Book Arts Workshop Brings The Art Of Hand-Making Paper Back To The 21st Century

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A row of printing presses inside the U Book Arts Studio on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)
Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle

Where does paper come from?

For most people, the answer is likely a store like FedEx. But while mass-produced paper dominates our world, the process of making paper by hand still exists within small niche places such as the Book Arts Program in the Marriott Library, for those who want a more physical experience of making this common object.

On Thursday, the library offered a chance for students to re-experience this often-overlooked process through their second installment of the “Drop-in & Print Sessions,” which allowed for people go come in and make their own paper. Dozens of people filtered in throughout the evening to dip their hands into pulp-filled water to make their own personalized sheets.

Book and printing presses inside the U Book Arts Studio on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)
Book and printing presses inside the U Book Arts Studio on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Allison Milham, the library’s outreach coordinator, said learning how to do things like make paper is a way to connect with a craft tradition that dates back centuries.

“Book arts, for me, really combines a lot of historic traditional craft practices that are becoming more rare — they’re things that not a lot of people know how to do anymore,” Milham said.

Milham said these practices are a way to take a break from the fast-paced modern world.

“All of these craft practices are really slow, usually repetitive,” Milham said. “Getting into that slow process of making is a nice juxtaposition with our crazy, busy lives.”

Those who attended had the choice to make plain white paper or sheets flecked with green (shredded money), flowers or other plants. Dipping a frame into the water filled with the mix of paper pulp and added material, visitors began this process of making.

After the pulp was pushed into a rectangle shape, visitors flipped it over onto a felt pad, where they soaped up any of the excess water in the sheet of almost-paper.

A rolling pin dries the pulp - now between two sheets of felt - that is used to create the paper at the U Book Arts Workshop on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)
A rolling pin dries the pulp – now between two sheets of felt – that is used to create the paper at the U Book Arts Workshop on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Next came the hardest part, getting the pulp off of the wooden rectangle it was formed on. With a quick press and snap up, the paper hopefully sticks to the felt. Then, carefully peeling this sheet off, they transferred it to another blotting sheet to drain nearly all of the water, leaving only enough to get the paper to stick to glass in order for them to dry flat.

Keeping in mind most of the visitors had never made paper before, the whole process took around five minutes per sheet.

Milham said the library is hosting these free sessions as a way to promote their program and as a way to bring in members of the community who may not be able to afford taking a course on book arts.

In addition to this workshop, there are a series of classes happening throughout the summer. While some of these classes, such as “Bookmaking: Materials + Structure,” cost a fee of a few hundred dollars, others, such as “Up-Cycled Stories: Books as Process,” have a limited number of free spots.

To apply for these larger and more exhaustive classes, apply at bookartsprogram.org. Milham said the program is looking to build a diverse class, taking into account people’s financial needs, location and previous book arts experience.

There are two more Book Arts workshops this year. The next free Drop-in & Print Session, “Relief Printing on Fabric,” is on May 21 from 1 to 5 p.m., and the final one is on July 16, at the same time.

The National Endowment for the Arts gave the library a grant, which allows for these sessions and workshops to remain free. Attendants must be at least 16 years old to participate.

Anyone with further questions on these workshops can contact Milham through bookartsprogram@utah.edu.

k.ehmann@dailyutahchronicle.com

@Ehmannky

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