Paper Sizing 101 March 13 2015

Sizing, dosa, wheat pasteMany of our readers are quite knowledgeable when it comes to sizing your own paper, especially sizing your "go-to" paper. Here is a step-by-step "recipe" for cooking up your own sizing and applying it to your favorite Eastern paper.
The photos shown here are mostly depicting sizing made from wheat starch. Nope!, it's not a gluten-free, but not a problem for the paper, and a nice alternative to animal-based sizing. Exciting news regarding plant-based sizing... last night we received a new Eastern paper, already pre-sized with devil's root starch, "konnyaku" -no animals used at all with this process, only human labor. Photos will be posted soon on social media. We have entertained many varying viewpoints on sizing and sizing recipes. What are yours? Please share below, along with your experiences in making your own sizing. In the meantime, enjoy our sizing tests, made in our paper "kitchen", here in Providence. Adding sizing to paper affects the paper fibers’ sensitivity to humidity, absorption, and bleeding. There are many materials that can be used to size paper; we will cover the sizing procedure for gelatin size and wheat paste. It is not unlike cooking, where 90% of the procedure is preparation. This method allows for easy application with a large soft-bristle brush.

Gelatin Sizing Recipe:

This is the recipe for rabbit skin glue that can be used to size paper. (Please note: the gelatin size will need to be prepared 8-12 hours in advance.) What you will need:
  • Rabbit skin glue: 1/3 Cup (powdered or solid sticks)
  • Crystalline Alum: 1 Pinch (potassium aluminum sulfate)
  • Double boiler with lid (a glass jar and sauce pan will also work)
  • 16–32 oz. plastic / glass container (glass is recommended)
  • Soft-bristle brush
Step One: Soak the glue in a quart of cold water for several hours until it swells and softens. (With solid sticks this may take overnight or 12+ hours). Sizing, dosa, animal skin glue Step Two: Once the glue has softened and becomes gelatinous, heat in a double boiler. The mixture should be stirred continuously until the gelatin has dissolved and the glue has become one consistent solution. (Note: never allow glue to boil). Remove from heat and stir in 1 pinch of alum. Allow the glue to cool slightly and apply warm to your paper. Apply one coat to the side you intend to use and allow to dry completely on newsprint. Additional coats may be added as necessary. Sizing, dosa, animal skin glue, wheat pasteSizing, dosa, animal skin glue, wheat paste Sizing, dosa, animal skin glue, wheat paste The remaining size solution can be saved in a jar in the refrigerator, and only requires heating to be used again. Note that storage length will vary from weeks to even months depending on several factors. Water quality is most important - bacteria and particulates can promote mold, and temperature should not be extreme. Solution should not freeze nor temps be too high. Sizing, dosa, animal skin glue, wheat pasteSizing, dosa, animal skin glue, wheat paste

Wheat Paste Recipe:

This is the recipe for wheat paste that can be used to size paper.(Please note: the wheat paste will need to be prepared one day in advance.) What you will need:
  • Wheat starch: 1/3 cup
  • Double boiler with lid (a glass jar and sauce pan will also work)
  • 16–32 oz. plastic / glass container (glass is recommended)
  • Measuring cup (1/4 cup – 1/2 cup size)
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Nylon fabric
Step One: Fill the bottom of the double boiler with cold water and place on your heat source at a medium heat setting and bring to a low boil. (Alternatively, if you do not have a double boiler a glass jar placed in a saucepan works as well. Add enough water to submerge 1/3 of the jars height.) Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Step Two: While you are waiting, measure out your wheat starch and water. We used a 4:1 ratio. 4 parts water to 1 part wheat starch: 11/3 cup of water to 1/3 cup of wheat starch. Mix the starch and water together in the top pan of the double boiler, (or the jar for those who are not using the double boiler) Mix thoroughly, making sure none of the starch has stuck to the bottom. The resulting mixture should be an opaque white solution resembling milk. Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Once you have mixed the ingredients place the pan over the boiling water (or place your jar in the pan) and stir continuously until the mixture begins to thicken. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of heavy cream and small “chunks” will begin to form. Continue stirring until smooth and the mixture has the consistency of custard. Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Step Three: Now the mixture can be covered and allowed to cook over a low boil for 25 minutes, with a quick stir every 5 minutes. The paste should continue to thicken and become somewhat translucent as it cooks. After you’ve allowed the paste to cook, add small amounts of hot water from the pan to your mixture and stir until the paste is smooth and custard like. Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Pour the paste from your pan into your designated container and allow it to cool in a refrigerator over night. This is to allow the paste to gel into a homogeneous solid. Sizing, dosa, wheat paste Step Four: Once the paste has gelled, wring a small amount through a piece of fabric: nylon, cotton, handkerchief, etc… Slowly add small amounts of water and mix with a brush until the paste is thin enough to apply with a brush to your paper. Apply one coat to each side and allow to dry completely on newsprint. Additional coats may be added as necessary. Sizing, dosa, wheat pasteSizing, dosa, wheat paste Sizing, dosa, wheat pasteSizing, dosa, wheat paste Remember: As with all size, test for each use, and dilute as appropriate. If in doubt, thin and apply multiple coats. Allow the paper to completely dry between each coat. The best way to learn how much size to use, and when to use it is through experience and experimentation. Sizing, dosa, wheat paste, gelatin, rabbit skin glue

Mokuhanga Back in the Limelight. A paper vendor's view. October 07 2014

What is "mokuhanga"? The Japanese woodblock print or mokuhanga, is a precise, multi-step printmaking technique, using water-based pigments applied with brushes, not rollers. The latter may give you some of idea of how mokuhanga differs from the western woodcut print. The paper (usually washi) is moistened, laid on block and a baren is used to rub back side of paper. This multiple-colored block print form became popular during the Edo period (1603-1867). Many of the old techniques are still followed. What has mostly changed is the growing awareness and broad spectrum of artists who are adopting their individual styles and at the same time, spreading the word about the unique process of mokuhanga.
baren, mokuhanga, printmaking Barens and Brushes
Special veneer woodblocks Special veneer woodblocks
At the beginning of my career involving Japanese arts and crafts, I was privileged to curate a collection of "ukiyo-e" prints. The term ukiyo-e translates as Images of the Floating World. The masters of ukiyo-e laid down the base and framework for contemporary woodblock prints.
Here HOKUSAI's The Great Wave off Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty–Six Views of Mount Fuji) is shown printed on various washi with sizing and without; a research chart presented by Awagami Factory at Tokyo University for the Arts using Japanese paper from different parts of Japan and different sizing recipes. I thought this was a brilliant depiction of how different papers yield different results for the same print.
Hokusai, wave, ukiyo-e,taganoura Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa
KUNIYOSHI's prints of anthropomorphized animals, show just how colorful and how may colors applied in these mokuhanga from 150 or years ago.
Kuniyoshi, animals Kuniyoshi's One Hundred Horrible Stories
I learned a few important facts about mokuhanga, even in just preparing for our booth for the 2nd International Mokuhanga Conference, (now the 2nd one), hosted by Tokyo University for the Arts, September 10-14, 2014.
Paper Connection, mokuhanga, washi, printmaking Our booth
I learned what type of paper is in demand in the West, where mokuhanga seems to be more popular than it is in Japan and that the papers used primarily by artists in the West are much thicker than what the ukiyo-e artists used. Paper Connection created this special swatch portfolio just for the conference. We included 11 different papers, with a few surprise papers made from alternative fibers, and with unusual sizing.
mokuhanga papers, sized kouzo, kozo, Paper Connection's Mokuhanga Swatch Portfolio
What a joy it was to meet so many talented printmakers from all over the globe and learn from them directly; discussing their criteria for papers for their artwork. Saw some old friends like Larry Pinto, Marjorie Tomchuk, Michael Durgin and met some lovely new friends like Mia O, Carla Salem, and Claire Cuccio. As within any discipline of art, the desired paper and its use, is as unique as the individual using it. From the paper seller's view, Paper Connection welcomes any and all queries, as this only helps us become better at what we do. In addition to the IMC 's mission; to reinstate the integrity of mokuhanga; in effect, bring it back to the limelight, MI-LAB Art Residency Program forged by Ms. Keiko Kadota has provided a place for artists from all parts of the world to collaborate and learn about mokuhanga in depth. I had the pleasure of meeting and also hearing a talk by Elspeth Lamb, author of Papermaking for Printmakers, and who is on the Board of Glasgow Print Studio.
The Pool, by Elspeth Lamb The Pool, by Elspeth Lamb
I strive to incorporate informative material before starting a new creative project, even before buying new papers for Paper Connection. For example, I learned about Mr. Akira Kurosaki use of hanji: Korean mulberry paper for his prints, thanks to mokuhanga expert April Vollmer's interesting article on the process in Art In Print:
April is currently working on her soon-to-be published book, called the Japanese Woodblock Workshop. Please peruse through a few of the prints I saw during the conference. Printmaker, Ms. Yoonmi Nam, who teaches at the University of Kansas, wrote an excellent summary of the conference and posted it in Printeresting. Click links to read and see her super photos of the art and the artists at the conference.
mokuhanga, shoji miyamoto
mokuhanga, woodblock print, woodcut

Artist of the Month: Larry Welo April 19 2013

Fresh from our trip to the annual Southern Graphics Council print conference, joint-hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Peck School for the Arts and Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, we were bubbling over with all the printmaking fervor . Here's local blog-article about the conference. The icing on the cake was meeting our loyal customer and established printmaker, Larry Welo, who lives not too far North from Milwaukee. Larry made the trek down to meet and to discuss paper and printmaking over dinner. So in honor of everything printmaking, and a little Aiko's connection, we share with you our chat with Mr. Welo. Printmakers take note! You may take away very interesting tidbits of information regarding Japanese paper and printing techniques. PCI: So good to finally meet, Larry! Tell us a little about yourself: What kind of artwork do you do? What attracts you to working with paper and what do you like best about working with it? LW: I have worked professionally as an artist printmaker since the mid 1970s. I fell in love with printmaking (etching in particular) when I was a student. I decided that this would be my career. There was no great logic to it. I was idealistic, and knew that this is something that I can do better than anything else. I did not really care about the realities of life…making money etc. Art was my passion as a child, and, as a college student I realized that it would become my profession. I drew a lot with pen and ink, and etching was like that, but there was such a depth to the images. It was the line work, the look of aquatint, the plate tone on the image and the embossment that had immense appeal to me. Paper is one of the vehicles for etching. It is of the utmost importance. There are many steps involved in creating an etching, but it always ends up being printed on paper. Over the years, I have used a large number of different papers. I quickly learned that they are vastly different from each other. It is up to the artist to decide what works best and will work with them to give the best results. In the early 1980s, I visited Aiko’s Art Materials in Chicago for the first time. I was living and working in Minneapolis at the time. I knew that there were other printmakers throughout art history who preferred Japanese papers, and I was curious. I began purchasing papers from Aiko’s at that time. I tried quite a few of them. They had a large selection of dyed papers, which I would experiment with frequently. I figured out a way to use the dyed papers for chine colle that gave me consistently good and sometimes fairly elaborate results. I would cut out the papers and overlap them so that the cut out areas would allow the underlying papers, which were also cut out, to show through. It was a means of achieving colors without needing to use additional etching plates.
Driftless, etching with chine colle Driftless, etching with chine colle
Fertile Ridge, etching with chine colle Fertile Ridge, etching with chine colle
PCI: Your results are beautiful. How did you hear about our company? LW: When Aiko’s closed, I received a mailing from Paper Connection. They carried an Aiko’s paper which I used frequently. It was Sakamoto. I liked using it with some of my multiple plate color etchings, and I missed no longer being able to find it. I became interested in trying other papers carried by Paper Connection. PCI: So you had a bit of exposure to certain Japanese papers. How did Paper Connection help widen out some of your knowledge on the different types of Japanese paper? LW: I received very good suggestions on what might work well for my intaglio prints. I carefully cut out pieces of the recommended sample book swatches, labeled them, laid them on an inked plate and printed on them. I determined which sheets I liked best and began ordering the sheets individually so I could give them more of a chance.
Attempting to organize the search for the perfect printmaking paper tests. Attempting to organize the search for the perfect printmaking paper tests.
PCI: We love how you put the samples to work! That's great, as we are not printmakers ourselves. Any of your experimenting and feedback is what we want to hear about. So after all this testing out of our samples, what papers do you use of ours and for what process? What did you like about those papers that aids in your creative and/or technical process?
Seeking the perfect etching paper tests. Seeking the perfect etching paper tests.
LW: Gampishi Sukiawase (M-0227) is my favorite paper. It is an expensive paper, and when I first tried it, I thought it would be only the one time. I was totally seduced by this paper, and have used it ever since. It prints like no other. When I print an etching, I rely on manipulating the ink tone on the plate. The ink tone gives me more subtle value options. There are very few other papers that can print this ink tone well. This paper prints it like no other. It is a joy to print on. It is made with gampi fibers and is very strong yet very sensitive. Sakamoto Heavy (AI-224B) is another paper that I like. It is a very sensitive paper. Kozoshi Sized Heavyweight (M-0206) is also very nice to print on. It is inexpensive and has many of the desirable characteristics of some of the more expensive sheets. I hope to continue to try other Paper Connection papers…maybe the best one is yet to be found.
Shady Characters, made with M-0227, Gampi. Shady Characters, made with M-0227, Gampi.
PCI: What are some of the differences between our papers and others you have worked with? LW: The sheets are extremely sensitive. What I do to the plate when I am wiping it shows up on the printed image…everything. There is never any blotchiness. Everything is very clean, and I am able to get the full range of values (light to dark) that I seek. PCI: So, if you had to recommend a Paper Connection paper for a particular application: LW: I like Gampishi Sukiawase (M-0227) because it makes me seem to be a better artist than I really am! I call it the Stradivarius of printmaking papers. PCI: Wow! We wonder what the gampi papermaker would say to that. If you could have a conversation with any artist present or past, who would it be? LW: I would like to get inside Rembrandt’s head sometime. PCI: Agreed! We saw one of his Apostle series at the Getty once. Mesmerizing. Larry, thank you so much. We appreciate the time you took to respond to our questions, and even more so, we thank you for being such a valued customer, and artist who truly appreciates the art of handmade paper!. For more on Larry, check out his website here.
Thanks Larry! Thanks Larry!