Sizing It Up!

What does Knox Gelatin have to do with handmade paper? Well, it’s all about sizing. I created this handmade paper during a wonderful and intensive indigo-dyeing workshop with Mary Hark at Women’s Studio Workshop several summers ago. We made paper, then dyed it with indigo. We also dyed fabric with indigo, using Japanese Shibori techniques.

Last year I took some of my indigo Shibori fabrics and created a wonderful book art piece called Sky Pockets for the Spring 2016 BWAC show here in Brooklyn. This year I hope to create a companion book, using some of the paper I created and dyed with indigo during that workshop. This is where the gelatin comes in: indigo dye is a surface dye on paper. It does not penetrate the fibers like it seems to do on the fabric. (All I had to do with the fabric was to wash it and iron it to set the dye.) With the paper, the indigo will flake off — that is, unless you size the paper.

The quick and dirty way to do that is to cook up a pot of warm (not boiling — just hot) plain gelatin. I can’t really tell you how many packets to use. I just trusted my instincts. I heated perhaps 3/4 of a large soup pot and added 4 packets of gelatin, stirring continuously to completely dissolve it. It was not thick, but it was sticky. I then used tongs to painstakingly dunk each sheet of handmade paper into the gelatin, then hung the paper to dry on a rack in the bathtub. It took hours and hours, but I did it. Hopefully the indigo will now refrain from flaking off the paper, and now I can finally set my sights on creating works of art from all the paper I made!

Now for the inspirational part of this post: I have put off doing this for about a year and a half. It seemed so messy and not fun at all. Finally, I just woke up and said “Today is the day.” It took the better part of 5 hours to dunk all that indigo blue paper in the pot of hot gelatin, but once I was in the flow, it was almost meditative. As with most “chores” I put off or dread, it is so true: the idea of doing it is always worse than the actual doing. Resistance — that is all it is. Once you just start — seriously, just begin it — you are golden.

Here’s a book to consider reading: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (subtitled: How to Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.) I was reading this on the subway, and a lovely women tapped me on the arm and said, ” I just have to tell you, my husband is an artist and he loves this book.” I am halfway through it. If I get one gem out of it, it is worth it — and I already have. Since I am not finished with the book, I will give you one proven piece of advice from my own personal life experience: Don’t think, just do. I tell myself I hate vacuuming, but if I just ignore my inner commentary and just get out the vacuum and do it, it is over before I know it and I actually enjoy it. I work a crack of dawn food coop shift every four weeks. If I just get up and go and don’t overthink it, I actually enjoy it. The inner dialogue expends a lot of needless energy. Don’t think, just do. It works.

Whatever it is that you are putting off doing, just start it. The rest will flow. Really! Let us know how it goes for you! Leave a comment below. We can inspire each other to — a huge nod to Nike — Just Do It!


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