Friday, March 29, 2019

Research trip: Final Belgium, Germany

There is something going on in every corner of the wood shop where Serge works. This deckle is the mate for the mould he was working on our last day in the Ardennes.
Here it is, bound for Cleveland once it's clad in brass. These are the copper strips being hammered onto the wove facing, that was sewn onto the backing (which was sewn onto the ribs).
It was especially precious to see his goddaughter walk right into the shop to watch, ask questions, and help. Her family astounded me: when I came downstairs in the morning, I expected zombie kids in front of the TV for Saturday morning cartoons. Instead, they were sitting around the dining room table, which was covered with paper, glue, tape, crayons and pencils and colored this and that, furiously cutting paper snowflakes and building paper boxes. My heart was bursting to see that some kids still play this way today. Of course I could not resist showing them how to make a book out of a piece of paper.
After taking leave of my most generous Belgian host Serge, I took three trains through delays to get here: the Eifel, beautiful volcanic mountains that provide the name to John Gerard's papermaking supply business, Eifeltor Mühle.
He has a gorgeous home and studio, separated between wet and dry spaces in an old converted barn. He showed me a bunch of his many artists' books, using handmade paper to convey his fascination with language, as well as numerous collaborations with other artists and writers.
Though he does not think of himself as a toolmaker, he has designed and now sells a bunch of useful ones for papermakers. Here are his older white oak beating sticks, alongside the current maple one that.
This is his three-piece press that assembles in five seconds (you provide the hydraulic jack, made of galvanized steel.
One of the few production papermakers who remain, he was serious about building his studio to suit his needs perfectly. This included raking the wet floor so that all water goes to the front of the room, where the floor drains are. So very few paper studios actually get this right (usually because of budgets + contractors who think they know better)—it was a JOY to see this floor working exactly as it should.
And even better, a proper home for the squeegee! After visiting John and his assistant Jeannette, I was sad to leave the beautiful countryside so quickly, but was glad to see Andrea and head to her home.
After not being able to spend more than one or two nights in one place for the first half of my trip, it has been an absolutely luxury to be here near Frankfurt, not having to pack my bag every night. I finished our two-day workshop today and then we had a nice walk along the Rhine. Saw swans and storks, and heard the latter on a huge electrical tower with at least three big nests. Spring is here for sure it seems. My students were wonderful and each day we walked to a local cafe for lunch. The kozo is cooked for papermaking in a bit, but we all need a rest for now.

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