I'm back home but only now have the wherewithal to finish up the rest of my trip sharing. Here is Mark, using the other side of his bandsaw blade that he has sharpened with a grinder, to slice up old bed sheets that he finds at second hand stores. It took him a long time to figure out the best way to do this quickly. Many papermakers would appreciate this kind of repurposing, as cutting up rag is one of the least fun parts of prep when working with fabric.
This is his 20-lb beater, where he has already loaded rag and harakeke. He likes to add some of the latter, always, to strengthen the rag sheets.
He took a break to show me the patch of harakeke down the road, and showed me the baby leaf flanked by the parents, then the grandparents, and so on. Of course you only harvest from the outside leaves, the oldest ones, and he says a prayer before he begins harvesting in the same spirit as the Maori ask permission to harvest.
Here are three old washing tubs repurposed to chunk up his harakeke, that would have already been cooked at this stage.
This is the contraption he made to cut the long leaves into workable lengths.
When I got up my final morning, this is what I saw (well, the morning after that we all had to get up at 3:30am to get ready to head to the airport. I can't believe Jan got an entire breakfast ready, as I told her not to—at least not for me! She said it was okay as long as I had one tiny spoonful of porridge and one frozen blueberry). I was still jet lagged from Melbourne/Tasmania time (not to mention American time) so I had been sleeping late during my stay, but of course Mark was up at 7am because he was excited to get back to papermaking. Can you imagine moving from one house to another, having some random lady come stay with you from Cleveland, and then beating 22 lbs of fiber to pull sheets right away?
Mark likes to harvest his colors from the land. These get ground up into pigment that he uses on his paper in a painterly way.
This is his 2-lb beater, one of his early machines, and it has been chugging along for 20 years or so.
[You can tell I'm still tired because I'm not fixing the order of this to make more sense in sequence.] After the teeth in the washing tubs that he installed chew up the harakeke, it empties into a holding tank to drain, and then into an old washer where he spins the excess water out. Then it goes into the beater.
He was figuring out different ways to make paper for his flower installations, and this is the latest version, pulling 11 at a time, rather than pulling one at a time in old mesh moulds where he needed lots of volunteers to help. These are the medium sized shapes for the flowers, as he layers them all to get dimension and color.
My final night I went through Gin Petty's A Papermaker's Season
, which is a book I so covet. Of course I went straight to the milkweed bits. She is AMAZING, something of a national treasure, especially in putting this book together to share her immense knowledge of papermaking from plants. Her handwritten note to Mark was in there, and it was nice to see the connections between these people who live so far away but do similar work.
By lunch, Mark had probably pulled all the sheets he had screens for, which would be 110. In the afternoon, some were already dry.
This is the size of the DHL box that he ships all of his little Critters in, and they fit snugly.
These screens are drying against circus tent poles, from his son, who manages circuses. He had abandoned one after the big earthquake as it was a terrible time for everyone's businesses and lives, so Mark got the poles: lightweight and perfect to prop screens against.
Grateful for all of the time that these artists/builders have given me throughout this long drawn out project! This is definitely the furthest I will have to travel for an interview and I'm glad for the opportunity. Now, time to go over notes and photos and the strategy for interviewing the North American and European folks.