Friday, October 31, 2008

Papermaking from Plants

Bird of Paradise plant

Cooked and washed Bird of Paradise fibers on a wooden cutting board, ready for the beating process.

These lovely handmade papers are made entirely from a Bird of Paradise plant. I harvested the stalks and leaves, cut them up into pot sized lengths and cooked the plant pieces in water with 1/4 cup washing soda for about 6 hours.
After the cooking, I washed the fibers till they came clean using a paint strainer and then beat the fibers with a wooden mallot on a wooden cutting board. Beating the fibers took approximately 3 hours.
After beating, the fibers were further pulverized in a kitchen blender and finally poured into a papermaking vat, then using my screen and deckle, lifted into sheets of paper and transferred onto glass windows to dry.
There are many things to do with papers like these. I like to use them in bookbinding and when making my handmade paper journals. I also use the papers for making three dimensional sculptures, when I do my cast paper pieces- I take dampened sheets of paper or straight paper pulp and press into a plaster of paris mould. I also love to combine my basketry and papermaking; one technique is to dip a freshly woven basket into a vat of paper pulp, as the paper pulp dries it shrinks into all of the indents from the pattern of the weave creating sort of a tight outer skin. The effect is very interesting, it makes the vessel look like it was dug from some ancient ruin. I also prepare the papers with photo sensitive chemicals and print my photographs onto the papers, this technique can get real interesting and I'm still experimenting with different types of alternative photo techniques.
I've been working hard on my botanical photo series which many of will be printed on papers made from all different plants.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cordage & Basketry

This tiny basket is not much bigger than my thumbnail. I wove a series of necklaces made from different strands, twisted and braided cordages that were made out of the inner bark of different plants. Some of the baskets had lids on them. This is the only one I have left, it is made from Hau bush.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fiber Art Project, Making Cordage

Pictured here are the beautiful golden pink colors of the inner bark of Hau, Hibiscus tiliaceus. One of the canoe plants of ancient Hawaii.

"Seeds and cuttings of hau were brought by early Polynesian voyagers to Hawai`i Nei, and planted by the settlers...and is held in high regard for its usefulness to the traditional life of oceanic people.

Hau grows well near the ocean, streams, and in moist sloping areas up to the 2000 foot elevation. This shrub spreads to form a creeping jungle of interwoven, curved and twisted springy arching branches.

Hau cordage, called `ili hau, provided tying material used daily. The cordage is made by cutting off stems and younger smooth branches, making a slit lengthwise and removing the bark with the hands. The bark strips are then soaked. When the outer bark is slipped off, remaining are cream-colored smooth fibers for braiding and twisting into cordage. Hau cordage provided ropes for hauling and many other needs. Hau is a true hibiscus. The bright yellow flowers have reddish centers and as the day goes by, the flower changes color to orange and then to reddish-brown, before it falls off the plant, usually by the next morning."

A dye color can be made by collecting and cooking the flowers when they are yellow. It yields a most surprizing robins eggshell, baby blue color. I add this dye color to my paper pulp vat when I am lifting sheets of handmade paper. The papers have a beautiful soft blue color.

The photo above show strands of Hau that I harvested, stripped, soaked and set out to dry in preparation to make cordage. I use the hand twisted or braided cordage for bookbinding and as embellishment for my sculptures.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Museum Forest

"Growing on the lava fields of Auwahi land of Kahikinui, southern slopes of Mt. Haleakala, Maui; elevation 2600 feet,... about seven miles from Ulupalakua, is a small area of forest on the lava fields of Auwahi. Unpromising as it looks from the road, this forest is botanically, nevertheless, one of the richest in the territory".
~Joseph Rock in the year 1913

At the present time, the forest at Auwahi is sometimes described as a museum forest because so little of it remains as a result of severe degradation brought on by human activities and now without action is threatened with total extirpation on Maui.
" Auwahi is a biological and ethnobotanical treasure. Of the 50-odd species of rare Hawaiian trees found here, 41 species had specific Hawaiian ethnobotanical uses, 19 as medicines, 13 in making specific tools, 13 in canoe construction, eight in kapa making, eight to make widely ranging dye colors, and at least seven of the trees have religious significance. Without our efforts, all of these trees, their uses, their associated animals will all perish forever".

The Auwahi Restoration Group is a coalition of private and public agencies and a group of concerned community citizens working together in a historic effort to try and save a Hawaiian forest by planting and weeding exclosures in order to "jumpstart" this unique ecosystem.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mighty Silversword Allience

" Imagine you are a mere California tarweed seed, hoisted in the air and blown by a restless wind 3,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. By some lucky chance, you fall onto the new soil of the Hawaiian Islands. You have found plant heaven- little competition and few predators. You settle into your new home, shed now useless barbs, thorns and propellers and over tens of thousands of years, you creep up mountains and into valleys, evolving into thirty species filling every niche you stumble upon. From a lowly tarweed with wanderlust, you have grown into the mighty Silversword Allience.
This story describes many of the plant and animal species found in Hawai'i before the arrival of humans. For 70 million years, these islands evolved in isolation. On the average, a single species every 35,000 years survived the journey and successfully established itself here. They came in the muddy feet of seabirds, marooned atop ocean debris, and in strong gusts of wind which span oceans. After arriving they began to evolve. Adapting to their new home-an island chain boasting of ecological zones from rainforest to alpine desert- the first Hawaiian residents developed new, fascinating characteristics distinguishing them from their ancestors. A rather drab looking finch evolved into forty species of spectacular honeycreepers. The radically curved bill of the I'iwi perfectly fits into the blossom of another pioneer, the lobelia. This phenomenon, an example of adaptive radiation, makes Hawai'i an unparalleled showcase for evolutionary study."
~Shannon Wianecki author of the Maui Time Weekly article entitled The Lee Altenberg Project Replanting Ancient Hawaii

Monday, October 6, 2008

Arboreal Disneyland

The Wiliwili, Erythrina sandwicensis, is the feature of native lowland vegetation up to 1,500 feet. It thrives in the hottest and driest districts on the leeward sides of all the islands. This wiliwili is growing in the dryforest at Pu'u o kali, the lava fields on the southern slopes of Haleakala, Maui. Native wiliwili trees are a keystone species in Hawaii's lowland dry forest, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

Unfortunately, an invasion of a recently-introduced insect to the Hawaiian Islands has infested the leaves of the native wiliwili trees seriously affecting the health and perhaps even the existence of the wiliwili tree.

In August of 2005 a small group of photographers hauled their camera equipment into the wiliwili forest at Pu'u o kali to photo document these trees in their healthy state. These are just a few of the images I was able to catch that day. Pu'u o kali has been appropriately described an arboreal Disneyland, "a kaleidascope forest of fairy-tale trees with bark that glows and blossoms that glitter".