Sunday, February 24, 2013

Paper arts in Europe

I have been reading a most informative and interesting book on the history of paper making by Dard Hunter. I appreciate the opportunity to make connections between my own paper making experiences and the techniques and vocabulary provided in the book. Hunter wrote the book in the late 30s/early 40s. It is a most thorough and scholarly work.
Reading it has also provided context for my paper experiences here in Europe.
Roberto Mannino in Rome makes beautiful paper.  (His website is, where you can learn a little about him and view his sculpture work, that I also was able to view up close.)  He has a Hollander beater and orders pulp and fibers from Carriage House in the US - one of the same places I use. I suspect that part of the purchase price I paid for his paper included shipping costs that I do not have. 

Some papers that I purchased from Roberto:
 The top pile of smaller sheets are sheets made of abaca and bamboo fibers.  I am turning them into a book of their own.
 He uses cotton, flax, abaca, and other plant materials for most of his paper and has a good eye for color and texture in his paper.  His sheets are well formed as well.  It was hard to decide among them for what I would purchase.
When Amanda and I visited Istanbul I took a class in Ebru, Turkish marbling.  I had arranged for the private lesson via the Internet and had my expectations exceeded, which is a lovely thing.  I spent almost 3 hours there, during which time Amanda was on their computer and was provided with a sandwich while she waited for me.  Betul, my instructor, does beautiful work, and did an excellent job of explaining her process as she demonstrated.  (See her webpage at Her method was to demonstrate a pattern and then have me create one.  We focused, as I had requested, on the floral patterns that are characteristic of Turkish marbling.  
This one was done by Betul.  She was very generous to share the demonstration pieces with me.

Both the one above and the one below were done by Betul.  Obviously she has had much more practice than I have had!
What I did learn:
  • She also started with carrageenan base
  • Paints are powdered natural pigments mixed with water
  • Add background with paintbrush-like brushes in stone pattern
  • Gelgit with single stylus (very similar to my initial process already)
  • Add drops of paint using styluses of varying diameters – this is key to the drawing of designs.  Put down small drops and then continue to build using additional drops in center – same or different colors.  Use smaller stylus (diameter of wire) for fine drawing.
  • The drawing techniques themselves I think I can get from books, especially now that I have seen it and practiced.
I only had two disappointments related to my marbling session.  The first is that I completely forgot to take photos documenting the process of creating the designs, although I do have written notes for when I get back stateside and can resume marbling.  The second was that Betul uses, at least for my session, a fairly cheap paper.  I found it interesting that she does not apply mordant to the paper.  I don't know if that is because of qualities in the pigments used or in the paper.  She did make a point of showing me that the pigments she uses begin as powder and, as she said, are natural minerals.
Here in Romania I have Razvan's paper, which is definitely visually appealing, but is very soft.  His paper is made from recycled paper only because he does not have a working beater, required for macerating either rags or plant fibers. The paper works well for computer printing - and we will be using it in the book on which we are collaborating, but does not lend itself to being used for drawing or writing.  I hope Razvan is able to take advantage of material I shared with him about beaters.  He needs a beater to be able to go the next step in making quality paper.

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