The Fiber Wire

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

A COVID Papermaking Project

In the beginning of the COVID-related shutdowns I found myself without studio access. To push through my grumpiness, I looked around my small apartment and realized I had everything I needed to make paper. Maybe it wouldn’t be the paper I wanted to make, but as a papermaker I needed my hands in pulp. I recycled an old hymnal, improvised a make-shift mould and deckle, and wrote about it here. I posted my process on Instagram and connected with people interested in hand papermaking – social interactions I valued greatly. I mailed some of the paper to friends. I printed on some for the Tiny Bunny Print Exchange. I put the rest in a box and put it on the shelf.

In the fall, a call came out for art made with handmade paper during the COVID times of 2020. The art should be a reflection on how your practice changed. The art should be an interpretation of your experience with the circumstances of your year. I brought the hymnal paper off the shelf and thought about it. It seemed fitting to construct a new hymnal; a book songs I sang in 2020, old ones and new ones. I used the covers from the old hymnal. My friend, Peter Verheyen, stamped the “Special Covid Edition” title. The notes on the cover are from the hymn “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” I like the next line of lyrics: “and let it begin with me”

The white paper forming the main book structure is made from bleached sisal kraft. The cream paper backing each hymn is made from hemp, abaca, and Lyocell (a rayon fiber). These papers were made in the paper studio (once it opened again) with all of the professional equipment you would expect. The other papers are all made from the re-pulped pages of the hymnal. You can see a surviving eighth note here and there! I experimented with things around the house (e.g. eye shadow, Bon Ami, other papers, gelatin) to change the characteristics of the recycled hymnal paper.

Open it one way and you can hold it like an actual hymnal. On a base of recycled hymnal paper I put two hymns I’ve always enjoyed. Open it the other way and it reveals a series of pockets with hymn names and accompanying hymns. You can pull the hymns out to reveal text inside; my reflections on experiences of 2020 along with lyrics selected from the hymn itself. Also included are select rules from John Wesley’s original “Directions for Singing.” Altered, naturally. I’m not sure expressions of faith can accommodate rules, particularly strict ones.

On the far left is the colophon and also the hymn list, usually posted in the sanctuary so you know what hymns you’re singing that day.

The best way I could think to share the content with you is to make a video. In summary: I am a white, Christian woman. I have a lot to learn about the privileges granted me, based not on merit but on the color of my skin. I have a lifetime of work ahead of me to grow and fully participate in crafting an equitable society. I say the work is mine because I’m not seeking accolades. We have our individual work and we have our work together. The world is ours, we are creation. Let’s make it so.

And I made a playlist of the hymns in the book. An “A-side” with artists singing the songs and a “B-side” which is just instrumentals. These are versions that I often have playing in my head.

Now you know the songs my heart has been singing. I’m grateful for this opportunity to share them with you.

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2020 by in Paper Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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