oI decided to do this paper making workshop at the Westminster Library located in Southern Vermont. My father volunteers at this library and since I was coming to visit him for the week I thought it would be a good opportunity for both myself and the library community to share this art work shop. When I mentioned the idea to my Dad he was excited and said that Lise, the head librarian, has been looking for more artistic and educational offerings for the library. I contacted Lise over email to arrange a date and time for the workshop. She put together a notification in their news letter and posted a sign about the upcoming workshop.
When I got to Vermont I realized I had to make the paper frames. I was a bit intimidated because I had only really used the preset paper making kit in the past to make paper. I stormed my father’s house that contains many trinkets and things no longer in use looking for materials. What I found were cookie sheets that I used for trays, an old blender that still worked that he never uses, an old rubber door mat that I was able to cut into two and make into spacers between the screens and the water, an old plastic storage bin for the bigger basin of water, an old car battery case for the smaller basin of water within the other, an old hair dryer, blankets, and towels to protect the table and for the drying station.
Honestly, I wanted to pick up a ready made paper making kit just incase I screwed something up with my own but no stores sold any so I was left to my own devices anyway. After watching the videos provided I felt more confident with making the screen frames. I found some wood in Dad’s house but it was pretty splintery and we did not have a saw or too many handy tools. Instead, I decided to use the stretcher bars of small canvas and purchased the strong wire in a hardware store. I had window screen left over from another art project and used that as well to build my paper making screens. To obtain the paper, I asked the office that I work at if I could take their threaded files which they were happy to give me. I also used old colored coupon flyers my Dad had from the week before. Because I am in the country side here in VT it was easy to find natural materials such as flowers, dried grass and fallen leaves for this project as well.
The night before the workshop I did my test run. It went well but I was still nervous about the teaching / facilitating since this is another part of myself I am currently developing. I was worried the process of paper making was going to be too easy and that the people attending the workshop might be bored. So, while doing my test the night before I also tested making the paper into a 3D structure by forming it around a cup to see if it would hold shape. I figured if people were bored of the flat, that they could take it to the next level by going into the 3D world. I did not plan out a lesson plan very much. I decided to keep it simple and walk them through the process that I knew.
I need to mention here that my Dad was a super big help through out this process. I went through a few screen prototypes before watching the videos that failed and my Dad supportive and encouraging with helping me to gather materials and figure things out. We actually watched the videos together. He seemed to enjoy this active adventure and task. He said it reminded him of running around before art shows with my mother when she was still alive, helping her to set up to her own creative endeavors.
Saturday: The Day of the Workshop.
I woke up early on Saturday before the workshop to make sure I had everything in order. My Dad and I set up an hour before at the library. The space the library provided me with had access to a sink, electricity, and a nice table to work on.
My Dad brought some of my mother’s paper artwork to the library as well to show as examples of fine art with this paper making process. Bringing my mother’s artwork enriched the experience because students would ask about the artwork and I could explain how the paper making process can be used in different ways. It was also really lovely to have my mother’s artwork around and my Dad helping me with this process because it felt that we were doing this together as a family in a certain beautiful way.
When the clock struck 10am people started arriving. Apparently there is a regular library crew of kids who frequent the library and most of them seemed to know one another. I began the workshop by going around with people stating their names and asked if they had experience with paper making before. One girl had which was great. I made a point to the head librarian that this workshop is for children and adults, so I was pleased when an adult showed up for the workshop as well. In total there were about 12 students who attended the workshop. Majority girls ages 8-10 with one younger girl being around the age of 4 or 5. The oldest person who attended the workshop was a woman probably in her late 60s. I am realizing that I enjoy having art workshops with blended age groups. I feel learning can take place across all ages and there is a more human community feel to its structure.
We got started right away and they loved it. I started doing the first demonstration for everyone and then helped each person along until they we able to do it on their own. People experimented with the natural materials of leaves and flowers I had collected, and the different recycled paper. The project took more water than I expected, particularly in the blender but we tried to reuse it as much as we could. We probably could have gotten away with using less water when thinking about sustainability but we did what we did to have it function smoothly and with ease.
The other part that was not organic was that one of kids wanted to put food coloring into the pulp to make different colors and I allowed it. It was really fun to have the kids come up with their own ideas and run with it. I think part of the point of art making is for kids to explore and come up with their own ideas, however I think I could have been more strongly worded when talking about sustainability. I think in the future it could be great to have some pre-made oragnic dyes for coloring the different pulp to achieve the same two tone paper effect.
What was really excellent was that after I went through the process with them, they picked up the techniques really well and were able to do it on their own. Some of the kids would teach the other children who came a little bit later to the workshop and many of them came up with their own ideas of designing their papers with the natural materials in a really creative way. Many of them loved the process so much and made up to 3 or 4 pieces of paper.
Over all after the 2 hour workshop I felt complete. The librarian was very happy and the students were happy. I feel that I did a good job facilitating the workshop and used certain class room management skills for some of the children who had more energy by designating tasks such as helping to dry the papers with the hair drier while other students had a change to work through the paper making process.
I plan on doing this workshop again with different demographic of people next Wednesday and perhaps I will prepare the natural dyes then. Color seems to be a highlight to work into this project.
Ps. Blog tech: Im having trouble putting the photos in where I want them... any suggestions?