Learn how to process, press, dry, and preserve vegetable papyrus and experiment with a variety of plant materials!
The ancient Egyptians used the stem of the papyrus plant to make fiber for use in a number of everyday and decorative objects. Above all, wild and specially cultivated papyrus was used to make writing paper. Today, modern papyrus is used as a specialty material.
This class will provide an in-depth exploration of how to make vegetable papyrus, decorative sheets and objects, from both fruit and vegetables. Colorful, translucent sheets will be made by layering and pressing slices of fruits and vegetables. Students will experiment with cross-sections and longitudinal slices to highlight the intricate internal structures and rich colors of the plant material.
Each student will build a simple paper press and a simple botanical press for preserving and transporting finished papyrus sheets. The remainder of the workshop will be spent producing vegetable and fruit papyrus sheets and using these sheets to make sculptural objects. Each student can expect to make an array of experimental decorative sheets and ornamental objects sculpted with the papyrus.
Monday, August 3 - Friday, August 7
Everyday at 6:00 pm
- Table-top workspace, preferably at standing height area that will allow for using wet materials
- Electrical outlets (you will be boiling water on hot plate)
- Access to washer/dryer (if possible, to clean and dry bedding for re-use)
- Access to a refrigerator or cooler to store vegetables
- Drying area for completed papyrus sheets
The process of making the papyrus involves slicing vegetables/fruit, par boiling in water, laying out slices into layers, pressing (very wet process), frequently changing wet bedding for dry bedding, and pressing final sheets as botanical specimens to completely dry. Because these sheets are highly textured, cotton muslin sheets are used to couch while pressing and drying. See full supply list below.
Tracey Cockrell earned a BA from the College of William and Mary and an MFA from University of California, Berkeley. She was a graduate fellow at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, studied sculpture at Virginia Commonwealth University, and is a trained horticulturist. Her sound art has been featured in radio broadcasts on KBOO and KPFA through alternative programs such as ‘A Different Nature’ and ‘Discreet Music’ and heard in live performances at the Annual Music for People and Thingamajigs Festivals in San Francisco, and the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle. Her sculptures have exhibited at Woodstock Art Association & Museum, Worcester AIP Biennial, Boston Center for the Arts, Oakland Arts Council, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, the Fitchburg Art Museum, and ICON Contemporary Art. She has received grant funding from Regional Arts & Culture Council in Portland, Oregon, Music USA Meet the Composer for her experiments in sound art, and Fund for Art Investigation & Research Grant for travel research for study in India specific to the making of the sarangi. In 2011, Cockrell directed Poemophone: A Cacophonous Collaboration & Reading Series, featuring 3 days of collaboration and live performance with national and international writers, musicians, and visual artists. Her work has been featured in Sculpture Magazine, ArtNewEngland, the Boston Sunday Globe, WGBH tv’s ‘Greater Boston Arts,’ Maine Public Radio’s ‘Maine Things Considered,’ and The Art Section, among other journals. Artist residencies include The Tides Institute & Museum of Art, Fiore Art Center (Maine Farmland Trust), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Hewnoaks Artist Colony, and Leland Iron Works. She has received grant funding from Regional Arts & Culture Council in Portland, Oregon, Music USA Meet the Composer for her experiments in sound art, and Fund for Art Investigation & Research Grant for travel research for study in India specific to the making of the sarangi. Learn more: www.traceycockrell.com.
Vegetables and fruits of choice (fresh and firm). Recommended best for papyrus: Cucumber, radish, onion, tomato (skin), apple, pear, carrot, parsnip
Experimental options; Leek, pepper, citrus, strawberry, kohlrabi, turnip, starfruit, kiwi, lettuce, cabbage, parsley, leafy greens. (Feel free to bring other options for experimenting!)
- Cutting boards (scale)
- Knives (sharp, stable – preferably chef’s knife or butcher knife, one that you are comfortable using to slice vegetables)
- Mandolin food slicer (optional)
- Pots (stock pots or large saucepans), and stovetop or hot plates
- Slotted spoons (for parsing and preparing vegetable slices)
- paper plates (access to paper press or ability to make a simple press for home use)
- 3⁄4 inch plywood sheets (coated with waterproof sealer)
- C-clamps or straps
- Corrugated cardboard sheets
- Staple gun and staples
- Cotton muslin sheets, Non-fusible interface sheets (70 weight)
- Non fusible Interfacing (extra heavyweight), recommended (70 Peltex Sew-in Ultrafirm) § 1 bolt provides 29 sheets @ 12” x 18”
- Muslin fabric (bleached or unbleached, 100% cotton), recommended (Roc-Ion premium) § 1 bolt provides 150 sheets @ 12” x 18”
- Alternative non fusible interfacing, Pellon 65 Extra Heavyweight o 926 Extra Firm Stack box for drying paper – optional
- Open end plywood box with weights
- Cardboard sheets (double wall with AB flute, a.k.a. ‘5-ply’) fitted to drying box o 4’ x 8’ sheet each cut to size to make a large stack (20 @ 12” x 18” each sheet)
- Box fan For Plant Press
These are make-at-home items for students
- Pre-cut plywood for making dry press o 4’ x 8’ x 3⁄4” plywood, marine grade – cuts into 20 pieces
- Pre-cut cardboard sheets (double wall with AB flute, a.k.a. ‘5-ply’) o 4’ x 8’ sheets cut to size
- Acid-free newsprint sheets or roll o 12” x 18” sheets cut to size
- Velcro Straps for compact pressure on dry press