Friday, March 15, 2019

Research trip: France & Belgium

I can't believe it's only been a few days but here I am, on a trip I've been meaning to make for over two years. Here is Claudine Latron, a French mouldmaker, teasing a fish out of the bamboo.
We spent about 24 hours together, and I learned soooo much. I also had a wonderful, cozy, comfortable first night of sleep on the top of a charming old house in Lille. Here is a facing most likely used for paper that was used for circular filters.
With the help of a friend, who was her first teacher that made possible the idea of making her own moulds, she built a loom of her own to weave laid facings. These kinds of mechanics are something I would never be able to figure out on my own, but she is great at collaborations.
I landed first in Brussels, and Serge Pirard (in black) has been hosting me very generously, guiding me through the train and subway systems, the best chocolate to get at the store, which museum to visit, and so on. He is a mouldmaker and we met almost exactly two years in NYC at Dieu Donné. Today we went to his studio in the Ardennes, and on the way we visited Pascal Jeanjean, a French papermaker working at a premier level in Belgium (in grey).
He had to stop pulling sheets when we arrived and has a glorious huge studio that is amazingly neat. He works alone and is clearly very particular about his standards, which are very high. He works long hours, six days a week, and is always busy with orders. But in an hour with him, I learned so much about my own views of hand papermaking as an artist versus a production papermaker, the ways that we operate in the same world but not quite, and how beneficial it would be for more communication and understanding. Here he is in a fancy video.
This is a test sheet from a mould with elaborate watermarks (three different types) that Serge had made with a facing that was prepared for the task. Now we're still awake and working, swapping stories, and I got to see the amazing loom from the late Ron Macdonald. It was so moving to finally see it in person and touch it, see the worn parts, and feel the spirit of the man who had used it for a lifetime. Tomorrow will be a big work day, documenting all of these tools and materials, the space, Serge at work, and so on. We stocked up on groceries so we are well nourished until it's time to drive back to the city at night.

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