Sandy Rodriguez, granted me the opportunity to visit her studio, or rather “test kitchen”, in MarVista, CA. Rodriguez is a long-time Hiromi Paper, Inc. customer who is always enthusiastic about paper and cognizant of the cultural affects of materials on an oeuvre or body of work. Sandy processes a range of organic colorants and earth pigments into inks & watercolors that are then worked onto the Amate paper via pens and brushes. To acquire the necessary ingredients to for the recipes, Rodriguez conducts expeditions into the wildernesses of the the Western United States with Blue Wind School of Botanical Studies and then cross references specimens with contemporary art history of Americas. Some materials that Rodriguez hand processes are native mushrooms, lichens, bark, seeds and insects that have been used for color for generations in the Americas.
Each plant, insect matter, or mineral contains its own properties, uses and histories. For instance, one of the few ingredients that the artist does not forage herself is the insect cochineal which makes its home on the nopales (prickly pear cactus) of Mexico and California, naturally produces a red carminic acid which makes them undesirable to prey. This same acid when properly processed produces a rich red pigment which can be used to for dyes and paints. In fact, as Sandy recounted, the same pigment became a very valuable commodity and was used to dye the redcoats that the British forces donned during the American Revolutionary War. Today, most artists are familiar with the color carmine red derived from the carminic acid of the cochineal.
The surface that Rodriguez gravitates towards is Mexican Amate bark paper, with roots reaching to precolonial times. Although it is unknown when or where in Mesoamerica paper making began, the oldest known piece of Amate paper dates back to 75 CE (that’s about 1,943 years ago!). Once practiced throughout Mexico, the process of making Amate paper was nearly lost post colonial contact as it became banned from practice due to its association with the indigenous ceremonial practices decried by colonizers. Now only several paper making villages remain in the Puebla area of Mexico. Of course this is only a glossed over history of the Amate, but one can see that easily its history is rich and fertile with exploration as it relates to the themes that course throughout Rodriguez’s work.
In her work Rodriguez explores ideas of cultivation in terms of culture and materiality, as well as historiography. In De Las Señales y Pronosticós & I.C.E. Raids de Califas, 2018 (Pictured left), Rodriguez’s pigments dance on the surface and in the fibers of a LARGE Amate paper–at times dancing with the darker fig fibers. In other parts of the painting, the Amate becomes both land and sky, a place to describe where its own history stems from and where history is currently moving towards. It reflects the past and the present simultaneously the way an iridescent metal gleams with different colors at the same time. The eye looks at the storyboarded images on the top and the right side of the painting but the texture and fibers of the paper come through to carry us away into the skull helicopter (Calavera Copter) that then flies over the the land and the sea and the sky and history that once belonged to those who are being told to go back to where they come from, despite already being there.
Don’t forget to catch up with Sandy at the following Summer Talks and Workshops!
In 1994 under the earth of Minneapolis, in the basement that houses Cave Paper, Amanda Degener and Brigette O’Malley set off on a journey to develop some of the book making world’s most cherished papers. Now, nearly 25 years later, Amanda shares some stories and anecdotes about Cave Paper and leads us into the new phase of the company–transforming it into a worker-owned coop. Here is my interview with Amanda. For information about how you can help Cave Paper transition into a coop click here.
HIROMI PAPER:What is the strangest or most unique usage of Cave papers that you have encountered?
AMANDA DEGENER:Perhaps the most unique usage of Cave paper was making one sheet of 15 meter by 15 meter (that’s 50 foot square) paper for an origami artist in Switzerland. Sipho Mobono wanted to make a life-size elephant and he needed a sheet with foldability and strength which Cave knew Belgian flax would deliver. In order to achieve a truly strong paper it is necessary to press the freshly made wet paper, simply air drying the 50’ paper would not work. It seemed impossible to press such a huge piece of paper so we embedded over 2000 sheets of 18” x 24” paper into the unpressed poured pulp. In a warehouse we laid out plastic window screening material and poured pulp to create the first layer. Freshly made, but not dry, 18” x 24” paper covered that bottom pulp layer, then another layer of pulp was poured over the top of the pressed paper.When it was dry this three-layered sheet became one. The final project used 300 pounds of fiber and was completed over the Christmas Holiday by Cave staff and many many volunteers. It takes a village.
For geek papermakers here is another little tidbit. The freshly made pressed (but not dried) papers were going to need to overlap onto that first poured layer. Because the final paper was going to be folded we were concerned about the double thickness when overlapping the pressed sheets. So each of the 2000 papers that were embedded were actually double dipped and double couched; we couched 17″ x 23″ sheets in the center of 18″ x 24″ sheets. Thus allowing us to carefully overlap the sheets into the bottom poured pulp so their overlap created one sheet thickness and still provided the strength needed for folding.
HP:Do you find that the seasons or the weather have a bearing on the production of Cavepapers? For instance, can rainy days and humid air lend themselves better to dying Indigo Layered and Night?
AD:Certainly weather, seasons, sunlight all effect the final paper. The indigo vat is very effected by temperature and weather, there is far too much to write about that here alone could spend a whole book on the chemistry of indigo and dyes. For 23 years Cave Paper was in an unheated space. Minnesota has a cold climate for about five months of the year. The cold keeps microbes from growing in the fiber, fresher fiber makes fresher looking paper. More importantly is that the weather affects the attitude of the papermakers and shows directly in the paper. By March we are tired of winter and sometimes this grumpy-ness shows in the paper. In April the papermakers, and thus the paper, bounces with the joy of Spring.
HP: How much of developing papers, creating custom orders, or just tweaking recipes to meet user needs, requires play and how much is science?
AD:As a female growing up in the 70’s I was told girls did not study science or become scientists but through hand papermaking it wormed its way into my life. My educated guesses are rooted in science but really all of life is play. I play with water and fiber, play in the garden, play Tai Chi. I don’t see much of a difference between art and science except scientists have a more socially accepted career and also make more money. There are certain recipes or tricks that have worked for other artists that we follow, but in the end, each paper will be different than the last, and adjustments must be made. A science lab is like a art studio; there is an atmosphere of planned experimentation.
HP: Cavepapers is now transitioning into a worker owned Coop and will move into a new location. I’ve attached the link to the Indiegogo campaign and information about it above and here. But for those new to Cavepapers or are just hearing of this change, can you talk a little bit about the impetus for the change as well as some of the long term goals for Cavepapers?
AD:The story of why Cave Paper has to change is very straightforward and clear. My business partner Bridget O’Malley became disabled and I am trying to retire. Long term goals are just hand it over to the young people and see what they do with it. We have had many interns who are interested in a space and place to work beyond just completing an internship with us. Evolving into a Coop allows for new ideas and people to be involved.
HP: How will the availability of Cavepapers be affected by the change?
AD:We currently work very hard to keep the current inventory on the shelves. When more people get involved as worker owners they have their own ideas and add these onto to what Cave already does. The guaranteed income from our current client base will keep the coop financially solvent. There will be some start up costs but not as many as beginning a new business. This transition into a Coop will allow our current inventory to flourish as well as make room for more growth.
HP: Cavepapers has an internship program, how can someone apply to the program?
AD:There is a description on our website about the internships. We have never had a formal application. Anyone who wants to come and learn has been welcome. We have had over 120 interns, ranging from printmakers to college students, from digital artists to art conservators. After completing an internship, there was no automatic path to studying papermaking more in depth at Cave. We hope the membership system in the future Coop will provide this.
HP: Is there a dream paper that you’ve been wanting to make but for one reason or another you just haven’t been able to make?
AD:Many years ago I spent a day making a variety of crackle sheets using many colors. I look at these papers from time to time and wish I could play more with this. Amazingly Joe Steko from Charnel House Papers picked the “Name That Paper” perk for our Indiegogo Campaign and is commissioning a purple crackle. I really look forward to working on that in the near future.
I am often inspired (to the point of wanting to make) by other people’s handmade papers both from the USA and abroad. Especially the high quality Japanese papers, the patterned papers from Nepal, and many papers from China I am just recently discovering. I am impressed with the consistency of Twinrocker’s whites and off whites, University of Iowa’s case paper, The Circle’s origami paper, Mary Hark’s momigami, Rick Hungerford’s almost airbrush techniques, Helen Heibert’s skin-like paper, and Andrea Peterson’s plant based papers. There certainly won’t be enough time to explore making half the paper I dream about in what is left of my lifetime.
Pictured above: Ichibei Iwano, Japanese National Living Treasure and maker of the Iwano series of papers from Echizen
A gift passed down from the Gods, Echizen in Fukui prefecture is known for its 1,500 year old history of washi (Japanese Paper)making. Approximately 80 factories engaged in papermaking are concentrated in one small valley. The home of Echizen-washi is located in the Goka area of Echizen City from a cluster of five small villages–Oizu, Ōtaki, Iwamoto, Shinzaike, and Sadatomo. These villages are blessed with abundant spring water and surrounded by mountains. The washi of this region is distinguished by its rich variety, and includes traditional thick paper for ceremonial use, official documents, and banknotes. Washi is also made in various sizes for business cards and postcards and for drawing and painting. Echizen-washi was designated as an intangible traditional craft in 1976.
Twenty artisans from the region will present their handmade paper installations, both functional and decorative, including an exquisite full-sized washi tea house. This unique exhibition will explore various utilization of washi through traditional/contemporary printmaking, lanterns, and large format washi.
30th ANNIVERSARY RECEPTION AND WORKSHOP EXTRAVAGANZA!
One of our visiting papermaker friends hailing from Fukui Prefecture in Japan this summer is Hiroya Yamashita who is responsible for our much-adored Hiroya series of papers. Due to price, these spectacular papers have transitioned into a special-order only product. Hiroyas can be ordered in batches of 100 sheets per color except for the 3 colors we currently still have available in-store. When it comes to choosing a color, the Pantone swatch book is your oyster; you can choose any color found in the Pantone swatch book. Hiroya papers are first made by hand and then a rectangle of color that covers most of the sheet of paper is screen printed onto its surface. The ink used is colorfast and will not fade, leaving a lasting impressive swath of color.
One fan of the Hiroya paper includes international artist, Jacob Hashimoto. Hiroya paper’s colorfastness and strength are both desirable for Jacob’s projects as they can withstand both time and physical tension required for the kite structures built by Hashimoto.
Similar to kites, pinwheels catch wind to create motion and in a sort of poetic encounter, Hiroya Yamashita and fellow Echizen Washi papermakers will lead a pinwheel making workshop during our 30th anniversary reception and workshop extravaganza. This is the THIRD of the four free workshops we will have on July 28. Pinwheels were invented in the 1800s and modernized in the early part of the 20th Century, by Armenian Immigrant and toymaker Tegran M. Samour. The toys quickly made their way overseas and are now a staple of childhood fun in most countries. Don’t forget to save the date July 28, 2018 for our 30th Anniversary Reception and Workshop Extravaganza! Workshops are free and open to everyone, in addition to making pinwheels, visitors can also marble paper, and make chigiri-e pictures also led by visiting papermakers. In June we’ll reveal the last of our 4 workshops.
Our 30th Anniversary Reception and Workshop Extravaganza is fast approaching! The second of our FOUR workshop stations that we’ll reveal today is Chigiri-e. The Japanese art form of Chigiri-e is now well over 1,000 years old dating back to the Heian Period. Chigiri-e neared death in the 1800s but the creation of Tengujo/Tengucho provided a new way of approaching the method. In Japanese chigiru roughly translates to “tear” and e translates to “image”, “picture”, or “painting” thus Chigiri-e can be roughly translated as “torn picture”. More accurately though, Chigiri-e is, an image made of thin pieces of Japanese paper torn and shredded and then affixed to a stiffer surface, such as board or thick paper stock, and adhered with PVA, Funori, Fueki-kun nori, or Jin Shofu.
Thin layers of Washi (Japanese paper) allow the artist to build depth, perspective, and value in the image. Skilled Chigiri-e artists can achieve a sophistication reminiscent of watercolor paintings, however, it can be an art form suitable for all ages–from children to older communities. All of the different kinds of Washi (Japanese papers) possess many characteristics that lend themselves well to different techniques.
Tengujo/Tengucho, Color Kozo, and Color Gampi, for instance, can be used to layer on color and value due to it’s highly translucent nature. It can be used to quickly and subtly cover large swaths of space with color or texture.
The fibers of Kinwashi,Unryu, and Amate Swirl can be easily dissected from their surfaces to create gestures that resemble branches, stems, flower stamen, hair, etc.
Now available in store only is the Cavepaper Scrap Pack ($9.00) which comes filled with ends and bits of Cavepaper’s experiments and left overs, often one-of-a-kind pieces. These are helpful in adding unusual textures and patterns to your Chigiri-e.
2018’s Southern Graphics Council International Conference was held at Bally’s Hotel in the always effervescent Las Vegas. This year, HPI Staff Edwin and Yuki packed up a car with washi, spatulas, Fueki-Kun Nori, and papers from around the world, and put the pedal to the metal. Just a 4-hour drive from Culver City (adjacent to L.A.), Vegas was quite a delightful adventure.
The most popular item on the Las Vegas strip, during the conference, was our Feuki-kun Nori— small containers of corn starch paste that are non-toxic and good for everyday crafting. We are the first distributors of Fueki-kun in the United States. These little heads were all the buzz!
As always, attendees of the conference enjoyed free shipping on orders surpassing $20 if they were placed during the conference days.
This year Hiromi Paper, Inc. donated papers for several demos held during the conference.
Tamarind Institute was spotted giving a Chine Collé demo with our HP-58 Sekishu Natural. Everyone looked on as Brandon demoed different ways to tear a silhouette of underwear. Sekishu is naturally strong and thin, perfect for Chine Collé.
At the opposite corner, Rialuca Iancu used our Asuka 150 gsm to demo her Pop-up folded structures. The Asuka 150 is the perfect weight to create 3-dimensional structures that will not collapse when more weight is added within the pop-up cards.
We’re looking back at work by Laura Viñas this month. Through her work Viñas explores the psychological reality about self-contextualization and memory. Painting Tengucho 5g and 9g papers with watercolors, Viñas transforms the seemingly delicate sheets into powerful haunting images of landscapes alluding to the Pampa region of South America– a vast expanse of low-lying flat fields that unfurl in every direction that you look towards the horizon. Viñas work asks us to look into the image on the surface of the Tengucho paper and once there to try to look past it and get lost in the illusory expanse, and to consider the space behind the paper as part of what’s directly confronting us in each painting or installation.
In the words of the artist:
My subject matter deals with the perception of landscape in order to create new places. These new places are a mental construction, and in them the object of my work is embedded: time deposits, memory and distance. At the same time, it allows me to research into the concealed and enigmatic side of these objects. I choose my materials with precision: thin rice papers, watercolors and photography.Furthermore, I restrict the color palette, the vanishing points, and materials in order to fully develop my creativity and concentration. I manipulate nature and light as an abstraction, to generate a mirror where the viewer finds himself. –Laura Viñas’ artist statement