For about a year or 18 months I made a lot of books. By the end I was getting v fancy and started making my own paper to fill the books with, instead of the storebought/mass manufactured printer paper or graph paper I'd begun with.

I briefly touch on papermaking in step 1, here.

Once I saw handmade paper and made a few books out of it, I soon felt there was no alternative, if I wanted to make artisanal books-as-works-of art. Which I did. I was lucky enough to have access to the right workspace for papermaking for about 6 months, and I made a few books' worth of paper in that time. Probably between 100-130 sheets.

Then I moved out of my parents' house, into an apartment which didn't have the right kind of space to make paper.

The right kind of space to make paper, it turns out, is rather specific. Open art studio space won't do; you need access to a source of water, either a large deep sink or several water-filled tubs, a drain (essentially, a laundry or mud or art sink sort of set up), an electrical outlet, a floor which can take getting drenched, and a fair amount of open table- or waist-height space. I checked out local art studios around me for studio space which often they'll grant community members for cheap and for free, but just couldn't come up with anything that would work.

I finished what books I could with what I had. I played with stamps and marbling and other stuff. I waited. I wanted to make more paper and more books. I had fallen in love with my finished paper pages, which I made from scrap sheets, often of drafts of my writing, which would otherwise go to landfills or waste. I'd experimented with blending up some pieces less than others so that words or writing would still be visible in the finished product. I just really loved basically every page I made, each time. I found handmade paper extremely beautiful.

Well like a year and a half later my parents went on vacation for 10 days and left me to housesit. The first day I went over and set up my set up.

I got started.

I forgot what a time-consuming process it is. And my first results were far from perfect. I had to remind myself of the process.

Still, some of the early inclusions I saw coming out in the paper were really encouraging.

This '13' was by accident. That's one of the best parts about making paper. It turns out so very beautifully and yet so much of what you see peeking through the paper is by chance.

I made a few standard sheets, to get back in the groove.

Then I experimented with botanical inclusions for the first time. A god's age ago I'd picked a bunch of violets and pressed them for this. So long ago, in fact, I'd forgotten I'd done it. I was very excited by my pre-planning.

I was having more trouble than I remembered coming up with even sheets without sparse spots or holes. I began to get more experimental about how I could deal with such "pours" (as each iteration of making a paper sheet is called).

This sheet is the most experimental in that vein. It actually wasn't meant to be a sheet at all, but me trying to strain the last of the paper pulp out of the dipping water before pouring it down the sink. (Paper pulp can totally block drains.) It wasn't enough pulp to make a whole sheet so I grabbed a scratch sheet, tore it up, wet it, and just saw whether I could use whole pieces of paper like large bandaids to join the pulp and cover the huge spaces in that pour.

What do you know, it worked.

I made paper for a few hours one day and about another hour the next.

Then I realized that what had held me up before, even when I had good space access, was how the process of drying each new sheet of paper tied up 4-6x as much of my supplies than creating each sheet did. And the drying process, if done carefully and well, takes 1-2 weeks.

All told I was able to make about 16 pieces of paper. Not all of them are usable, at least not in whole. It's not quite enough for a book, at least not a full one.

For now I will hold onto them and wait. And I have yellow petals from a summer chrysanthemum pressing dry in a wooden press -- for next time. I think yellow petals strewn on pages will be just lovely. Whenever that next time is.

Studio space -- after

Drying all the things


On a side note in thinking about bookmaking: I started making book covers using recycled old fabric because I wanted to reuse it. And I started making paper in part to reduce the massive paper waste I churned up as a writer, some of which I emotionally had trouble getting rid of/throwing out even though I didn't ever look at it or really plan to go back and read any of it again ever. And in both these cases my goal was to make art out of trash.

In thought today I decided if I want to recycle fabric, I should do that...and paper, the same. But I think fabric isn't the answer for good book covers. So I'm going to move away from that going forward in book making. I think I'll end up with better product books as a result; less confused about what they are.

The only exception will be denim pocket books.

PS: Here are shorts of the finished, final/dried pages. My cat is very rude.

rd95 sd86 lil (since you'd asked what i've been up to)


I learned to use the term "found object" to describe my trash art. You can build a whole career around watching pointy headed experts try to explain why the goat has a tire around its midsection.

posted by _refugee_: 447 days ago