The Fiber Wire

Plugged in and turned on. All paper. All the time.

Printmakers and Papermakers

The capstone experience for SUNY-ESF paper undergrads is the paper machine run. The students are given three paper grades with specific requirements like thickness, opacity and brightness. They split into groups mimicking companies and work to create the furnishes (combination of fibers, fillers, dyes, etc.) to fit the requirements. First, they make hand sheets and test them, altering the furnish to get in range of the desired specifications. The adjusted furnish goes through the Department’s small paper machine (12″ wide) and they repeat the testing. After the last tests and adjustments they use the furnish to create paper on the large paper machine (48″ wide).


This year one of the paper grades was a collaboration between our Department and the Syracuse University Printmaking Department. As part of their relief printmaking instruction the Printmaking Department hosts a steamroller print each spring. This involves inked up 5′ x 7′ wooden blocks with large-scale images carved into them being rolled over by an industrial steamroller to impress the images to cloth. The printmaking students acted as customers to the papermaking students by setting the paper specs for an artist grade to use for the steamroller prints. This seemingly simple task presented unexpected challenges. Both printmakers and papermakers love paper and use it and talk about it all the time, just with different terminology. They found a common language with the papermakers learning how the printmakers use paper and the printmakers learning more about the manufacture of paper

finished paper

2 comments on “Printmakers and Papermakers

  1. velma
    April 8, 2014

    this sounds like a really good project. i love the idea of making prints with a steamroller (while listening to the steamroller blues, of course!)


    • thefiberwire
      April 9, 2014

      Of course. 🙂 Velma! I’m excited to see you here. They won’t be doing the steamroller on SU campus this year because all of their printmakers just got back from a conference and steamroller event in San Francisco. But I’ve heard that it’s happening next year and that they’ll be using the paper from the paper run. I will let you know when.


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