Watermarks have been a part of paper making since at least the 13th century. Probably the first ones were accidental, with rain spatters forming dots across the wet pulp, just like this one. My first experience with water leaving its own mark was several years ago when rain came down unexpectedly on my paper moulds left out to dry. These rainy day papers dried beautifully and came away from the moulds without tearing, but were irreversibly (I thought) damaged. I was going to throw them away, but the texture was interesting so I kept them for prosperity.
This week in the studio I’ve been making large sheets of A2 paper and experimenting with intentional watermarks. I was interested to see if I could achieve a watermark just using my fingers to create ‘lines’ similar to a music score. I was interested in the idea of absence as a presence. In this case the absence of pulp in line formations suggesting the presence of music yet to be composed.
I researched artists who use watermarks in their paper making. Chilean artist Carolina Larrea’s work Impermanence contains hanging paper panels depicting the artists body fading into immateriality. Larrea uses water jets to write words on paper to suggest that “the existence of the word is due to the non-existence of matter”.  Canadian paper artist Susan Warner Keene uses water jets to create lines of watermarked paper as a series of time codes like a musical score.
My fist experiments have proved interesting and I am yet to see where this takes me. I like the idea of threads being worked into the paper fibres. And words! That’s still to come. Here’s my first attempt and there are largish holes in some of the lines, but you get the idea. Now to work out how to bring the images of sound into the watermarks…
 Carolina Larrea, “The Presence of Absence,” IAPMA Bulletin Watermarks, no. 52 (2012): 6-7.
 Susan Warner Keene. “Water Books – an Experiment,” accessed 16 May 2016. http://www.susanwarnerkeene.com/water-books–an-experiment.html.