Friday, December 5, 2008

Hand Cast Paper Sculptures

Hand cast paper bowl.

Another view of the paper bowl.

After much deliberation, my handmade paper bowls, vessels and sculptures are starting to manifest. I had some technical difficulties along the way and the weather was counteractive in the drying process. But here we are.

With my handsaw and clippers I ventured into the wilderness to harvest some of the grasses, leaves, flower stalks and inner bark from the plants and trees that I would be needing. I collect only from plants that are growing in abundance and have plenty to share.

Then the cooking process- about 6 -8 hours simmering on an outdoor burner in a caustic solution, then to rinse and wash in preparation for the relentless beating of the fibers. Each batch of cooked plants is beaten with a wooden mallot on a wooden cutting board for approximately 4 hours. The beaten fibers are then further cut up into smaller pieces and small handfuls are put into a kitchen blender with water and blended, repeating the blending process about 15-20x or until an entire vat is filled with pulp. Using my papermaking screen and deckle, sheets of wet papers are lifted out of the vat and set aside.

In the weeks previous, was the production of the plaster of paris moulds. For several weeks I would bring my equipment down to the beach- a bucket, the plaster powder, a couple of gourds, squashes and other fruits that have interesting shapes......I would bury the gourd halfway into the damp beach sand, mix the plaster in my bucket using ocean water and pour the mixture over the gourd, wait about an hour to set up and then flip it over and pour plaster on the other side.

After the plaster mould is bone dry I press freshly lifted, wet sheets of paper on the inside of the plaster mould. I use many different kinds of papers to get different tones and textures. When the papers inside the mould are dried, I pull the 2 piece mould apart and release the handcast vessel, a paper replica of the model that was used to make the mould.

This little piece pictured above is a paper replica of a pomegranite! The plant materials that I used to make the papers that went into this are, spider lily stalks, bird of paradise flower stalks, trunk of a banana plant, and the dark brown flecks are dried philodendron flower sheaths. I also put a PVA glue substance into the paper pulp vat so that when the paper piece dries it will be hardened. It looks delicate, but really, it is quite hard and durable. The tactile qualities of the plants really shine through in these hand cast pieces. I have more of these to come- some much larger and more intricate, we'll see what happens here.


Suze Woolf said...

Hi, I have been papercasting using cotton linters. My molds are of the fire-scarring on burned wood, so lots of detail. I was afraid to put any glue in the pulp for fear it wouldn't come out of the mold. The results are beautiful, but I'm wondering how to protect them. Matte medium just blurs all the detail, and mineral spirit spray varnish does somewhat as well. Have you tried any other methods?

Smoky Glow Studios said...

Suze, wow, fire scsrring on wood, sounds amazing. I would try putting some PVA glue in the wet paper pulp, it probably won't stick because the paper shrinks so much as its drying. If you use glue in the pilp, no need to fix the finished piece. You could also try putting in methyl cellulose or rabbit skin glue in the pulp. Oh, I also spray the mold with PAM cooking spray before I cast the wet pulp. Would love to see your work sometime

Jennifer said...


I was searching for information on casting handmade paper over molds and found your blog.. very nice artwork and photography, btw. I found your post from 2008 about casting over gourds on the beach which I would love to know more about. You mention burying the gourd halfway in the sand. Do you leave a gap between the sand and the gourd in order to form the mold? Can you elaborate a little more on how you created the molds?
Thanks so much!