It’s Summer, which means I get to pull out my paints, cook up some archival paste, and play for days making paste papers. I only make paste papers during the summertime, because they dry so much quicker. Since I have a limited amount of space in which to work, the faster they dry, the more I can make.
I usually work with two paste recipes. The first is simply methyl cellulose and distilled water, which I use when adding gold and silver highlights. I get powdered methyl cellulose from www.danielsmith.com. Getting it to the right consistency takes about two days and lots of stirring. Once made, this paste can be used for months. The second recipe consists of wheat starch, rice flour, glycerin, tincture of green soap, and distilled water. This requires cooking, cooling, and running the paste through a sieve to remove any lumps. Even when refrigerated, this paste only has a shelf life of a week or less.
Once the paste is ready, I put it into small containers and add acrylic paint until I get the intensity of color that I want. I generally use Golden Acrylic paints because they’re highly pigmented; ‘a little dab’ll do ya’.
If you’re working with children, and you want a simple, kid friendly recipe, you can make the paste from flour and water and use tempera paints to color the paste.
Before painting with the colored pastes, the paper needs to be wet. I have a shallow plastic storage container partially filled with water in which I can dip my paper. Now the real fun begins. After putting the wet paper on a non-porous surface and smoothing out any bubbles, I apply the colored pastes, usually with a large brush. Then I make marks, patterns, and textures in the paste with all sorts of objects. I’ve used combs, bottle caps, brushes, rubber stamps, chopsticks, various found objects, and anything else that happened to be around at the time. I also sprinkle metallic powders on some of the paste papers.
My favorite paper to use for this is Mohawk Superfine, which I use in a variety of weights, from text weight all the way to cover stock. It all depends on what I plan to make out of the finished paste paper. For my non-porous surface, I use glass, plexiglass, or a piece of laminate.The first day I make paste papers usually feels like a warm-up. By the second day, however, I find myself making some absolutely fantastic paste papers. Since I only do this once a year, I try to make sure the color combinations I use cover all four seasons. It feels weird to be making a ‘Winter’ paste paper on a hot summer day, wearing a tank top and shorts.
We’re not done yet! In Part 2, I’ll tell you what comes next, and I’ll show you some of the new paste papers I’ve made this summer.
P.S. Click here to view Making Paste Papers: Part Two.