As you probably already know, we spend a lot of time working in the digital world here in Discovery, Technology, & Publishing. What might surprise you, though, is that many of our staff members are fantastic material artists and crafters. Our hobbies run the gamut, but include arts such as knitting, painting, bookmaking and papermaking. There are even some who draw a bridge between the material and digital world with interests such as 3-D Printing. One of the best things about being located among so many art and cultural heritage institutions here in Richmond is the availability of craft workshops and classes to help us learn more.
Crista LaPrade, our Digital Projects & Preservation Coordinator, took one such workshop several days ago at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). This particular class was an Introduction to Paper Marbling, taught by Steve Pittelkow. During the intensive day-long class, Crista learned different techniques to create unique patterns and designs used in “Turkish” paper marbling. The possibilities for using the final product are endless and might include book endpapers, book covers, or even as displayed art in her coworkers’ offices (no pressure…)! Furthermore, the same techniques that were used on the paper can also be used on fabrics and other mediums.
The process begins with spraying the paper on one side with a mixture of alum (aluminium sulfate) and water. Then, acrylic paint mixed with water is added using eyedroppers to shallow trays filled with water and carrageenan. The paint floats on the surface of the water/carrageen mixture and can pool in concentric circles and shapes. A variety of “combs” or “rakes” are used to pull the colors through each other on the surface of the water resulting in a wide array of patterns. The mordanted paper was then carefully laid onto the surface and then quickly removed, capturing the paint. Steve taught the class several different patterns that could be created including fantasy, nonpareil, ripples, gel get, angelfish and Spanish moiré.
One of the benefits of having staff who are interested in learning these artisan skills is that they can bring them back to the library and share them with the rest of us. If there is ever a time when one of us is making a book or working on another project, there is consistently a wealth of knowledge and experience around us!