Week 26: beat

indigo hollander beat
Beat (detail). Screenprint on indigo dyed banana paper.

“Paper is made in the beater.” [1]

Unlike the rhythmic action of hand beating, mechanical beaters like the Hollander create static, white noise; blocking out all other sounds. Installed in my studio is a small antiquated Hollander which was included as part of a papermaking equipment bequest. It is highly prized for its ability to render cooked fibres into a soupy pulp ready to use in the papermaking vat.

Yet it is an invasive presence; its sound a constant noise until the beater is finally turned off and a sudden stillness pervades.

The beat creates the strongest image as a sound line, a dense sonic band of serrated lines suggestive of its function. Long strands of banana fibre are fed into the water filled machine by the handful, then beaten until the fibre has lost its shape. Weights are then added, one by one, for greater cutting power. It is an intuitive, subjective process honed through constant use and observation.

This week in the studio I paid homage to this most important step of the paper making process, the beat. Onto my indigo dipped paper I screen printed a sonic image of dense noise. To create this effect I inverted the original image from the Sonic Visualiser program so that the ‘white noise’  became a dense indigo printed line.

I finished it just in time for its inclusion in the Honours exhibition catalogue. Over the next few weeks I will continue to print the sound lines of each process on my indigo dipped papers then join them together as an unfolding sonic narrative, a paper song.


[1] Catherine Nash, “Beater Finesse for the Artist,” Hand Papermaking 23, no. 1 (Summer 2008).



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