things!! ;-D

        • Those links are hilarious! Thanks! And your natural large monuments are truly magnificent… Although I think the creepy crawly creatures I’d rather avoid! I’ve heard enough stories from all of you down there, I’m not sure I’d want to interact too much with the bugs, snakes, etc! I’m a little surprised by what you say about personal items–I’d always assumed that Australia was more like us when it came to big. But then again, I can also see how that might not be the case.

          We live in the land of big trees–surrounded by redwoods. There is in fact even one specific tree bearing a sign that says “Big Tree.” (It’s a favorite on postcards.) And everything is spread out far and wide. If I were to drive six hours to the south, I’d just be getting in to San Francisco–which, in terms of popular California geography, is still considered Northern California. I assume Australia is just as spread out. When I visited the UK, I found that friends could not really comprehend how far apart things were. They’d think that L.A. must be fairly close, since it was in California (it’s not at all close, and is culturally and geographically a noticeably different place). And, yes… those cars and liter-sized drink cups. They are a reality. It’s perplexing sometimes to go into a coffee shop and order a “small,” only to be handed something that is actually rather large. The huge cars… alas. For those of us in relatively smaller vehicles, it’s annoying to maneuver and park around those #$%!@ things!

  5. Fab papers! I wish I could have taken that workshop with you, but at least I am inspired to give it a go at home. Though I won’t be making quite that quantity of paste… :D

    I’m so sorry you have to leave Flickr now its been changed! I was so sad for you, and I do empathise.

    • Thanks Birdie! I do hope you get to play around a little bit with it.

      As for Flickr… UGH! I’m so depressed about what’s happening. I’ve met quite a few wonderful people there (like you!), belong to so many groups and have so many favorite photos…. I hadn’t realized what a big part of my life it really was until this happened. Aside from the sleaziness of how they want to go to a model of a site covered in ads, I really can’t deal with that black behind the big bright photos, and the white on black on the home page, mixed in with everything else. It’s like a sick joke. I won’t go near white-on-black web pages–they are a migraine trigger. And, apparently, when Flickr/Yahoo did their beta testing, they were told just that. But didn’t care. Maybe they thought it would help get rid of more of the undesirable over-30 demographic. It actually reminds me a lot of the MySpace page a teenager I knew once had… and eventually grew out of.

      I will say, though, that even though it’s far smaller than Flickr, there’s a nice vibe forming over at Ipernity. Many, many people from Flickr have set up accounts there. I almost feel sorry for the original people there–it was just a little site, and it’s suddenly been inundated with people from Flickr. But they’ve been very nice and gracious. I plan to keep my Flickr account–for now–so I can still check in with a few folks now and then. But I definitely won’t be there very often. As I say, it’s depressing.


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