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Art Works 2009-2011

Making Paper From Plants

Making Paper From Plants

I was born in Cyprus and worked as an art teacher. I am a member of International Assosiation Paper Making Artist (IAPMA). There are 500 members of the assosiotin in 45 different countries. Every year, I participate in the meetings, congresses and workshops arranged by the Assosiation. In these meetings the members share their wiews and ideas with each other. I learned paper making in these workshops. Later on, I improved the technics adopting it to suit to my country’s customs, culture and plants growing there.

For the past year I have been working on a project where I have been producing paper from plants I am growing in my garden. My first experimentation with paper production was with the green shells of walnuts and henna. My latest experiments have been with yellow squash plant, mulberry, fig leaves, rose plant, broudbean plant,carop tree,corn plant,acacia plant and seaweed. Research and experimentation in this field gives me great pleasure and excitement.

My childhood memories were the reasons for my experimentation with plants and paper-making. I remember my grandmother dying her hair, washing her laundry and whitewashing her house walls. The day before the laundry was due, she used to prepare “ash water” (fire- wood ash and mix it with water) in cauldrons which she used for doing her washing in with her bare hands. (Today those cauldrons are in the garden and I am growing plants and flowers in them.

During Bayrams(special religious days) my grandmother used henna for colouring her hair and especially for dying our nails. We really loved those colorful nails as children. In the old days, for weddings they organised an occasion called a “henna night” which lasted all night long during which the bride’s hands were stained with henna. Such traditions don’t exist any more.

Another event that I remember from my childhood is my grandfather whitewashing the walls of the house. He used to mix lime with water and put in it prickly pear leaves. After keeping the solution for a few hours he would whitewash the house walls with it. Whenever we asked him why he put in the prickly pear leaves in the mixture he used to say it was so that the lime would stick to the walls.

While I am preparing for making paper, all these memories come to life in my mind. There for I decided to use ash water instead of caustic soda and prickly pear instead of glue. One day while I was walking around the garden the yellow squash branches caought my eye and I decided to collect and cut them into strips for making paper.

I prepared the ash water with the ashes I took from my fireplace and mixed in the plant pieces and placed them into a pressure cooker and I boiled them for 30 minutes. After this process I rinsed the whole mixture a number of time with water and then pulverized it with a sledge hammer.

Later I collected some prickly - pear leaves from the neighbour’s garden and cut them into pieces, peeled off the outer layer and then added water to the mushy inner part of the peeled pricly - pear leaves and mushed them in a blender.

In a seperate container, I mixed the fibres with water and the glue-like liquid I got from the prickly - pear leaves. After letting this mixture stand overnight, I strained it through paper moulds and laid the mixture over a cloth and dried it in open air. The colour of this paper is very close to the colour of yellow squash branches.

In Cyprus, we have a tradition to offer home made sweets to special visitors. Begining of summer, when the walnuts are green and tender, we make them into walnut preserves. The peeling of the fresh green walnuts leaves a dark stain on hands. I also make these preserves and offer them to special visitors.

Last year for the first time, I experimented with making paper from walnut peels. When the results were successful, I collected more walnut peels from other household friends and froze them in my freezer to be used later. Whenever I want to make paper, I take them out of the freezer and using ash water, I boil and simmer them for 20 minutes, then strain the result through a sieve. I mix 5 measures of this with 1 measure of abaca, prepare the paper pulp by adding prickly - pear glue. The following day, I strain the mixture using paper moulds and place it on cloth to dry in open air. The colour of this paper is black.

The reasons for my use of these materials, İs the result of my concerns towords these materials. Unfortunately, we the people, use these materials inappropriately I think and this will cause the greatest environmental problems in the future. At present, there is no other world that we can live in. Therefore it is essential that we look after the world that we live in. I am in the belief that we must develope our art without useing cemicals inorder that our environment is not harmed.

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