Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Devil is in the details

Tonight, I went to a wonderful workshop at The Paper Place to learn about konnyaku.

Konnyaku is an interesting thing - it's derived from a plant known as the Devil's Tongue Root and is best known as a foodstuff in Japan which usually takes the form of a tasteless, gelatinous slab or noodle-like item. Because it has no taste and is composed mainly of water, it's an excellent addition to dishes that are saucy as it really absorbs the flavor of whatever it's placed in. For the purpose of this workshop, we learned about konnyaku as a treatment for paper - the beautiful textures that can be created, the added strength and durability that result, and the way to get these effects. In Japan, konnyaku has been used for centuries to make kamiko (paper clothing).

Devil's Tongue Root starch is added to room temperature water and is stirred for about 20 minutes. In this time, you'll see the amazing transformation as the liquid goes from thin to a very thick gelatinous paste. If you're not using it right away, you should place it in the fridge and revisit it every two hours or so to stir it. (It keeps for about a week but you'll know when its gone bad - it gets even smellier than it normally is).

Basically (keeping in mind this is just a two-second description from a newbie), you brush a thin coating onto each side of your paper. Wait until the glossy sheen dries before applying the paste onto the other side. We hung our sheets up on a clothesline to dry with teeny tiny clothespins. When the sheets were dry (but still pliable), we began working with them. The resulting paper is momigami. Judith, the manager of The Paper Place who is also an artist, facilitated the workshop. She shared some really wonderful tips on how to create different textures and offered project ideas for the lovely papers (including ones which involved stitching).

It was so much fun to 'play' with the coated paper and such a tactile activity (albeit a bit stinky). We were all busy scrunching our papers and wrapping them around paint brushes to see what kind of effects would produced. In the end, we all became disciples of konnyaku thanks to Judith's wonderful guidance. :)

Here are a couple of photos from tonight. If you look closely, you can see some of the different textures that were created. I can't wait to try this at home and introduce it to my fellow paper-luvin' peeps!

No comments: