Whilst I’ve recently concentrated on making my own paper from some of my old prints (and blank paper offcuts) by pulping, remixing and forming new sheets I haven’t actually tried fusing or ‘felting’ lightweight papers together before. This workshop was an excellent introduction to this technique and how to obtain interesting colour layers and patterning.
We used Unryu paper throughout.
Unryu is a lightweight tissue style Mulberry paper, mainly made in Thailand. It weighs 25gsm (the most common weight) or less and comes with various inclusions. Standard sheets include strands of Kozo fibre which add texture and contrasting depth of colour.
Other varieties come with metallic strands inserted, plant materials such as leaves and small fronds or very fine bark pieces. As a result of the additional fibres and plants some of these tend to be a bit more robust, weighing around 40gsm.
We used a four-way colour range which was enough to give us an idea how the colours would intermingle. Our sheets were all 25gsm, semi-translucent with Kozo fibre inclusions.
We started by wetting and layering fairly large pieces. These were then concertina folded, rolled and ‘kneaded’ by hand. The package was opened, refolded in a different direction and the process continued. We went through this several times over a 20-25 minute period and then checked how the layers were adhering. Once satisfied, the new multilayered sheet was formed into a ball and thrown around to continue the crumpling and interlocking of the layers. By thrown, I mean gently tossed between hands, lightly squeezed and dropped on the floor several times – although that third point wasn’t actually part of the official process!
The pieces were opened out and allowed to dry.
This first piece was made by adhering large blocks of coloured sheets, just to get the hang of the amount of water required, the rolling pressure, the length of time to form the new sheet, etc.. On the back is the deep purple sheet but it didn’t come through at all. It’s had a small effect on the red, taking away s little of the vibrancy but nothing substantial. The brown on top of the red has maintained a good colour and has melded well with the red. Fortunately the strength of the yellow has been diluted by the colours below and it hasn’t totally overtaken the piece.
The papers shrink slightly and as they become one, and with the rolling and throwing, they crinkle beautifully adding texture and colour variation throughout. I left this to dry totally and then ironed it. The crinkles are still there but the piece is substantially flatter. I feel that I’d like to try ironing it whilst still damp to get it totally flat to overprint.
In this second piece I started with a couple of large sheets, several cut holes and many smaller shapes. Some of the holes were covered by my cut patches but mostly these squares and strips were laid out in multiple areas overlapping and creating colour depth. Brown and yellow were my main surface colours and they have created a bright vibrant overall outcome. In the close-up photo you can see the sort of texture that is formed by fusing these pieces together. Below is the piece laid out wet, ready to start the felting process.
If you compare the layout piece with the finished article you can see they don’t match 100%. Several of the small patches moved, fell off or became very incorporated so they don’t appear on the final piece.
By this stage I was pretty sick of yellow. Why was I putting it on the top all the time? It had been suggested that the lighter colours would disappear altogether if they were topped by the darker shades, so I stuck with this for the day. It’s now time to turn this idea on its head though. My next samples will have darker on the top and we’ll see what happens.
Can you spot the shadow on this close-up shot? There’s a dark wiggly line to the right hand side and that’s it.
This yellow is ferocious in its colour strength.
The day was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it and now it’s time to have another go using the colours in a different order and including some other lightweight items between the layers.