Shop PortfoliosVolunteers

Old and New: Learning and Adapting Traditional Hand Papermaking

Summer 2016
Summer 2016
, Number
Article starts on page

James Kleiner received a BFA in print, paper, book in 2011 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In early 2012 Kleiner began working at Cave Paper making production and custom handmade paper, dyeing and pigmenting paper, and restoring equipment. He received a grant from Minnesota Regional Art Council (MRAC) in 2015 to travel, research, and construct doubleface laid moulds and deckles for hand papermaking. I am interested in learning how the different components of papermaking fit together. It is my goal to create the infrastructure to grow papermaking fiber utilizing permaculture practices, make paper from that fiber, and use the paper as a substrate for printmaking and as a component in other materials that serve a utilitarian purpose, such as fiber-concrete mixtures.

Purchase Issue

Other Articles in this Issue

In March of 2012, I began working part time at Cave Paper, first tasked with replacing the bearings on Cave Paper's 25-pound Hollander beater, in addition to making production handmade flax paper in a regular line of colors. I have also worked on custom projects, such as constructing an enormous sheet of paper, 50 x 50 feet, for Sipho Mabona's life-size "White Elephant." To make this paper, we joined over 1,200 sheets of 18 x 24-inch freshly made and pressed flax sheets, by overlapping the edges, and allowing them to dry together on top of netting. The finished sheet weighted over 220 pounds. When I am not making paper for Cave Paper, I work on individual projects, and make prints at Leg-Up studio and The Hack Factory, where I am a co-op member. My art investigates relationships between attracting and opposing forces in the world, both visually and through experimentation with a diverse range of materials and print methods. I layer ideas and objects, combining scientific and mathematical formulas to evoke a dream-like reality. My interests include entropy, repeating and moiré patterns, phase transitions and rearranging materials, aggregation and properties of crystals, energy and its relationship with space and time, reflection and transmission of light, and other intrinsic properties of print and paper. In my series of quartz-crystal prayer flags, I wrapped wet sheets of paper around quartz crystals and rubbed them with graphite to highlight fold patterns. When unraveled, this process reveals a two-dimensional pattern of the three-dimensional faceted object. Old and New: Learning and Adapting Traditional Hand Papermaking james kleiner Polyhedra III, 2014, 22 x 30 inches, oil-based relief print, suminagashi with indigo dye on artist-made flax paper. All photos courtesy of the author. summer 2016 - 35 In 2015 I received The Next Step Fund Grant from the Minnesota Regional Arts Council. The grant supported the purchase of equipment and materials, covered rental space at a communal wood and metal studio, and paid for travel expenses to study with Tim Moore, the authority on making traditional moulds and deckles in North America. I gathered a lot of firsthand information about his process and use of materials. In addition to sharing information with me, Moore lent me his wire-twisting loom to make my first laidwire facing. Constructing and deconstructing Tim's loom helped me better understand its mechanics. I now have the skills necessary to produce high-quality moulds and deckles for my own use, for the use of others, and to repair aging moulds. In addition to traditional woodworking tools, I am investigating the use of a computerized numerical control (CNC) router and laser-cutting technology to print parts and tools to fabricate moulds. My research is digitized and soon will be available on my website ( as an open-source project, so that interested people can download my technical drawings and adapt them to their own ideas and available resources. I think of paper as a form of physical and communal memory. I look forward to sharing what I have learned from my research and the expertise of others to move papermaking forward. Paper Sample: Fog james kleiner This paper sample demonstrates a printing process I have been experimenting with, that involves the use of water-resistant silkscreen printing coupled with vat dyeing. I beat Belgium flax in Cave Paper's 25-pound Valley beater for 3.5 hours, then beat it for an additional 6 hours in a 2-pound Valley. I formed the sheets using a deckle box, on a mould with a wove facing, and dried the sheets under pressure on blotter paper. I screen printed the paper with a slightly transparent white acrylic screenprinting ink. After the ink dried, I immersed the sheets in a vat of synthetic indigo dye, lightly rinsed them with a water sprayer to remove extra indigo oxidation from the surface, and repeated the dyeing and rinsing to achieve a darker blue. The screenprinting ink resists the dye, leaving the pattern intact. The sheets are then air dried. The printed imagery is made by superimposing two spirals to create a moiré pattern. It is based on the work of Pierre de Fermat (1601–1665) whose eponymous law describes the lowest energy configuration of different elements of nature, such as the efficient packing of seeds on sunflower heads, which occurs in Fibonacci ratios. I became interested in this pattern after making sunflower paper. I am also drawn to the work of Buckminster Fuller whose philosophy was to accomplish the most with the least amount of energy necessary.