Members of the Papermakers Yahoo Group who live in the western United States had so much fun last year we decided to do it again. And, again, we decided to go back to Karen Kennedy's Alsea Gardens. Jan Moulder picked up the ball and started it rolling again and implemented a Yahoo Group, Western_Gathering, so we could coordinate who brings what, activities and talk without cluttering up the papermaking list.
Unlike last year when all of us were eager, excited and scared to death, we knew what to expect and were all atwitter with anticipation. Once again, the participants were Jan Moulder, Cris Ballinger, Julie Johnson, Kathy Metz-Carson and her guest, Liz Etheridge, Kristy Bellavita, Lisa Harkins and her guest, Ronetta, and Sunni Bergeron. Susan Ernst and Nan Welch were unable to make it this year, but Sharon Webb (aka Kozo Kid), her daughter Shannon, and Beth and Paul Heesacker were the newcomers.
This year, Karen - with new hubby, John - poured a slab of concrete out behind the studio and moved us from the porch out into the yard. The weather was not as accommodating this year so we ended up getting a bit wet and cold. Sunni forgot to bring her canopy, so Ronetta ended up purchasing a simply huge blue tarp. Paul hung it from the front of the garage and we ended up with a wonderful and roomy work area in the driveway. Paul, actually, saved the whole weekend with his talents and ingenuity. Both of the Critters - Julie's two-pound Critter and Sunni's quarter pound Cherub - were broken. Paul took a look at them, ordered some parts and had them both up and running in short order.
This year we decided to have a grazing table, so folks brought whatever they wanted to eat and just dumped it there for everyone to enjoy. Beth? baked up a pot of outstanding beans and Liz? a pot of incredible chili. Sunni fixed her mountain of spaghetti again and Karen and John treated us to Thai food Saturday nite. There were ample munchies for everyone.
Julie arrived late Wednesday to start set up while Kristy, the Heesackers, Lisa with Ronetta and Sunni arrived at various times throughout Thursday. The plants were processed, cooked, whirred in a blender and/or beaten in the Critter and Cherub. Beth brought a lot of the raw fibers and was a huge help throughout the whole prep/beating process; it was her first gathering, and she and Paul contributed so much to the experience.
Friday the rest of the members arrived and pulp processing continued on a grand scale. Lisa set up dye pots and we dyed overbeaten abaca and cotton with logwood, madder root, cochineal and indigo. The pink is cochineal. The blue is indigo. The purple is indigo with a cochineal overdye. The reddish-orange pulp we got at the end was madder. On Saturday, after the paper fibers were finished dying, Kristy brought some wool and exhausted the dye pots - gorgeous! Kristy brought an armload of cedar bark to soak and some corkscrew willow for making lamps if anyone was interested.
Saturday was balls to the wall with everything we wanted to learn. The tarp went up in the driveway, all but one of the tables were moved under it and serious pulling began. We ended up running 12 vats of different plants concurrently. Pulps pulled during this gathering were nettles, bamboo leaves, cattail seed heads, papyrus stems and leaves, denim, sea grass, eel grass, polypores, curly dock leaf stem, cedar bark, banana peels, chamomile stalks, daylily leaves, bleached iris pseudocorus leaves, bleached garlic leaves, yucca, etc. We kept the propane cooker and beaters running the whole time we were there. The light green pulp that we pulled near the end was a chamomile/sea grass combo that Kristy brought. Julie originally thought it was bamboo leaves, but we never got around to pulling the bamboo leaf pulp. The other light green (thin!) paper from the first pulling day was the pure, blended eel grass Kristy brought. At the end we combined the eel grass with the bleached garlic leaves Lisa brought (the eel grass was in bigger chunks in the garlic leaves - we just pulled it to include it in the garlic leaves, instead of blending it). The combo vat that just kept getting more and more combo'ed was the hand beaten daylily leaf that had the bleached iris pseudocorus/cattail seed head from Sunni added to it, then we added Beth's banana peel. The other identifiable mix started with papyrus (umbrella stalk), then had dyed cotton added (blue or purple?), then yucca. Of course, at the very end, we just dumped everything in with everything else! That was the most interesting paper of them all.
During the lunch break, Jan donned her costume and did her one-woman play for us. We laughed so hard we almost cried.
Kristy brought a tub of sawn wood pieces for making a couple different sizes of molds and deckles while Cris brought a large roll of heat shrink screening she acquired from Twinrocker. Sunni and Lisa? brought staplers, Cris brought stainless steel staples and epoxy and Kathy brought the heat gun. Several of us availed ourselves of the quick how-to and made some new equipment.
Sharon and Shannon set up in back on the new slab and Sharon gave a demonstration on how she mixes her kozo/gampi pulps, how she pulls sheets using her "pseudo-su" - her western variation of the japanese style - and how she dries her papers flat; so that vat was also in production. Several people became converts of kozo/gampi.
Saturday nite everyone migrated upstairs to relax for an evening of basket weaving, book browsing, grazing and lamp making. Kristy taught Shannon and Beth how to weave while Sunni and Julie taught Shannon how to apply the paper to the twigs of a lamp. Ronetta also carved a beautiful plaster casting mold for her entry in the doll exchange. While we were all winding down after a hectic day, Karen's daughter, Keely, stopped by and serenaded us with a few tunes on her violin. To top off that pleasant treat, Keely's boyfriend, Zach, also stopped by and gave us a quick tune on his cello. Needless to say, it was pure delight.
Sunday was clean up and everyone except Sunni packed up. Kristy, Ronetta and Beth divvied up the remaining pulp into labeled baggies so everyone could take home a spot of all the fibers we explored. By noon, all the participants had set off back to the real world and Sunni moseyed around the grounds soaking up the beauty of Alsea Gardens and gathering up any odds and ends left behind. It was an action packed, intense, laughter-filled four days and fun was had by all.
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Last revised: November 14 2008