A Gift Of Handmade Paper

A couple of years ago here in Montevideo, Mike and I spent a delightful day with Sue Dennis and her husband Bob. They were on a South American cruise, and meeting up with us in the city of Montevideo was their shore activity that day. What a good combination – two textile artists with supportive, congenial husbands who both just happen to be geologists with some experiences and acquaintances in common? Sue and I first met years before, teaching at a quilters’ gathering in Mt. Isa, a remote northern Australian Outback mining town, where we’d each lived at different times.

The time flew as we did a short guided tour of the city with some suitable craft gallery visits (some distance from the port, they might never have got there …) before settling into lunch and a few wines at the mercado del puerto, right near where their ship was docked. We were sorry when the time came for them to head over to reboard their ship, and I was touched when Sue gave me a couple of gifts as a thank you, as if one were needed, for we thoroughly enjoyed it all. One gift was a piece of Sue’s own hand dyed fabric, in these greens. She’d have had no idea green has always been my favourite colour! I have used about 1/4 of it in various projects since, and at the rate at which I use colours and prints I’ll be dipping into it for a while to come.

A hand made paper book – in which to collect thoughts, writings, quotations or sketches.

The other gift was a book of sheets of handmade paper. Such artisan made books are prized as artist diaries, trip diaries, as displays of collected momentos, special quotations – all kinds of special things. I’m not a big writer of diaries, and my regular readers know this blog is the nearest I believe I’ll ever come to keeping an artist’s or visual diary. I’m sorry to confess this 15cm x 10cm, 28-page hand bound book has languished in it’s protective cellophane packet since, and in the last couple of years has come ‘to the top’ several times, as it did just yesterday as I tidied up a corner of my workspace. No, don’t get over excited – it was more a shuffle of stuff with a bit of feather duster work, I didn’t actually throw anything out, which would have made what I did more effective.

When the book appeared, I took it out of its cellophane bag, checked the maker’s sticker on the back, confirming it was not Sue’s work (I’d have been surprised if it were) and for the umpteenth time pondered how I’d really love to do something with it, but felt hesitant to start writing/drawing something on it in case I then felt I’ve spoiled it … stupid thoughts like that. Writing that sentence reminded me of various quilt makers I’ve known down the years who’ve bought some absolutely gorgeous fabric that they are never quite able to cut into, but hang onto with good intentions for years and years. It was perhaps because this little book did go through my hands and mind yesterday, that when I read a TextileArtist.org interview article on the work of British artist Claire Benn this morning, it occurred to me that it would be very exciting and entirely appropriate to remove the binding and treat each individual sheet of paper as a stitch surface.

I’m a big fan of hand stitch from way back, particularly what I call the Glorious Straight Stitch which was the subject of a series of posts back in 2013 I’m sure I have some natural coloured threads that would be lovely on such lovely thick textured paper. I’ll just have to think about this a bit longer, and for the moment I put it back into it’s protective cellophane bag…

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