Monday, July 25, 2016

Sensory Friendly Art Activity: Handmade Paper

July 4th was truly Independence Day for me! It was the day I decided to liberate myself from the paper clutter in my house. So I took to my file cabinet to get rid of all unnecessary past bills, documents, and paper from 2012 and down. Yes! I even had paper from from 2002 in those dang things!

But now what? I need to shred these things and my shredder broke a long time ago.  I had an AHA! moment. I remembered two things;

1) I had recently talked about an art piece at the museum I work at, where the artist used paper pulp.

It was this work by Glen Ligon titled Self Portrait at Age Eleven. It's actually inspired by the image of Stevie Wonder on his 1977 greatest hits triple LP album “Looking Back.”
Ligon enlarged the image and used a stencil to create clustered circles of black linen pulp.

That work was fresh on my mind so I know it influenced me and 

2) We also did not have a shredder growing up so my mom would simply wet all of the documents she wanted to throw away, making it easier to rip up and then she'd put it in the garbage.  Probably not the best thing for the environment but at least no one was going to steal her identity!

So there it was, I  decided to make paper with all this stuff, instead of putting it in the recycling bag. I'm all about transformation so if I can transform all this bill paying into something beautiful, I'm all for it!

This also made for a great sensory art activity for the boys especially on a hot day, so I got them involved as well!

Here's how I did it!

 I took all the paper, put it in a bin and proceeded to rip them into the smallest pieces possible. Then I put water in the bin to soften the paper so it would be easier to rip it further.

You usually need a blender to make hand made paper, I didn't want to ruin mine by putting paper in it so I researched how to do it without a blender and found this great tutorial by Jessica Tremblay.

Dan was a bit apprehensive at first

But it didn't take him long to be ALL IN, literally! He even dunked his head in the water. He just wanted to play with the paper, he didn't help me rip.

My older son had fun too! 

You also, usually, need a metal screen, or what they call a mould, to lay the wet paper out to dry. I didn't have that either, so again, I improvised and used the top of my husband's unused fish tank that was out in the yard.  That's a metal screen right? You have to use what you have to make art, that's my motto, don't let anything stop you!

I laid the paper out on top of the fish tank screen the best I could. As you can see, the edges are irregular but I didn't mind that. 

Here's a close up of the soggy paper. I love that you can still see traces of junk mail like barcodes and text.

I then put a towel and pressed, to absorb the extra water

I also used the plastic mesh thing that I use for cleaning my printing screens. M said this looked like a map, I agree. I only put a little on this one because I didn't know if this plastic mesh thing would work. Well, it did.

This is how I dried the paper, fish tanks, shopping carts and plastic screen supplies. Very non- traditional way to make paper but I did it!  I just used what I had, you can too!

I started the process at 10 AM and by 6PM the paper was dry. It helped that it was breezy, although hot day!

Here's the final product, I love it so much!

Love the traces of text and flecks of color

The other side took the form of the screen which looks cool too.

I cut it into 4 x 4 ish squares

Just to experiment, I cut a heart out of one. I could easily make collage cards with theses.

My husband sent me an "I love you" text as I was admiring the paper so I quickly wrote "I love you too" on a test piece with a sharpie and texted him this very photo in response. I thought about the irony of it all as I sent him the picture;  the art of handmade goods and technology meeting over love. I know, I'm a little corny.

I absolutely enjoyed this process so much! It had a combination of the best elements of my life. My museum practice informing my art practice, the fact that I could incorporate my boys in the process as a sensory friendly art activity, and the possibility of making collage cards with this paper and perhaps selling them on my shop. I don't know yet but who knows!

As always, let me know what you think and if you have any ideas to simplify the process, please share!

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