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Archive for January, 2014

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Recently a gift came my way – a journal filled with blank sheets of beautifully handcrafted Nepalese paper. These writing sheets—translucent and pale brown—were made from the bark of the Daphne shrub. Writing with ink on this paper is a joy as my pen glides over its surface and the ink never blurs or runs. Through this little journal, the process of handwriting on special paper was rekindled again.

My interest in sourcing handmade paper began to grow wings when I participated in a workshop that taught me how to convert plant pulp into paper. I provided plant materials—fibres, stems, and heavy leaves—that I cut up and soaked in water. Caustic soda, one tablespoon to each litre of water was added, and this mixture cooked for two hours until the material became soft and slippery. (We used an old copper boiler, as aluminium must never come into contact with caustic soda). After discarding any large plant waste, I dipped a frame (screened across the underside) into the slurry, drained it and transferred the sheets of wet paper onto a surface to dry.

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Above from left to right are sheets of paper I produced from the following:

1. Blue tinted recycled paper with finely chopped onion skins
2. Recycled paper pulp and cooked straw
3. Straw, onion skins, and plant stems
4. Bannana trash

Each paper has its own distinctive colour and thickness, perfect for: journal covers,  gift cards or tags, book marks, stationary etc. Handmade paper can be cut as there is no grain. When it is torn, a raggedy edge is produced giving it an attractive homespun look.

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Paper has a long history. Papyrus came first in Egypt around 2400 BC, and was made from sliced sections of the flower stem of the reedy papyrus plant. (See a papyrus stem and flower photo above) A Chinese courtier, Ts’ai Lun, was the first recorded inventor of paper. In 105 AD, he presented his paper making process to the Chinese Emperor, as was noted in official court records. The spread of paper from China to the Middle East, then to Europe in the 13th century has allowed for a massive exchange of information to take place, contributing to significant cultural shifts world-wide.

As our age becomes totally digitized, it is a joy to slow down and return to the simple pleasure of putting pen to paper. In some circles, the art of writing letters on fine stationary is also experiencing a resurgence. While the computer remains at the centre of my writing life, my Nepalese journal has become the repository for my short poetry: haiku, tanka and haibun. On its pages I delight in handwriting again, with pen on fine paper for my own enjoyment.

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“Weeds are flowers too – once you get to know them.”
A. A. Milne

Despite the beauty of its bright orange flowers and shining green leaves, the African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) has been declared a pest plant under Queensland state legislation, placing it on the list of noxious weeds.

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“Many people have noticed that appreciation of beauty increases with the intensity of observation. When we look at a tree, from a distance and up close, at its crevassed bark and the veins in its leaves, while circling it on foot or surveying it from a neighbouring tree or while lying on our backs watching its swaying topmast—when we engage all our powers in seeing this thing alive and growing and changing—we realize it. We literally make it real … When we do, when we give it our full attention, we realize it into being. This is our gift to the things of the universe. It return, and in gratitude, the star, the tree, or the pebble rewards us with its only gift: its beauty.”

by Jerry Dennis, ‘The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes’
Visit the Jerry Dennis website to enjoy more from this fine nature writer.

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Falling petals haiga

Today we have the opportunity to take beautiful digital photos  and to add a text directly to the images. These two ingredients allow us to experiment with an early art form known as haiga. Traditionally haiga is a Japanese invention that combines a sumi-e (an image painted with an ink brush) and a three line haiku or a five line tanka poem, hand-lettered on the same piece of paper. The art lies in the subtle relationship between the two.

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The painting, drawing, or photo is not simply an illustration of the poem, nor is the poem a caption for the picture. Each element should stand alone — yet in juxtaposition, the two resonate to add a deeper and more complex meaning to the total work.

Poinsienna haiga

Drawings, paintings or photographs may be presented with little or no adjustment, or they may be manipulated until the original is nearly unrecognizable. Photographs can be used as a starting point. The text or poem can be hand lettered, scanned, pasted to the image, or applied directly using the font capability of a software program. Through haiga, the old and the new are blended into a unique, multimedia artistic experience.

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to enjoy and preserve
earth’s natural beauty

take only photos
leave only footprints
kill only time

 

 

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