Making puffers

Lightly beaten cotton shapes puff up when placed on an overbeaten abaca sheet and allowed to dry. Here, the ochre ground is abaca beaten 6 hours. It shrinks a good bit (maybe 30%) by itself. The veronese green shapes are 75 minute cotton linters which is a low or no shrinkage fiber. When stuck together, the tension between these high and low shrinkage areas make the low shrink cotton areas puff out to accommodate the high shrinkage of the bit of abaca they are attached to.

The irregular shape in Photo 1 is made up of still wet, but pressed ochre abaca sheets. Next is a thick sheet of freshly pulled cotton broken into shapes while still on the mold. These shapes are then couched individually - and carefully - onto a scrap of pellon or even onto a large hand and transferred to the ochre ground.

In photo 3, Barbara is “couching” a cotton shape from pellon to background. Once we had the shapes in place, we blotted them again with a large piece of pellon. We liked the light coming through the wet parts of the pellon as we peeled it away so we include it here even though it also shows our dye still running a little bit.

As shown by the sheen in photo 6, we slathered on the methyl cellulose, a reversible glue, that will help strengthen the bonding of the abaca and cotton. We left it overnight. It finished drying quite quickly the next day in the hot summer sun. We tend to compose with the colored cotton facing outward, but the sheet is beautiful on both sides.

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