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Amate: Surviving Tradition of Ancient Mexico September 22 2016

Papel Amate (or amatyl) although it comes in sheets, is technically not formed the same way paper is. It is referred to as "bark cloth", "paper cloth" and as "paper", depending on who you talk to. The most significant fact is that the oldest codex known was made from amate in the pre-columbian era. The fibers are are scraped, cooked and beaten very much like you would to hand-make a piece of paper, even though the pulp is not poured into slurry and sheets are not pulled through a screen. Instead fibers are pounded together with a stone; creating an irregular, luscious sheet. Papel Amate has been made for centuries by the Otomí Indians in the states of Puebla and Vera Cruz in Mexico. Traditional fibers still used today are the outer bark of the ficus tree and the inner bark of the mulberry bush.

ADVENTURES IN PAPERMAKING guest blog by Heather Matthew. Heather is a paper artist living in New South Wales, Australia. A longer version of Heather's blog was first re-posted on the PaperSlurry blog.

A hot afternoon in the clear mountains of central Mexico. I was off to visit the home studio of amate paper artist Julio Chichicaxtle on an investigation into traditional Mayan papermaking techniques. I had read about amate paper, the bark paper on which the Mayan codices was written and encountered Julio at the Feria Maestros del Arte in November 2011.

At his invitation, my husband and I were to visit his studio before the cold mountain mists rolled in and he stopped paper production until spring. After a series of memorable bus journeys from Mexico City to Tulancingo, and from there on a rattling old locale bus…we arrived at San Pablito via taxi on a crowded market morning. The taxi dropped us off with our backpacks to walk the length of the crowd selling vegetables and clothes. No one spoke English, and we didn’t know Spanish (let alone the local dialect) but were confident we would find the big yellow house where our host Julio lived.

After a ride in a policeman’s car up a hill to a tourist paper and jewelry shop, then a walk down to a small gallery, it was Julio’s father-in law who eventually led the way to Julio’s flat roofed house. He had been waiting for us, and while tortillas were cooking on the traditional oven, he led us upstairs to his papel amate studio, the rooftop terrace where he pounds and weaves bark fibre to make his extraordinary paper paintings.

amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Bucket of amate bark soaking
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Laying out amate fibers
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Julio weaving strands of amate fiber together
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Julio Chichicaxtle pounding the amate fibers
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Julio's peeling off the pounded amate artwork
amate, kozo, papel amate, Heather Matthew, papermaker Close up of Julio's amate artwork
All photos provided by papermaker Heather Matthew.

Neutral colors of 3 styles of Amate now stocked at Paper Connection. Liso (plain), perferado (grid), and circular (overlapping circles). Please email us for more details: contactus@paperconnection.com


Lokta and Letterpress September 17 2016

We received this set of lovely photos from one of our customers, Fernanda Rivera, who took a letterpress class taught by Macy Chadwick. It just goes to show how handmade, eastern papers can work so well with the letterpress technique, to create such beautiful results. Thank you so Fernanda, for your wonderful work that is both inspiring and insightful!
courtesy of Fernanda Rivera all images courtesy of Fernanda Rivera
FR2 FR3 FR4 FR5 Book pages were made from dyed lokta paper from Nepal. Lokta is great for book arts, even box making, and as you can see it prints really well! Paper Connection stocks a plethora of colors- click here to view. We now stock amate from Mexico. Who knows, perhaps we'll encounter a Nepalese artist who creates a book using amate!

The Kōzo & Kapa Connection July 05 2013

I literally just stepped off the plane from one of the most beautiful places on Earth: Hawai'i. Despite the need to be out from behind a desk, close to the lullaby of the ocean waves, still I couldn't resist delving further into some traditional culture of the islands. Little did I know this curiosity would lead to a quest on finding a local kapa artist and a lesson in ukulele.

Practically upon landing on Big Island, I immediately discovered an article in the Where series (wheretraveler.com) by Lynn Cook called The Kapa Chronicles, which included not only some kapa history, but also a written review and images of kapa maker Marie McDonald's pieces as fine art, her recent exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. I decided I had to meet this woman, and I set out to find her or at least more information on her work. How delighted I was to learn she resided in Waimea, only 12 miles from where I was staying! This was my only but unbelievable chance to meet the kapa maker herself. Before I embarked on my search for Ms. McDonald, however, I had a few things to learn during my visit.

Performing arts and fiber arts? Always a connection!

First, a brief lesson in ukulele, (click link twice to see video) where I "fell in love" with my young teachers Melissa, Lauren, Ryan and Eric; true, young geniuses at dance and all the traditional performing arts. Then, a mini lesson in hula, but I noticed there were no signs of anyone wearing kapa; the bark cloth worn for hula in the past. The art of kapa was almost lost in 1820 when the missionaries who came to Hawai'i introduced woven cloth and sewing circles.

Patterns printed on kapa are made with carved wooden sticks or anvils and natural dyes.Geometric Patterns examples for kapa (bark cloth).Geometric Patterns examples for kapa (bark cloth).

Kapa, generically known as tapa in Polynesian, is a cloth made out of bast fibers from bushes.

Front side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji. Front side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji.
Back side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji. Back side of "Masi"; bark cloth from Fiji.

Used traditionally as loincloths and other garments, the kapa was handmade by women. Did you know, however, that kapa is made out of kōzo; fiber from the paper mulberry bush? Called wauke in Hawai'ian, parallel to the kōzo fiber used in Japan for washi, wauke is cultivated to make kapa cloth traditionally used for hula. These days, artists create modern patterns on their own, homegrown, homemade kapa cloth. It is interesting to note that the paper mulberry's bast fibers make their appearance in various, functional fiber arts found across the globe.

My quest to meet Marie, the kapa artist:

I drove to Waimea and inquired at the local Gallery of Great Things, which carried both Marie's kapa work as well as her daughter's. "How could I meet the great Marie McDonald?" I was informed at least her daughter Roen would be at the Farmer's Market on Saturday selling kapa. Saturday, I again made my way to Waimea Town to the Farmer's Market. Unfortunately, I did not catch up with either mother or daughter, but I was so close!

These photos of mother and daughter were taken in 2010, by www.damontucker.com in 2010.

Marie McDonald Marie McDonald

Marie McDonald, who is 87 years young this year, is a native Hawai'ian who intends to pass on her wealth of knowledge on traditional arts to future generations, along with her daughter, Roen McDonald Hufford. These are very special farmers, as they grow their own "art materials" to create their art. They have long been living sustainably before the word became fashionable.

Roen McDonald Hufford Roen McDonald Hufford

Marie has taught traditional Hawai'ian culture for decades in schools. She is a scholar in this realm and a true kumu (teacher) of her culture. She is author of an important book on lei-making called, Ka Lei:The Leis of Hawaii (1985) , and a newer book on leis, with astounding photography called Na Lei Makamae: The Treasured Lei (2003). I have now learned that mother and daughter teach traditional Hawai'an arts via the Hawai'i Prep Academy, where I must visit next time for sure!

Here are some leis I saw at the farmer's market in Waimea.homegrown, handmade leis

Here are examples of Marie McDonald's kapa work:

Dancers wear kapa as they perform; scenes from the Merrie Monarch Festival from Lynn Cook's article.

Hula_Kapa1Hula_Kapa2

The Big Island Beckons: The kōzo, kapa and HULA connection is calling me back to the Big Island. Hopefully it will be very soon, so I may have the honor of meeting Marie McDonald, her daughter, and their many students. There is much to discuss, learn, and share, but in the meantime, here is my offering of what a little curiosity on vacation can do for you.