Making inventory

A lot of our time is spent making handmade paper objects. While some of these objects look pretty good by themselves, we think they have a bigger impact as part of groups. The 2 galleries below follow 2 pieces of "inventory" from creation to being part of those ensembles. Please see our blog for a couple other examples.

The object below is a “puffer” in which lightly beaten cotton pieces seem to puff up when dry. The ochre ground is abaca beaten 6 hours. It shrinks a good bit (maybe 30%) by itself. However, if you lay shapes of 75 minute cotton linters on top which is a low or no shrinkage fiber, the abaca covered is much constrained. The tension between these high and low shrinkage areas make the low shrink area puff out to accommodate the high shrinkage going on around it.

This puffer is used as an example of an object used in several works on how we work.

Photo 1 shows the irregular ground shape we came up with. Next is a simple thick sheet of freshly pulled cotton broken into shapes while still on the mold. These shapes are then lightly pressed still on the mold and then couched individually - and carefully - onto small pieces of pellon held in a hand. If the shape is small enough, we’ll “couch” it directly onto the hand. Then you can just quick flip it onto the piece like flipping burgers.

In photo 3, Barbara is “couching” a 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 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. The concavities are etched and more dramatic than the “puffed” side.

The 2nd example below is more complex and verges on a finished work, but we prefer showing it as part of an emsemble. We love the start in photo 1 - an exuberant diagonal of whimsical purple rectangles and blue polygons. One day we're gonna recreate this state as an object in itself. Photo 2 sketches in an X motif. The third photo shows what we often do: we take a piece too far. We pile on color, shapes and pattern until the eye can't make sense of it anymore.

We used to feel ridiculous when we'd do this - as if we both suddenly and simultaneously forgot everything we ever learned about making art. Now we accept it as just part of our process. After we regroup, we start editing and culling. We often reach a better result when we have to subtract to reach it. It's like knowing a road better when you've driven it coming and going.

To restraint dry the piece (that is, dry flat with little warpage), we covered it with no-see-'um mesh and buried it under pebbles from the garden store. The piece is handmade pigmented cotton sheets and is about 4' x 7'.

The last 3 photos show the piece standing alone and as part of Dancing Planes from 2017, which we showed in Meaningless and Sure in February and March.