Clean Paper: Scenes from May Babcock's Papermaking Classes October 17 2013

Our latest paperwoman, Ms. May Babcock, certainly has been busy these days. She has now become a regular fixture at Providence's AS220, teaching papermaking. This long overdue class has been filled to capacity, with eager paper newbies ready to get their hands wet and minds inspired by May's expertise. Using sustainable fibers, May implements traditional yet easy-for-the-beginner papermaking with good, old-fashioned recycling. CLEAN, green PAPER: story by a guest paper-blogger. At a recent demonstration, held at Jean Winslow's studio in Lowell, Massachusetts, May helped the eager crowd to turn to invasive species as a source of fiber for papermaking. Think codium, an invasive seaweed that is in plentiful supply along our beautiful Atlantic coast. The goopy water that May said resembled "salsa verde", (we were thinking a thick miso broth with extra wakame too), soon had many hands agitating the shredded seaweed to equally balance its own density in the water. Then with one swift scoop at a 45 degree angle, we were all shuffling our seaweed across a small screen. Following May's instructions of "opening and closing a door", we removed our newly-formed sheet on pieces of felt and pelon, with a hinge-like move that closed the screen down on the felt, and opened it up again using the same side of the deckle from which we placed it down. After rolling and squeezing the sheet, we then proudly dried it on a sheet of plexiglass. So we were beginners, but looked with awe as we formed our papers and watched them dry. As we brought our sheets home, we were excited to figure out how we would use this handmade sheet. My codium paper? Safely nestled on my bookshelf along with jars of collected shells from southern Rhode Island I caved in to the nautical theme. At least it's with the hope of making some space for native seaweed species along Cape Cod, one sheet at a time. See more of May's papermaking adventures with local local fibers at May Babcock's blog.