Ray Tomasso: The Art of Paper

Ray Tomasso: The Art of Paper

So first, welcome and thank you Deborah
for welcoming me. I’m James P. Asher I’m an assistant professor here in the
libraries. This event is part of Scripta Lab, which if you haven’t heard
of it before might be interesting to you. We’re an initiative run by the
University Libraries and we intend to explore issues of materiality in media
information and technology. We do lecture series, we have quite a number on the
website which is scriptalab.org, script a lab dot org and you can look
there in fact this talk will be on there eventually. Which is my first comment, if
you don’t want your image online for some reason speak to the gentleman with
the camera and they can remove you. Witness protection program, just fine
we’ll take you off, it’ll be just great. So this is actually something of a
surprise talk, this is the continuation of the 2011 summer Book Arts program and what the surprise is you know it’s not summer anymore. It’s actually quite cold
outside and what happened is our very generous sponsors were so generous that
we could actually have one more talk kind of tacked on to the end of this
event and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these generous sponsors. They are the Friends of the library, the Graduate Council on arts and humanities, the
University of Colorado Boulder president’s fund for the Humanities, the
Cu Art Museum, The Book Arts League, a wonderful group located running out of
Lafayette and the Rocky Mountain chapter of the guild of book workers. So if we
have representative from our sponsors which I know we do, thank you so much for
your generosity. Sf course none of this would happen without a incredible
planner and you know, really the brains behind this particular event, the
indefatigable Deborah Fink, and her assistant Andrew Violet so actually please join me
in thanking them for making this happen. And additionally if you’re looking at
this online rather than here, this also wouldn’t happen without Michael Riberdy
and his assistant Ben Baton so please join me in thanking them for the people
online. But enough of that, let me get to the serious business of an introduction.
And you know I’m going to do something a little cheesy with the introduction, I’m
going to say of course we all remember the 2001 book by Jacques Derrida “paper
machine” right? This is the book where he talks about papers and machines. This is
kind of his incomum to scholarship in the printed form. He talks
about paper as a surface and a machine as inscribing on the surface and he does
his, you know, characteristically deconstructive gesture and he talks
about, how do we inscribe the surface? Maybe a paper machine is a machine for
making paper. Maybe we have the paper interface with the machine and he’s
really dealing with kind of digital scholarship but what I found really
interesting about this book, recently is there’s a kind of paper machine that
Derrida didn’t anticipate. You’re going to learn a little bit about tonight.
The gentleman who’s speaking, who you all came to see, in some ways is a
machine of making paper. He’s been doing it for almost 40 years. I actually wish I
could make a chart and show graphically the sheer amount of paper that must be.
But really we were dealing with a man machine of paper. Additionally of course
he founded, helped found the International Association of
paper makers and paper artists, of which he was the first vice president and
later the president. Incredibly important International Organization for paper. He
also is something of a craftsman of several sorts, he’s a binder and a printer,
but more to the point of paper machine, have you all seen the large kind of cast
paper work throughout the library? Yeah? If not, they’re in these wonderful little
exhibit booklets and you can look at them and when I look at those I saw
something very interesting. I said, ‘oh these are absolutely beautiful they’re kind of
missed cast paper on top of this kind of industrial
architectural debris and painted this interesting ways’ and so I asked our
speaker at one point like ‘oh this is really innovative where did you get the
idea for casting paper. This is, this is clever’. He said ‘oh no, no. This is
totally normal you know in the nineteenth century they cash train
wheels out of paper!’ And this baffled me, I had no idea!
And this gets the sense I think they’re too missed paper as machine and I think
some of what the art you’re going to hear about tonight, some of the work of
our speaker talks to this kind of new sense of paper itself as a mechanic form
and paper as interfacing with the machine. And it’s one of the reasons I’m
so excited about his work. So let me say without further, ado please welcome paper
maker of nearly 40 years, master craftsman and scholar, Ray Tomasso. Thank you. We’re going to do a very brief history of paper making since I was only limited
to five hours tonight. We’re going to kind of skip over it, so this kind of
tells you the story here of the idea. So this shows you some of the paper I’ve
made over the years, this just shows you the deckled edges. Paper is always more
impressive when you see a pile and you just see the deckled edges. The history
of paper basically is broken down here, is papyrus is not a true paper
it’s a reed that grows to 16 feet tall in Egypt. It’s a triangular-shaped plant,
you slice the green outer bark off of it then you take the fifth you slice it
into boards you soak it for 24 hours in water and then you take it and crush it either with a hammer or with a rolling pin. Then you overlap it like
siding and then you do a set perpendicular to that. You put it between
cloth and a press and when it dries it sticks together. The same thing happens
with beets and onions you can slice them this way and make beet paper and onion
paper. It works really well into dry climate. It has a tendency to mold if
it’s in a damp climate. But it’s not a true paper. The other ones
are bark papers, such as topa or amate topa from the south seas, amate from
Mexico. Those are just the white inner bark of plants, are usually the paper
mulberry that’s just beaten damp and belted together like you’d make woolen
felt. You fold it back on itself pound on it, spreads out, you fold it
back on itself dampen it pound on it folds out and you can make bark paper.
But it’s not true paper. What you have to do is you have to take that fiber and
you have to beat it and then put it into a vat of water, stir it around and then
pull it out onto a paper screen. Which is what they did in China in 105 but what
happened was this eunuch, who is in charge of these things, said ‘I invented
this’, they have since found examples from like 500 years before he announced that
he’d invented it. So he just had the written word and good PR at the time, he
was able to write “I invented it” and there was no one else that could write
and say no you didn’t. So that was the first one and then papermaking slowly
traveled around the world following the Silk Route. There was a little bit of, a
lot of it had to do with wars and conquest and capturing paper makers,
because you know back in those days if you got captured, you became a slave or you said “I know how to do…” and they just change it to change you to the paper bat
and you made paper for the rest of your life but you weren’t out there in the
Sun rowing a boat or anything like that, or moving huge blocks of stone. The Arab
invasion coming across North Africa and in dating Spain brought papermaking
into Spain and then if you notice the next one, the French. He was captured during the Crusades put the work in a paper mill, when he got
back to France, this is a great idea because at this point in Europe they
were using parchment to make a Bible that took 400 animals. Skins the 400
animals, so quite possibly, you ate well. But you know it was a lot of work to
scrape the hides off and ten them down to get them to work. So what you’re
also looking at here is the coos, the little clay tablets in Samaria, they were
used to keep bureaucratic records of who paid their taxes. You needed parchment for
that. In Rome when the Roman soldiers were stationed at the
wall in England, they were writing back on wooden boards, on tablets. They were
sending their letters home on tablets, wooden tablets. So all of a sudden to
keep all these government records and your tax, who paid what taxes you have
this paper and it’s a really simplifying life. And then you eventually, you know as
paper makers we push it’s the spread of the intellectual ideas, it carries
intellectual ideas thus Gutenberg printing his Bible and your transposing now from just making paper and writing on it, to printing on it
where you’re speeding up the process. You can print more copies and distribute
them to a wider group of people that could possibly read at that time. And
then you see it moves further North, the first paper maker took paper mill in
England, was 1495 and then in 1680 in Holland they invent the Hollander beater.
and the Hollander beater, everything up to that point was stampers in Europe.
There’s examples of how to build a set of stampers in a waterwheel and you’ll
see it shortly in the movie, the Hollander was designed in Holland
because the further toward the coast you moved the less waterfalls you had, until
you were level with the sea and you couldn’t use water power. But they had
wind power and the Hollander is designed to pound rags into pulp using wind power. It took less energy it reduced the beating time in one day as much as eight
snappers would do in eight days to the rag and the rags no longer had to be
putrified. What they do is take the rags roll them into balls and wet them and
set them in the basement and let them rot. That would cook the interior ball so
it’d be softer and easier to, you know, beat. You’d have to throw away the outer
two thirds of the rags because it was discolored and you know it was just
going to be bad paper at that point because of the mold and everything. The
problem was if you didn’t get there soon enough they kind of burst into flames
and burnt down the mill. They later went to having four corners in the basement
of the mill and putting their rags in the corners and wetting them slaking them down with lime. They’d moved corner four upstairs and beat it, three
to four, two to three and start a new pile in corner one. So the piles would
rotate and they’d flip them over and the lime would then start reducing the fiber.
The Hollander, you got away from that. So what you’re doing to the fiber is you’re
taking and shredding the cotton or linen rag, in this period predominantly linen
or hemp fiber because cotton is too hard to get the seeds out of. You would then
take this and dust it, put it in the duster, turn it to get all the animal
material off of it and dirt because there was no washing machines at the
time and you had rag pickers and rag picking was not necessarily a good
occupation, because you were picking things out of the streets. You
would beat the fibers into loosen the material and the beating would cause the
fiber to elongate and close the fiber tube, you’re trying to get the hair on
the fiber to stand up and take on water. Okay that’s the simple process that
would give you this example. You have raw cotton over here and the beat and cotton
over there, showing you all those fiber bonds and what the beating does at this
point is causes that hair on the fiber to take on an extra hydrogen atom and a
negative ion charge. So what you have going on is a hydrogen bonding and an
ion bonding taking place and when you press that onto the woolen felt, the
hair on the woolen felt reaches up grabs that and transfer breaks the catch on
the wires and transfers the paper to the wool felt. Okay this is a
1930s film showing you the mill in Arnhem, Holland. It’s an open-air museum
now. This is a transition mill, this mill has an overshot wheel thats being powered
with water falling over the top of the mill. Other mills would have an under
shot that would take more water pressure to turn it if it goes underneath. Other
mills would have a turbine and a tube that force the water through a turbine
later on in this process. So what you’re going to see here is exactly this
illustration and the Diderot encyclopedia here of how to build one of
these. And these are the stampers. The first stamper would have a chisel point,
the second stamper would have three chisel points and the last would be smooth
point, you know flat surface. So you have a coarse, medium and fine grind. Just like
with a meat tenderizer. So you’re tearing those rags apart.
So at this point they are processing the rags. This woman has a knife blade in
there. This is after you’ve sorted the rags into grade A B and C. You’re
also looking for other things in the rags that you want to remove like spots.
Later on in the 19th century it’d be pieces of rubber, buttons, fasteners. This is the
point where you’d put the Duster in after you chop them up, you dust them. And
then here they’re going to do a very rudimentary washing of the rags. And then they take the rags out and put
them in the stampers. Now the sound you’re hearing in here is equivalent to
six piledrivers. They required paper mills to be located on the outside of
town, outside the city walls because they burst into flames and they made a lot of
noise. This gear behind this man, is the same
thing that would be running off of a windmill driven like the school Meister mill in West Van and this is the
Hollander beater and this is a cylinder with teeth on it that runs against the
bed plate. Turns at about 400 rpms and circulates the fiber in a trough and
he’s about to take off the top and expose the roll. So this is the basic
major advancement in paper making in 1680 that progressed through 1950. This
is the machine that did it. This one, there seems to be a little bit of a
problem where he has to stir it to get it to go through. And he’s feeling the pulp to judge the
consistency. Then they pour it into a holding tank and then from the holding
tank it would be spooned into the vat. The film you’ll later see in the movie is a
1940 movie where they’re using a power vat and everything’s mechanicalized
at that point. So he’s using a pair of molds and one deckle. So as he forms a
sheet he lets it drain. The kucher, the man, he’s going to pray place it on the
woolen felt here, is sliding it up the horn to let it drain while he puts the
next felt down. So there’s a little dance a little time sequence in here you have
to observe of how you’re working, waiting for that paper to drain. So a production
rate here is a choir which is 144 sheets. These belts would also be heated from
underneath, where you’d have a chimney under the vat and the thirteen-year-old
apprentice that you would have, would get up in the morning crawl down the tube,
light the fire in there and then crawl out before he’s overcome with smoke
because you want to exhaust all the smoke on the outside of the building,
because you don’t want any of that soot falling in your paper. And here you see
the laid lines in the watermark on the paper. The plank that he’s kuching on is also
slightly curved and what he’s going to do is put some extra felts on the top to eliminate the impressions of the wood boards and then he has these
wedge-shaped pieces of wood he sits on there to compensate for the curve of the
board underneath. Now at this point, once he gets this
loaded, he’s going to start closing the press and this is a screw press so
you’re working on that process of coming down the inclined plane and
acquiring pressure he’s blowing a horn because of the noise
in the mill, from the stampers, the machinery pounding constantly, to attract
everybody to come over and help him tighten the press. So what they’re doing
here is they’re adding a windlass to it, just like you’d raise sails on a sailing
ship, to apply more pressure. As you can tell this is definitely a 15th century,
16th century, 17th century operation and like most of those occupations it
would eventually affect you and you become more and more bent over allowing
you to clear the rope that’s that high. They’re closing this press and what they
would do is they’d lock this press closed overnight and come in the morning
and open the press. This mill is probably located right next to the canal where
they’re drawing water from, so it’s a brick floor, so the water runs into the
brick floor and then back into the pond out in front. They actually have
modernized this mill a little bit, they’ve eliminated the stampers. When I was there they’d taken out the stampers and they had a nice galvanized
stock tank, the guy was farming sheets in. Now they’re going to undo the press and
then when you put the paper in the press, the paper is approximately 90% water. So
now that it’s been pressed, they’re down to sheets of papers that are
approximately 60% water, yet very very plastic. So they’re going to have to use
a little bit of care when they’re picking them up and resetting them and
you’ll notice the little bit of stretch on the corner when the guy goes to lay
down the paper, that he’ll stretch just a little bit. But you try to get as much of
the paper as possible with your hands so when you pick it up it doesn’t stretch a
great deal. And they’re going to carry this upstairs
to the drying loft and the drying loft is always located at the top of the mill
because that’s the warmest place in the mill. They’re going to hang it on
horsehair ropes and you’re using horsehair ropes because you don’t get
any color discoloration from the horsehair, there’s no staining.
On a vegetable rope you’d get a stain so they’re going to hang these over the
ropes. This room has shuttered windows with
louvers, so if it’s on a really cold wet day, you can open the louvers and get
more air circulation to try to dry the paper. These mills are always located in
river valleys so things dry real slowly. I was in a
mill in France and they could only make linen paper during winter months because
it would dry too fast and cockle too much during summer months. So you’re
doing a controlled dry. If the paper dries too fast it’ll really
cockle, if you dry it really slow it stays fairly nice and even. Then they go
back to work, the felts back down, they can make another stack of paper. The
person upstairs will bring the paper down and the woman will curate the paper, looking for defects. She’ll have a knife, she’ll cut bad chunks out of the paper.
Then the paper which you won’t see in the movie, will then go back and twice a
week they sized it. They had a big vat of gelatin, they would take clump of paper
between two boards drop it into the gelatin sizing and let it soak in. Take
it out, put it on another board, another felt, another felt on top of that, on top
of the paper, put it back in the sizing press, press it and catch the exercise
and coming out of the press. Then they would take the paper and take it back
upstairs, line dry it again for the sizing. And the sizing took like three months
for it to soak in with the paper breathing in pulling the sizing
in, so instead of having a water leaf paper that was unsized and very
absorbent like a paper towel you’d have a paper that was hard enough you could
write on it with your quill, you could print on it with your type and what you
would do is you’d gap in the paper before printing. So that is basically how
you make a sheet of paper. Well then you have the industrial side of life, and
what you had originally was you had, in the Renaissance period, you had wooden
book boards. As you transitioned out of the Renaissance period, they translated
into paper book boards. So you could have these stiff covers on books. So the next
step was if you’re already replacing boards, that you can glue up large sheets
of paper and then waterproof them and do carriages and other items. It could
replace wood on another scale. So at this point what you have, the technology you
have at your fingertips, is cast iron and wood and you can imagine, you know doing
a very thin panel of wood, what it would take to solve that out of a tree. That
gluing up several sheets of paper, like you would on a book board would make
more sense and be much easier. So this is your, you know transition and it’s the
same thing as if you’re building a Corvette you’re doing it out of
fiberglass, you have more horsepower to weight. If you’re making a paper maché
carriage, you have more horsepower to weight. It’s that simple. It’s the same
concept you know? You want it lighter so you can move faster and there’s
another thing going on here, is the Renaissance paper was wonderful because
it was done in the Stamper. A slow process which
didn’t cut the rags, it just pulverized the rags to just beat them slowly. The
Hollander had a tendency to cut rags, shorten the fiber line, so the paper
degraded. Not much it’s still rag paper, still linen paper but it degraded a
little bit. Along comes this Swedish chemist he invents chlorine bleach. When
something is new, people don’t necessarily understand it. You know, there
was a style at one time where you bleached your blue jeans. Some people
didn’t catch on that you had to rinse the bleach out of the cloth, you know,
they went they bleached their blue jeans they went out into a rainstorm and the
blue jeans deteriorated on them. While they were wearing them, because chlorine
affects the fiber length. There was a book published in 1824
complaining about bleach somebody had printed a Bible in 1820, on heavily
bleached white paper. Looked really good for the first two years. By year five it
was powder. That’s a lot of handset type. That’s a lot of work, hand pulled on a
wooden prints. So you have that deterioration. So that’s
number two or three then you have Nicolas Louis-Robert, designing the
paper machine. Which is great you could produce a lot of paper but the paper
machine only has one shape now. The paper making your saw with doing double shakes
so the fiber interlocked in both directions, so you have no grain. So now
you have a grain in the paper, so you have to be careful how you fold it.
because if you tear it along the fold, you know you fold it this way, and you go
like this, it tears. So you have to watch out for grain now. So it’s becoming
weaker. You know, Thomas Gilpin went to England and visited all the
manufacturing concerns, went home and wrote in his notebooks every night. He
found one of the engineers that worked on the paper machine in England and
brought him to America and built a paper machine. So there’s an example of his
machine made paper from 1819 sitting over there, which he put on it ‘Gilpin’s
machine made paper’ because it was a new item. And we replaced the screw press with
the hydraulic press starting in England in 1800 because you could
produce a lot more pressure with a hydraulic press than you could with a
screw. Which was beneficial because that compressed the fibers better. So after
you have all those hydrogen bondings, all this hair is sticking together, when
you press them, you’re compressing them and closing them like staples. So when
those hairs dry they harden and you have a sheet of paper. And then you get straw
paper and you’re having to cook that with harsher chemicals to break down
everything that’s not pure cellulose. Cotton is 98% pure cellulose and linen
is after you read it through the reading process to get the linen thread out of
it, it’s almost pure cellulose. Wood or anything like that is a much stronger
fiber, so anything that’s stiff you have to cook and remove. So when they come
into the use of wood pulp, it becomes a sulfite process where you’re breaking it
down with acid. Other things that have happened here Stan Wood, he was living up
in Maine, there weren’t a lot of people in Maine there weren’t a lot of rags. So
he was having problems with raw materials so he imported two boatloads
of mummies from Egypt and unwrapped them because you had 250 to 300 yards of
linen in every mummy and it wasn’t the fact that his rag pickers came down with
cholera that stopped him, because he was making brown paper,
wrapping paper for the butchers and the grocers in town. That wasn’t what put an
end to him, it was the Egyptian railroad. For that 10-year period in there the
only fuel they used was mummies. You know they’re nice and dry they’d burn
well and there’s not a lot of trees in Egypt. So you have these little things going on
you know that are happening in different parts of the world. In the 1857 England
started importing esparto grass from North Africa, the same thing as
straw paper. They were making really cheap cardboard with it.
It was you know a really nice fiber for making something really cheap and really
quick and they had all these coal ships from Newcastle going down to the
Mediterranean to fuel the fleet. They were coming back empty, they needed
something in the holes so they packed them with bales of grass from North
Africa, transported and back to England and made esparto. They stopped making esparto grass paper in 1960 because of the pollution. It required a lot of
cooking, a lot of black liquor left over from the cooking, that they were pumping
into the waterways. So it’s the massive amount of chemicals it took to break it
into paper. And then you got into stereotyping. Stereotyping was actually
invented in 1804 by the arraylist Stan Hope, there’s an example over there from
the 50s, 1950s when they were using it and what you would do is you’d set type,
you’d pour, put this paper on top, this paper flong, pound it onto the type, dry it
and then you’d pour hot lead onto it and make a printing plate. And then these
would be curved to fit the cylinder for high speed cylinder presses and you’d
print your newspaper. So you could put up five or six front pages and then
redistribute the type and you print the front page and then melt that down. Page
two would then go onto the press and you could do production work.
And this is an ad, this would be sent out by the companies and the companies would
then have you insert that on page three and somebody’s lock it all up pour the
page three with that ad in it. So that’s basically what happened. Also you’ve got
other industrial uses here, where you know in 1700 you’re making carriage
bodies. All of a sudden it’s the major plastic of the 19th century. This shows
you a paper machine with six dryer rollers on the end of it. They’d come up
in the 1830s with methods of heating these rolls to dry the paper coming off
the machine. Prior to this point, it came off the machine, they put it on
felt, put it in the direct press, pressed it and hung it on ropes because they hadn’t
made the transition. At this point they could make continuous rolls of paper and
they invented a machine that could print continuous rolls of paper. You know with
all of us in it you know like newspaper presses became continuous rolls instead
of individual sheets. This basically breaks down what happens with a paper
machine. Where you have the vats, the guys blowing the paper off the vat, onto the
felt, the guy bringing the pulp down the steps, the guys cranking the the press,
the guys ironing it dry over here, the goats going into the pot for sizing,
sprinkling the sizing on the paper and then you have these guys blowing it dry
over here and you know the relief team up there on the balcony and then you
have the people finishing it with the calendaring rolls, where they’re
actually polishing it between the rolls. And when you get to the polishing
rolls, they were a lot safer than the glazing hammers because the glazing hammer
worked off that waterwheel, it went up and down and not much stopped it. And you sat
there and turn the paper underneath the hammer. By hand. These glazing rolls varied from country to country. Some people put
cardboard, four or five sheets between cardboard, and ran them back and forth and
that slipping would polish them. The English like zinc sheets and they polish
them using zinc sheets. So this is the age of paper. They came out with songs on
it, the man is dressed in his finest paper. You know they were making collars
and cuffs out of paper and your shirt got laundered once a week but every day
you needed to clean collar and a new cuff. So you just take the cuffs out of
the cabinet, put on a new cuff, collar, new cuffs and you’re fine to go for the rest
of the week. You know someplace around Saturday night you wash the shirt. This
shows you a paper mache village that was produced in England and shipped to
Australia. I mean complete, all the buildings, everything. You could ship
entire towns by boat. Prefab you know just kind of fold it together when you
got done. This is Eliza Waters. He was a pharmacist in New York developing engines
and potions and had all these little bottles that he needed to ship and he
was very dissatisfied with colors were available so he developed his own
carton Factory. He started making his own cartons and from there he went into
paper-boat production. From there he went into paper dome production. So these are
some of his paper domes, the paper covering on the onion dome at the Royal
Observatory in Greenwich, England was erected in 1839 and it was removed in
1940 during the bombing to keep it from catching on fire and it was later
replaced with fiberglass. But he probably still be there if it hadn’t
been for the bombings. So this stuff is pretty good. You know the tar paper on
this roof is probably keeping the rain off the books, you know so they’re still
using the this technology. This is the Taber Opera House up in Leadville. We get
the date on it, yes. And what the paper molding did for you and this is also a
paper ceiling, was it cut back on your construction cost. You didn’t have that
real heavy plaster molding, so you didn’t have to build the building as strong and
these things are still there, except for the wall that fell off. You know, there
was a lot of water running through that wall and I’ve actually recast some of
these for them, up there so they could replace them. So it also cut
down on your Freight cost. If you were doing these moldings in metal, the cost
of shipping the metal would be greater than shipping paper and you had paper
mache furniture. The 1850s formula for making paper mache was cutting paper
into little midgets, brown paper, craft paper, whatever paper you could get your
hands on and then pounding into those a mortar and crushing it into a paste and
then when they created the turpentine, the black and they painted it on the
object, they would put the object in a oven, the first day at a medium heat to
dry it. The second day they’d put it in a much warmer oven to dry it the second
day and the last day they put it in a really hot oven – you know bake that
surface so that it was waterproof. Impervious to alkalize so this is some
of your paper mache furniture, so you can imagine the strength you’re getting out
of this stuff. These are examples of the paper boats. The bottom boat with the boy
rowing is from a book, “voyage of a paper canoe: geographical journal journey of 2,500 miles from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico”
there is also a website of somebody had just built another paper boat, had it out
there but you know later on in the guys photographs is starting to show some
deforms in these sides. This shows you a paper locomotive wheel and what that was
was, the paper was glued together with wheat paste in a hydraulic press the
hole cut in the center, hub put in, banded like a wagon wheel, painted two steel
plates bolder than the outside of it would last for 300,000 miles. And there
is an example of this in Golden at the Railroad Museum, so if you want to go see
one. There’s not much to see other the metal but if you want to see one there’s
one in Golden. And then they had these wood fiber, tar paper, sewer pipes. They
hold up to everything but tree roots. Tree roots go right through them. They
are actually outlawed in Mesa, Arizona. So then you get back to the other side of
paper. Paper is used for rifle cartridges during the Revolutionary War
where you’d have them pre-wrapped. You’d make these up at night and have them in
your pouch so you could ram them into your musket really quickly. The paper
makers were in such demand during the Revolutionary War, they were not allowed
to serve. They needed them making paper because there was a certain book on
sermons of why you should have a revolution, it didn’t sell very well and
it ended up being used for ramming muskets. A very practical application. The
cartridge paper at the time included wool fibers in it, somewhat like you’d
have fiberglass. You’d have another type of fiber interspersed in
the paper to hold the paper together during the explosion. The
middle images show a cartridge shell with paper mache around the outside of
it to fill out the form. So you didn’t have to use as much metal to get it to
go out of the cannon and the other thing that happened in 1847, ether alcohol was
a solvent used on cellulose to cause a nitrocellulose, which was
investigated for explosives. In 1850 collodion, guncotton
was applied for medical use, so that if you had a wound it was like new skin. You
just painted this stuff on you and sealed the wound. It was also it used in
photography to secure silver salts to glass plates and then in 1852 gun
cotton was adopted as a propellant for explosives. 1860, a little more refinement,
it became dynamite. World War II, it was refined a little further and made in the
cordite, which is explosives the British used. And on May 5th 1946, six
Americans died near Blythe Oregon due to the first intercontinental ballistic
missile, which was the Japanese balloon bomb. Which the government kept real
quiet. They didn’t want people in the West Coast knowing that they were
launching these things from Japan. So this is the paper balloon. So that’s the
scale of what you can do with paper. Or you can do something a little more
mundane like make dresses and clothes. You can spin it into fiber and make
fiber, thread out of paper and clothing. I think the Japanese spun
it to make armor that protected them
against gunshots and swords. You know the samurai swords were pretty
intense but you could develop a paper armor that would slow it down a little.
You know just by rolling the paper up and you have toys, you know this is very
similar to some of the other things we were seeing earlier. The duck decoys in
the 50s were all paper mache duck decoys, beer coolers were paper mache, all the
ornaments, Halloween pumpkins were paper mache, the Easter bunnies were paper
mache, the Santa Claus boots were paper mache, and this shows you in 1967 the
amount of paper people used. This is just before the petrochemical company took
over and started giving us plastic. But this shows you how much a family would
use. Today, paper is being used in architecture, today we found online
the reconstructing, Christ the church in Christ church out of paper tubes. So it
should be completed by was either January or February 2012. So this is the
house for the poet, it’s a paper house for the poet. His library. The other one
is they’re doing 3D modeling using plastic printing. This is
the English version using PVC and paper, just office paper, to make 3d objects. So
this is me, I returned to graduate school at CU, it’s
my fourth graduate school and as an undergraduate
I’ve been studying intaglio printmaking and I’d gone to Iowa in ’68 for a
college art conference and saw this print and it was printed on a piece of
paper that was one inch thick and embossed about an inch and it was just
like wow my etchings aren’t deep enough. So that got me
interested, then my second graduate school was Michigan State. Garner Tellos
was a visiting artist, he explained to me in about five minutes how to make paper.
It’s 2000 year old technology and so this is a piece of Garner’s. So in my third
graduate school, I was studying tamarind lithography and it was all bleed prints. So we were art using arches, tearing the prints down to the size of the image,
printing out to the exact edge of the paper and he had all these tear strips. At the same time I was doing three-dimensional castings of space and
raku clay. So I was hanging out in ceramics lab, I noticed the dough mixer
and the paper shredder in the art office. I shredded the paper in each
shredder put it in the dough mixer made paper and they had a vacuum forming
machine so I vacuum formed the mold and I cast this piece. I watched it dry for
two weeks. It was 30 miles outside of St. Louis, it was never going to dry. So in
the meantime I was setting up a book printing operation with friends, I was
kind of bankrolling it we gotten our type and our press and our first expense
was about five thousand dollars worth of paper. So I got an offer from Cu to
return to graduate school so I decided this time we’re going to teach myself
how to be a paper maker because I don’t want to be a lithographer. So I came
back and this is one of the first pieces I created it was in this office. I’m
using a garbage disposal to pulp my rags. I later found out you’re not supposed to do.
So this was called Edwardsville Shortcut, to commemorate a bridge I used
to take going home. The bridge didn’t touch either Bank and
there was only one board that extended all the way across the bridge and a lot
of nails sticking out so it was always a tricky operation crossing the creek,
especially when you had two weeks of groceries in your arms. And I was also
casting the print tables at night. This piece is 4×6, constructed with ropes
tied across the print room and boards. This one included a chair. This is held
on the wall with four pushpins, you believe that? The other problem was, these
things were too large to get out of the print room, so I later changed scale, made
them a little bit smaller. I was dyeing individual pieces of paper as I
laminated them onto my forms. On this particular instance, this is front and
back, which then confused me because then I couldn’t
think of which side I like best and how to display an object that has both front
and back. So this was kind of the setup I had Clint Klein had goten me a garbage
disposal that was used in a remodel project. It was 20 years old. It was a
Star Disposal, it had a toggle switch on it: middle was off, one side was reverse,
the other side was forward. It had no ground on it, so the longer you worked on
it, the hotter it got. It was a cast-iron sink and you’re standing in water, so
you’re trying to hit that toggle, get it to stop in the middle without you know
the sparks. It tingled a lot but you know you got good at it. Then, my second year,
Peggy Prentiss, one of the twins of Twinrocker Hand Papermaking in
Indiana came to graduate school. It was a guy in town that suggested that he
wanted to build a machine to make blue paper
and we went and talked to him and said, “No, what you really need is a Hollander
to make the pulp.” You know, there’s all sorts things you can do for the machine
but making the pulps more important. He was working on gluing ceramic nose cones
to missiles for NASA and doing all these high-tech inventions, and he goes, “Yeah,
yeah I could do one of those in three weeks,” gave us a price. We’re waiting in
anticipation, we get a phone call three weeks later he goes, “This is harder than
I thought.” It’s 1680 technology and I since
then I had a read a book on the action of the beater published in the
1920s. By chapter two they have no idea how it works, it was just like they have
all these formulas and they just got to the point where we don’t know. So he was
figuring flow patterns on the machine at the Bell Labs here in town, I mean, he was
using everything he could do to figure this out. This is actually the second tub,
the first tub lasted five days. Seven coats of finish on it, and it
deteriorated in water shortly. So that is the second tub, this one, if you didn’t
keep it wet it always leaked. The back— it didn’t come with a back fall but they
were tearing out a staircase out of Old Main so, being a good student that I
was, I picked up this pile of scrap wood and moved it off for him. So, I put a back
fall in there. Every year I had to take it out and cut an inch off of it, as it
absorbed water it grew an inch every year. So, I started making pieces my
second year. I thought the large sculpture pieces were fun but I should
do something more constructive, and since I was in this book printing operation,
these are all based on historic manuscript forms of how to layout pages.
So this is a serious cancellation of previous concerns. The X’s are all done
with aluminum litho plates. When you finish a paint plate, you cancel
it, I was actually twisting ’em. The cancellation market is an X, so I was
twisting ’em and embossing ’em in these so that then resulted in the staining as
I produced these in layers, staining color through the layers on the pieces
to produce these sheets. These were then glued together and bound in this book by
the two people I was working with in Omaha: Tim Anderson, who did the
woodworking on it, and Gretchen, who did the spine. And this is bound in a full
deer hide. We were just lucky by word of mouth someone said, “This guy in this
butcher shop has a deer hide,” so we went up to the butcher shop, asked, and he went
back to the cooler and pulled out a deer hide that was rolled in brown paper,
so, we had a deer hide for the book. And then I got into Procion fiber
reactive dyes, so these are done with Procion fiber reactive dyes. Some of this
is actually transferred off the cardboard I was using, I got to the point
where I used the same piece of the cardboard for the next 20 years.
You know, they needed character. And then, once in a while, you have a
composition that just quiet– isn’t quite working flat, so you fold it into a
dimensional piece, and the ones you realized that wouldn’t work as the
dimensional piece, went inside so you just saw the decals, because this stuff
is all stained with color and you really couldn’t recycle it any other way. Then
there was another period where I got into thinking, “Well, it’s no fun doing
paper, one should be doing metal.” So the– and I am a print maker so you know we’re
doing copper, we’re applying copper leaf to the pieces now, and that printmaking
background. There was always so much fun playing with acid, so I started
acid etching these pieces. And then, I had a neighbor that worked in a foundry so I
was designing these pieces so I could act like they were really heavy in hand
to him, and he’s he’s buying it at six inches, that these pieces are really
heavy. So, the other process is you’re looking at— you know, I’m working from the
Midwest, you know, the middle of the country, there isn’t a lot of paper
making tradition here, which is my advantage because I don’t know what
won’t work, there’s no tradition saying, “You can’t do it that way.” So, it’s free
farm, everything’s working because I think it should work, but you’re also
trying to catch up with the history and the apprenticeship programs. So, in
1981 I went to Switzerland. Some friends I’d taught with at Ohio
University we’re going to school in Athens, in Basel, Switzerland and invited
me over to visit. They showed me there was a paper museum. I went over, I met
Fred Seigenthaler who was a paper maker. In ’86 he put out a
call worldwide for a gathering of paper makers to form the International
Association of Hand Paper Makers and Paper Artists in Durance, Switzerland. So, we all
showed up, not knowing what to expect, and it was a really strange afternoon, the
two women dead center in the middle of the picture, I had lunch with. You just
picked everybody out of the small town in Germany that didn’t fit and started
talking to ’em they all spoke English. So, we sat down, had lunch,
and we went to this meeting and three of the four of us at lunch were appointed
to the board. So we were the first board and we worked diligently from 5 o’clock to
11 o’clock at night putting together the organization, and then John, who is
standing in the front there, invited me to come to Berlin with him. He had a—
there was an orange BMW picking him up at 11 o’clock, and to continue working on
the various things we had to do, you know, organization things, writing bylaws and
all that in Berlin. So we headed off
through East Germany, across the border, which was an experience. So, the thing
that happens is, you know, your research takes you very bizarre places.
And, this is showing you the studio, this is about to make a piece. The pieces are
two layers a museum rag board recycled, the scale in the middle is weighing out
two pounds, the hug hodges beater now takes 4 pounds of recycled paper. I’m
using a one-horsepower mixer in the middle– or up in the corner there, to
reduce it down, get it wet, reduce it down so I can put it in the
beater. The other corner shows you blue jean that I’ve shredded, and
this is a valley beater which’ll do laboratory work,
it’ll make blotter paper or you can design it to make currency depending on
how you operate the beater. So these pieces, I set up these screens so you
have air circulation theoretically until you use his white large chunk of
plywood, which kind of cuts back the air circulation, and I am now troweling on
textures onto the plywood, that’s why it’s white in this photo, and I start
first layer. The sheets all laminate together because of those hydrogen
bonding’s so those ion bondings. So a wet sheet hits the wet sheet: it’s permanent.
So, that’s one layer. I do a second layer and then you try to set those second
layers so, you know, it doesn’t cross, the seams don’t match, and then you come back
with a blue jean layer. The blue jean layer, the first to have some clay
content in the original, so they take a really good impression. So you can pick
up Braille, you can pick up the texture of masking tape. The third layer has
shrinkage, so it tightens the piece, so puts more strength into the piece, so
it has a little more bow to it, a little more dimension, resulting in these pieces.
And, once again, I get carried away. This gallery has a 7 foot french door on it,
the diagonal is exactly 8 feet. This piece is 8 feet. The one thing I
didn’t calculate for was the door hinge hanging down. There is a railing outside,
7 feet outside this door that’s 4 feet high, so it was a dense move. Even on
the model we had to come over the railing, twist it, turn it, and as it slid
through the door it dropped past the railing and came in. Just like the model, it
didn’t want to go out. So, what we’re looking at here is a 1940 hand mill in
England, using a power that, with a paddle wheel in the bottom of it, which is
cranking it, so there’s a flow going across the paper mold. So, he’s dipping
into the flow to speed it up, the vat is heated, you see the steam coming off the
vat, there is a power pump on it that is adding pulp, the same amount of pulp as
the same speed he’s taking it out. So the vat remains constant. So this is the
standard in 1940 and a hand mill in England. My theory, my philosophy was: if
you pursue a craft to make art, the idea is to master that craft, find the history
of the craft, so that you can force that craft to do what you want it to do.
You’re not under the constraints of it making you do what it wants
you to do. You need to understand it and be able to produce a piece of paper like this. This is just a little piece of paper, that one got wrinkled in the drying process, it’s just simply cotton rag in
water. 2000 year old technology, and my theory when I came here was, “How hard
can it be?” Really, a lot harder than you thought.
So, do you have any questions? -“How much pressure on the Dutch press, on the hand-crank windless press?” They’re looking at somewhere between 20 and 30
tons, that had a really small screw. A lot of them have screws about
that size, so the larger the screw, the more pressure where, now they’re using a
hundred-hundred and fifty ton hydraulic presses. So there was a step up
in grades.
-“So I really enjoyed seeing “all this, thank you Ray. But I’m really
curious about, you know, the connection I love is that of, kind of industrial craft
and your work, and she gave us all these wonderful examples of ways that paper
was cast make carriages and wheels and all of that, what do you think about when
you’re making, say, one of these large pieces? I mean, are you are you thinking
about a carriage? Are you thinking about a, you know, toys now to paper? Do you have
a particular inspiration?”
-Well, the paper I made in graduate school is really soft
and the paper I’m using now is really nasty, if you get too close to it you
move it the wrong way you lose skin. And you saw me working on that
piece, I’m using belt Sanders to take it down, and if I cut it, I use a table saw.
So, as I’ve investigated this I’ve upgraded, you know, I’m using industrial
tools to cut it. No more X-ACTO knives, mat knives, I just don’t have the
strength to get through it, and I use Japanese saws, you know, when I want to
clean something up roughly, how you take a Japanese saw, because they’re a lot
sharper than the European saws. So, you’re looking at those kind of
things but, you know, you’re also looking at the chemicals that they used and
going, “Well, I want to live another 20 years, you know. Maybe when I’m 90 I’ll,
you know, pull out the sulfuric acid, dissolve the stuff and turn it into pure
-“I was going to ask you if there was a metaphor for the aging
process and moving from the softer to the harder and if there was a kind of
emotional bread that you’ve traced and if you tried to articulate that?”
-As you notice the one in the entry hall, I’ve been noticing the chairs bouncing
on it now for, what, six months? And, so far, I haven’t seen any mark through those
chairs, and if you’d have made a soft paper, it had been worn away.
There was one piece that I was painting outside and it got blown into
the street and the only way I could tell the truck had hit it was the brown paper
had a tire track on it that I was using for masking. Then there was one that
disappeared one day when I was working and I forgot that I had it out there and
I discovered it three days later and it was one of those little temperature
changes that came through, and I found it in the ice. And it had tire tracks worn
through it, but where the tires hadn’t been, the piece was still there in the
ice, but it has become totally encased in the street. But, you know, they tried to
make paving blocks for streets out of this stuff. They made horseshoes out of
this stuff that lasted just as long as the metal ones and were more
comfortable for the horses. So, you know, pull on it, you know, I you thought I was
pulling. I mean pull on it, pull on it! Fingernails, fingernails work well. I did
that to a blacksmith and embarrassed him because it wouldn’t break. But you can
see how you can make a balloon bomb out of something like that, a paper balloon
out of something like that and, depending on how you process, it there was a method
of beading it for 20 hours and it went to something
they called horn. It made an imitation horn, because they beat it to such a
gelatinous state. I don’t quite understand what caused it to circulate
at that point, but you can turn this stuff into something that resembles horn,
you know, someplace beyond lay out paper. Some place beyond currency, and currency
is just simply a formula that uses 25% linen, and then 75% cotton, and the cotton
is used for opacity, lemon juice for the strength, and there’s a melon Tortosa,
Spain that produces flax and hemp fibers. Hemp goes for cheap cigarette papers, the
flax goes for expensive cigarette papers and currency.
-“Ray, I know you use natural
pigments in your– to color your works. Can you tell us a little bit more about what
those pigments are made from, and how you gather them and apply them?”
-Well, there’s
this really great pigment dealer in New York City that you walk in and it’s like
a candy store. He has baggies of, you know, different blues, baggies of different
ochres, he actually has 90 different colors of ochre from around the world.
Daniel Smith in Seattle also sells pure pigment, but if you go to Mile-High
Ceramics, the ceramicists, you know, they’ve been using natural pigments. Mason stains
are just powdered glass that’s been vitrified and turn to those colors and,
since they’re mineral pigments, they have a tendency to stay that color for eons.
So, you can constantly use that. The architectural cut at i-70 up here out of
Denver, says, “Geological Interests,” there are nine colors on
the sands of those prehistoric oceans. So those are the kind of colors– I mean, if
you’re going to make something that’s going to last you 1,200 years, you should
have a pigment that’s going to last you 1,200 years. But, on the other hand, it’s
whatever color is closest, you know, whether it’s a can of paint over
here, that color of pigment over there, or, you know, the golden acrylics over there,
Mason stains. I set it up so as I turn I have different colors on different sides of
me, so I can go to the colors that I need at that time. Or colored pencil, you know,
if something didn’t quite work you come back and adjust it correctly, you correct
it. Anything else? -“Can you tell us a little bit about the themes and the
motifs that have been carrying through your more current work? There are
designs that you’ll see from piece.”
-Well, there was one summer that I saw these
plein air painters, you know, going outside and working in fresh air and
doing their landscapes, so, I thought I’d go out and I did the entire show, casting
it in the backyard, painting it outside, looking at the mountains, and realized
that was a cubist. I mean, you know, I tried, I was out there, I was in the Sun, I
was painting away, you know. I was casting these pieces, I was looking at the
mountains, and everything came out Cubistic but, you know, sometimes you don’t
want to be. You know, it would be a little more boring if they really look
like mountains, or they were just indication of them. So, basically, right
now I’m looking at those textures, at one time compositions were based on, you know,
finding a desktop. Some people keep really clean desktops and other people
have desktops that are filed archaeologically by, you know, they could
tell you what date it was by how far down the pile they went, so you knew you
could date where you put that piece of paper by how close you got by
the other papers associated with it or opening somebody’s desk drawer and the
things that accumulate in a desk drawer that are unrelated but for some obscure
reason they’re kept in the same desk. And then, it was like walls of the dreams, when you
have a dream and you can see the wall in it, there would be things you’d find on
there and the archaeologist that would be going through and measuring these
things and keeping records. You know, some Freudian type person that was
recording these things in their journals for you. And now it’s more just overall
textures. Yes.
-“A piece of paper, such as that, how easy would that be to take and
break back down and recycle it into paper again?”
-You have to beat it. So, you
have to undo all those hydrogen bonds and all those ion bonds and actually beat
it to convert it back into a sheet of paper– I mean, into pulp, to make into a
sheet of paper. But it takes a lot less energy than when you start with the
original rag. So, what the rag pickers were also picking paper, so they
were also picking up anything they could pick up. It’s like a book binder, if you
look at the spine of a book, the spine has paper from previous books in it, on the
spine. I’ve even seen a piece of paper in Holland that was from Napoleon. It issued some
edict about taxes, it was about this size, and on the backside of it, when you
started looking at it, you could see letters, chunks of letters in the paper
where it actually re-pulped something and put it in this sheet. And, on the
Connecticut current here, if you look closely at that, there, on the front pages,
are advertising for rags and parts of cows because they need gelatin. And this
paper, this printer, has their own paper mill, so they could, kind of, control how
much paper they had. They weren’t at the mercy of some other mill.
And, if you look at it, it’s a green paper and you can see blue fiber in it, other
fibers from, you know, whatever they could get their hands on to make the paper. So,
the one next to it, the larger paper, is one full sheet. That’s what the paper
maker made, and they printed a four-page newspaper on it. Any other questions? I
would like to thank my lovely wife, who’s spent a long time working on this
PowerPoint. Well, we have a lovely reception for everyone and I think
you’ll be around a little bit longer to answer questions about materials.
So, please join me in thanking Ray Tomasso.

4 thoughts on “Ray Tomasso: The Art of Paper

  1. This guy is extremely knowledgeable on this subject and I really admire that, 600 volumes on making and the history of paper he read ? If I ever need really high quality extremely durable paper I'll ask him or someone he recommends

  2. He makes me want to know more about paper just because of how passionate he is about it when he talks. Makes it much more interesting!

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