The next in our Isolated Moments series, aiming to keep spirits buoyed and creativity alive during COVID-19 global social isolating and quarantining measures, comes from Liz Lake – an artist who works across printmaking, sculpture and installation. Liz has recently had work commissioned by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Coventry Biennial 2019, Cardiff University, and Fermynwoods Contemporary Art’s forthcoming In Steps of Sundew exhibition at The Arches, Fineshade Wood.
Liz Lake, A River Once Ran Through My Veins (detail), 2016
This paper pulp workshop is suitable for both children and adults, and some of the ingredients can change depending on what you have at hand. The idea is to go on a foraging walk around your house, garden, kitchen, shed or street to find materials that catch your eye. Materials could be leaves, seeds, mud, sweet wrappers, tickets, sequins or scrap fabric – whatever you’re drawn to.
These items will then be compressed and embedded into the paper pulp we make. You might choose to make several pieces, each representing a different walk or area of your house. In this way they take on material memories, pulp fictions of your experience.
I have been using casting in my work for several years – concrete, metal, ceramic, plaster – but have recently been looking to use more immediate and available materials. Over lockdown I have experimented with paper pulp casting and have enjoyed the simplicity and accessibility of it. Over the summer I plan to continue with this process, seeing how it works at a larger scale. This workshop shares these initial trials, encouraging a playful approach and an exploration of different materials around you.
You will need
Paint/inks/dyes (these could include spices like turmeric)
Everyday materials (leaves, papers, fabric, plastic wrappers, tin foil, string, etc.)
- First forage for your everyday materials or detritus that has been thrown away. Once you start looking for it you will find all kinds of things.
- Next you’ll need to use a blender to make the paper pulp. Rip scrap paper or cardboard into small stamp-sized pieces and blend together with water. If it’s not blending very well, add more water. If you want to make coloured paper pulp, then add some sort of pigment into the mix. I used turmeric and paint, but dyes and inks would also work well.
- Once you have your paper pulp or selection of different coloured pulps, then it’s time to prepare your plastic containers with the materials you found on your walk. Place your items face-side down into the container, as the bottom of the piece will be the front when finished. For example, if you have a small photograph, place it face down so you can’t see the image. Your materials will move slightly, so it’s best not be too exact about the positioning.
- Next add your paper pulp over the top, squeezing out water with your hands if your pulp is too liquid. You can choose to blend colours together or only work with one. You need to cover your materials with the pulp, but otherwise you can choose how thick to make your pieces – the thicker they are the longer they’ll take to dry.
- Now use a sponge to press down on the paper pulp – compacting the pulp whilst also removing excess water. If you used a clear container you can look underneath to see how your piece looks, moving or adding things if you think it needs it.
- Leave your container on a windowsill or somewhere warm and safe to dry. I left mine overnight and removed them from the containers whilst they were still slightly damp. To remove, flip the plastic container over onto something flat (cardboard or a magazine) and tap on the base. The piece should fall out face-side up. I left mine to dry like this for another few days, however you could choose to leave them in the containers until they are completely dry before removing them.
- If needed use some PVA glue to seal any loose materials, or to varnish the whole piece if you want.