Papermaking & me
Morley papermaking tutor Lucy Baxandall shares her inspirations and beginnings in papermaking and the potential surprise that awaits you each time you make paper.
Papermaking found me, and from the day I started experimenting, using a blender and recycled paper, I was hooked. I’d been making some small books, and couldn’t find the papers I wanted for the pages and covers, so I decided to do it myself. To learn more, I took a couple of one-off classes with a local papermaker in Chicago, and before I knew it, I was enrolled on the wonderful MFA course in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College.
After three years of inspired and inspiring teaching, I had a studio producing everything from window hangings for churches to installations comprising many little paper mushrooms. Back in the UK, I’m helping, along with the small but dedicated community of British papermakers, to spread the word. Mandy Brannan, my fellow tutor at Morley, also studied in the US, where the revival in hand papermaking has snowballed.
I take my influences from geology, botany and history. I use both Eastern and Western techniques and fibres. One of the fascinating aspects of papermaking as it moved westwards from China over the course of centuries, is the use of local plant resources requiring different fibre preparation and sheet forming methods. ‘Western’ fibres (cotton, linen/flax etc.) are usually pulped in a Hollander beater, of which Morley has one of the few in London, whereas ‘Eastern’ fibres (paper mulberry, gampi, mitsumata etc.) are often beaten by hand or with a stamper, resulting in a totally different texture. The sheets are formed on a flexible screen, rather than a fixed one.
There is a magic to papermaking. As you gain experience, you learn to predict the final results of your work as you go, but you never really know exactly how it will turn out until the final drying is complete. The natural raw materials you are using always have the potential to surprise you, often pleasantly. Whether working in 2D or 3D, or somewhere in between, you never run out of projects that you can’t wait to begin.