Storytelling and Bookmaking

For the month of January I working as an artist-storyteller - have been team teaching at Pyramid Atlantic with artist-author Adjoa Burrowes and Pyramd artist, Getchen Schmerhorn. We are working with a group of eighth grade girls and their volunteer adult mentors. What a great group - fun, interesting and interested - who have a positive friendship bond. Its an ideal group to work with.

Rather than have the girls write a new story we used a story with strong images - the Pumpkin Seed Bird - for content. Having that focus leaves the students free to learn how to make the book structure and create their collages from story images. Each student has made a long hand-made paper accordion book which has pockets for their collage images of the story. The images are collaged of vivid paste papers which they made in the class. If you have seen Adjoa's children's books you know that she masterfully uses the paste-paper collage technique for her joyous illustrations. Th students worked in the paper-mill with resident paper-maker, Gretchen Schmerhorn to make the paper for the book structures,

Sequentially the group each made long heavy pieces of hand-made paper for the main book structure,listened to the story and discussed the images, made the paste papers which would be their material for collage, constructed their collage images, more stories along the way and reminders of the original story, discussion of the collage technique and some historical connections, Romare Bearden particularly, folded the books and then assembled them. In ten days the books will be exhibited at Pyramid. The results are wonderful, vividly colorful books with expressive collaged illustrations. (If you read this before I add the pictures of the books, please come backto see what these young women made.) The workshop has been a wonderful art experience for these students and workng with them has been a gift.

This workshop leaves me more convinced than ever about the power of storyteling to complement learning in all settings.

Directions for making Paste Papers:

Paste paper is an easy, fun technique for making colorful papers to use for collage, and also for books. Artist books are often covered with paste papers and/or have inside end pages of paste paper. Its easier to make it in an art studio but its also possible in the classroom or at home.
Its messy, but a water clean-up.

Ingredients: wheat paste, liquid tempera paint, and water.
Supplies: Assortment of scrap containers: i.e. plastic cups, strong paper cups etc
1" and 2" cheap bristle brushes -
Stirrers for mixing the paint - popsickle sticks or plastic knives work well.
Spray bottles for dampening the paper
Implements like plastic knives and forks to scratch into the paper to make texture and design.
Large sheets of med. weight poster paper - to paint on.
you can experiment with other papers- shelf paper, craft papers, (construction paper is not a good choice - the paper must take water and not tear easily).
Paper to cover the work surface.
Paper towels.
Space to place the wet papers flat to dry.

Suggestion: experiment with some smaller size papers first to get the feel of the technique.

Set out cups, paints and stirrers.
Cheap 1 - 2" bristle brushes.
Fill a large container with tepid water or mix on a sink near the facuet.
Put a half cup of water in a cup, stir in a tablespoon of wheat paste, mixing to smooth, add more paste as needed to make it the consistency of cake batter, then add the color, drops at a time, mixing for the desired color. If you have only a few colors, after the basics are mixed, make a few colors by mixing colors into the paste: i.e. red and blue for purple.
CAUTION: Mix the wheat paste into the water - for a smooth paint.

Mix paint in scrap containers i.e. cottage cheese cartons, plastic or strong paper cups. Popsickle sticks are good stirrers.

Once your paints are ready, lightly spray a piece of the white paper with water, moist paper takes the paint better, paint the paste colors onto the sheeet, all over (you are making material not painting a picture), after the color is applied make texture marks on top (see photo), also leave some smooth surfaces.

Place the paper flat and face up to dry.

When you have a stack of dry papers they may curl. Place them under a large cardboad and put heavy books or bricks on top. Overnight if possible.

Making paste papers makes my fingers itch to sit down in my own studio with paper, scissors and glue. I first learned to make paste papers at Pyramid years ago and I had forgotten how much fun it is and how beautiful the papers are.