We had our first series of workshops in late August, and it was a blast! Participants gathered for the first workshop in Megan’s back yard in Bridgeport (pictured above). We had work stations set up for each participant consisting of a tub of pulp, a mold and deckle set, wool sheets, and a stack of pelons.
After brief introductions over coffee and breakfast bars, we passed around the prairie plants that made up a good portion of the pulp we were working with, and gave a brief talk on prairie and responsible plant harvesting and processing. We then took everyone to the garage to run the Holland Beater, the machine that breaks down plant and other fiber material into pulp.
The demo that followed showed participants how to pull a sheet of paper using a mold and deckle and how to layer each pulled sheet between layers of pelon. When it was everyone else’s turn, things settled into a rhythm and we were able to go around and give individual feedback. There were many artists and makers in the group, so people were stacking gorgeous sheets of pulp in no time.
Pressing and drying were a collective affair, with everyone bringing a portion of their stacks to a flat wooden board. This was eventually covered by another board and then clamped tightly with trigger clamps on each side; this step pressed the sheets flat and squeezed out excess moisture. The final step was to gently pull the sheets off the pelons and flatten them on another wooden board to dry.
The workshops that followed—there was one at the Comfort Station in Logan Square and another at Spudnik Press in West Town—were slightly different but stayed consistent overall. Looking back on this series, we feel happy to have introduced papermaking in this way. The 2-hour workshop is pretty ideal for this! In future, we hope to diversify our offerings and to encourage more experimentation. There was already some of that happening, with people layering the different colored pulps into one sheet, scooping away some of the pulp on the mold to create negative spaces, etc. Thank you to everyone who has donated and participated so far--we will keep you updated!
We were ecstatic to find out that our grant proposal was fully funded by DCASE. The DCASE Grant will help support the purchase of some of the equipment and materials we will need to run and grow our workshops. As part of the grant proposal, we will be bringing a series of workshops to Chicago through the public library system and the parks districts in 2024.We will be focusing on natural fibers and some other fun paper making practices.
We launched an Indiegogo in the Spring of 2023 to assist with equipment costs for the Switch Grass Paper studio. Part of our offerings for donations were tickets to workshops that would be hosted in three different locations in the late summer of 2023.
After a successful Indiegogo campaign we were able to purchase the Holland Beater. This key piece of equipment will allow us to make large batches of pulp from a variety of materials. We purchased a Little Critter Beater from Mark Lander.