Saturday, January 25, 2014


My husband thinks it looks like a door mat.

Over the last week, I've attempted to break down the phragmites stalks even more in the blender, but I was unsuccessful. So I decided to go ahead and make a sheet of paper anyway. Result: door mat. Later today I'll see paper artist Karen O'Neal and I'm hoping she can give me some guidance as to how to improve on this first run of phragmites paper.

Meanwhile, I'm prepping the buckthorn I collected along the river at Michigan State. I'm starting to realize that paper artists are an extremely patient group of people. That or I'm doing it wrong. I borrowed my husband's Swiss army knife and have been cutting away strips of bark from the branches (below). I've learned that any branch smaller than an inch in diameter is basically useless. On the other hand, anything bigger than 2 inches is tough and doesn't strip as well. (Good to know for my next collection outing.)

After I've removed the strips of bark from the branches, I then peel the outer bark away from the inner bark by hand. I could use both the inner and outer bark in my paper, but because I'm transferring an image onto it, I need it to be lighter in color and the outer bark will only make it darker. Again, this is a lot easier with strips from bigger branches. It's also a lot easier to separate these two layers within an hour of cutting them when they are still relatively moist. The pieces I had left out overnight had dried too much and were difficult to remove so I had to add a third step of soaking them in water in order to peel them.

My pile of inner bark is getting bigger, slowly but surely. I'm optimistic this paper will turn out better than the phragmites paper as the fibers are already easily coming apart even in the stripping process. My blender should have no problem chopping it all up. I can't wait to see if the paper will be more green or orange in color.