Week 21: song/book

book paper off screens

It is winter, yet this week we have had glorious bursts of sunshine. Perfect paper making weather. In Japan paper making is traditionally a winter activity; in haiku, ‘paper making’ is one of the seasonal words to indicate winter.[1]  It is only fitting therefore that I should be making paper for a song book, a paper song.

As you can see from the picture, I have been making paper in a new size format. It is half the A2 size of the largest screens, ready to make an accordion fold artists book incorporating the screen printed sounds of paper making.

In order to create these sheets which have the rough deckle edge both top and bottom as well as sides; a stick of wood needed to be inserted in the screens at the halfway point horizontally.  I trialed this method very early on in the project when I thought I needed to create small A5 sheets from half an A4 screen. The method was so successful it was incorporated into the A2 screens with good results. The wood allows the fibre to fall away from the edges during the paper formation. You can see the lines on the screens as the paper is drying.

book paper on screens1

The artists book will unfold as a series of sonic spectrograms, a work song portraying the process of making paper. In Japan where kozo is made from the inner bark of the Mulberry tree, the paper making process is a winter activity, continuing from morning to late at night. In the Summer 2014 issue of Hand Papermaking magazine, Margaret Prentice and Sumio Suzuki write about the Shiroishi Papermaking Song from Japan which is comprised of 26 verses about the process of making paper.[2]

“Powder snow steadily falls, there is a light in the paper making studio/What is being made?/All night long, all night long”[3]

Work songs are traditionally sung or chanted to synchronise the rhythm of work -as epitomised by Roman galley slaves. Some songs related to the type of work, especially to accompany agricultural tasks, others sung by workers such as miners, included protest lyrics and were about specific mining disasters.

Afro-American slaves in the cotton plantations in southern America incorporated ‘field hollers’ a type of call and response falsetto whoop in their field songs.[4]  Call and response songs can be heard in traditional villages from Africa to Timor Leste and this type of chanting echoes church liturgies and oral storytelling.

My paper song is a call and response between myself and my material, celebrating the banana plant not as just a source of paper fibre, but as a material with its own agential qualities, connecting me to nature.


[1] Margaret  Prentice and Sumio Suzuki, “Shiroishi Papermaking Song from Japan,” Hand Papermaking 29, no. 1, Summer (2014): 33.

[2] Ibid., 33-34.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Library of Congress: African American Song,” accessed. 24 July, 2016. https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200197451/.


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