Wednesday, 22 July 2020

silk fibre papermaking - zoom workshop

I signed up for a papermaking workshop, which took place by Zoom two Saturday mornings in June. I was really excited by this for several reasons: to see if one could do a workshop over the internet (having never done this before), to learn a new process, to see if this process would feed into my own artmaking. Although I have made paper before, by hand, I was completely unfamiliar with silk fibre as a material, and as the tutor explained to me by email, this was a different process than making paper with wood pulp. The artist facilitator Tunde Toth, was based in another county to me, so I would not have signed up for the workshop had it been live at her studio. I was quite excited when the parcel of materials arrived in the post: two types of silk fibre, two packages of dye, two cards of different coloured threads, a sample paper decoration and some sheets of of parchment paper. 


The items I needed to have available for the course included an iron, a spritzer bottle of water, a small paintbrush, some paper or card, and a table cloth covered workspace. I knew I would be working in the kitchen, and the first Sat morning, set up my workspace appropriately.


On the first morning, Toth went over the basics and we made a sample decoration. On the second morning we were shown how to use the dyes in this process, again making a small decoration: with a dry brush dye was sprinkled before the piece was spritzed and ironed between parchment pages.


We then experimented with different types of "inclusions", i.e., items sandwiched between silk fibres (which contain a natural glue). First I used something natural - a very dry mini daffodil. Please note, it is important when using plant inclusions that they be completely dry. I used two dyes in small amounts. Since one is gently flicking the dried dye powder onto the silk prior to spritzing and ironing, the result is random (including mixing of dyes) and one just let's go of any ideas of control. I really enjoy this!


I had some small strips of Fabriano paper, so for another inclusion test I decided to rip them into smaller bits and keep the white-on-white look.


I had a tube of tiny coloured acetate star sequins so made a test piece with this non-natural material and I flicked a fair amount of the pink dye on for a more intense look.


I really enjoyed using silk fibres to make paper and the process is very simple to master. With that in mind, I immediately ordered a larger starter kit (containing more dyes, extra inclusions and larger amounts of the two types of raw silk). Although I am busy with other projects at the moment, I have ideas for making unique silk fibre papers this autumn.


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