Papermaking with plants workshop in The Highlands

Posted on December 2, 2018 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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The scenery from Ullapool to Assynt

 

Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world. I love the landscape, wilderness, people and traditions; however, I am not so fond of its weather – a crucial element that has put me off moving up there. I have been traveling up to Scotland annually for the last few years to attend a meditation retreat in June, but I would only stay for about 1 week or less each time. This year, I decided to explore further and spend longer time there during my 6-month sabbatical. I stayed for three weeks in July. It started in Glasgow, then Fort Williams, Ullapool and and the Isle of Lewis.

I stayed in Ullapool to attend a paper-making with plants workshop at a local artist, Jan Kilpatrick's home/studio in Assynt, a remote area north of Ullapool. Since I wasn't driving, Jan arranged her friend and workshop attendee, Jo, to give me lifts during the week as she happens to live in Ullapool. The commutes from Ullapool to Assynt were simply breathtaking, and I was capitivated by the sight of Cul Mor, Suilven and Quinag during these car journeys.

 

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Jan is predominantly a landscape textile artist, but she is also a paper and mosaic artist. However, most of the courses she offers on her website are textiles related, so it was lucky that I managed to sign up to her paper-making course, which seems to be less in demand (as we were told). Since there were only a few of us, we got to know each other quite well during the week.

The reason why I signed up for this course was due to my passion for paper and interest in plants/botany. I have previously attended one/two paper-making sessions that lasted less than an hour, so my knowledge was minimal and I wanted to learn more about the technique and craft. Besides, the thought of spending the week sourrounded by nature up in the Highlands was a huge draw for me.

 

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papermaking with plants workshop

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highland flowers  highland flowers

ullapool

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Over the five days, we spent most of the time working outdoors as we were quite lucky with the weather (except for the last day and when the midges attacked). Being able to pick many fibrous plants and grass from Jan's wonderful garden and use them as the materials of our paper was fantastic. The process of paper-making involves soaking the plants overnight, followed by boiling the plants with soda ash (or washing soda) and water. Then it is necessary to break down the plant fibres into pulp using a blender, and we mixed the plant fibres with recycled paper pulp to create different textures and varieties.

 

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papermaking with plants workshop  papermaking with plants workshop

papermaking with plants workshop

papermaking with plants workshop  papermaking with plants workshop

paper making

papermaking with plants workshop  papermaking with plants workshop 

papermaking with plants workshop

 

The next stage requires a mould and deckle (you can make one using picture frame and mesh), a vat filled with water and a bit of pva glue. Then it is time to add the pulp mixture into the water and let it dissolve in the vat. What followes is the most difficult part – using the mould to scoop the pulp from the back and bottom upwards inside the vat. When the mould is lifted you, it is best to shake it from side to side to drain the water and even out the pulp. This process requires patience and steady hands for consistency, and it may take several attempts to get the pulp evenly rested on the mesh. Sometimes the paper may be too thick or too thin, and it differs depending on the plant fibres.

 

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papermaking with plants workshop  papermaking with plants workshop

 

The final stage is to remove the deckle from the mould and place the pulp on the mesh safely onto a wet paper towel. Then you need to press the pulp down with a sponge, add another piece of paper towel on top and place a heavy wooden board on top to squeeze out any excess water. After some time, you can lift up the board and hang the paper to let it dry on a rack.

 

papermaking with plants workshop  papermaking with plants workshop

 

We used a variety of plants like nettles, horsetails, daffodils, montbretia, dock leaves, and grass as our pulp, and we also added some flower petals as decorations. Since the process of paper-making is the quite repetitive, Jan suggested that we try mono-printing with plants, as well as eco-printing by arranging the plants onto the paper followed by steaming it.

 

papermaking with plants workshop

papermaking with plants workshop  papermaking with plants workshop

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papermaking with plants workshop

papermaking with plants workshop

 

After four days of making and experimenting, we spent the last day compiling everything together into a large portfolio book showcasing all the papers we made, and binded it together with some strings. We also created two mini plant books each featuring some of our handmade paper.

 

papermaking with plants workshop

papermaking with plants workshop

papermaking with plants workshop

 

The five days went exceedingly quickly, and I found the workshop extremely inspring and enriching. It was also lovely to enjoy the vegetarian lunches that Jan prepared for us daily using many ingredients from her vegetable garden.

On Wednesday, we crossed the road and visited the Elphin market where there were vendors selling food and craft produced by local farmers and artisans. I learned that many artists and artisans chose to live and work in the Highlands due to its remoteness and landscape and nature, which I have no dounts would make one more creative being in this environment.

It was sad to leave this place behind, but there was more adventure awaiting, so I left feeling quite joyous and refreshed.

 

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elphin market  elphin market

elphin market

elphin market

 


This post was posted in Travel, Nature, Eco living & sustainability, Paper art & craft, Scotland, The Highlands and was tagged with nature, eco designs, eco living, paper craft, Scotland, sustainability, craft, papermaking, The Highlands, ecoprinting, Printing

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