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Paper Sample: Fantasy Moiré Pattern on Tom Balbo Engraver's Paper

Summer 2018
Summer 2018
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Even after nearly forty years of marbling,  Steve Pittelkow  still finds it both stimulating and challenging. Over the years he has refined his methods and materials to ensure a fulfilling class experience for students. Pittelkow's papers are distinguished by bright colors and precise designs and they are featured in books and museum collections and used by artists in many media. He has taught extensively across the US and Europe, including The Wells College Summer Institute, Penland School of Crafts, The Morgan Conservatory, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Center for Book Arts, both located in New York City, Asheville BookWorks in North Carolina, Philadelphia's University of the Art, and many other art centers. Of the 100 or so marbled-paper designs, the one that appears here is among my favorites. I call it the fantasy moiré pattern. Movement and depth are achieved simply by agitating the paper gently while placing the paper on the marbling bath. It is an optical illusion caused by stretching and contrasting the paint to make it both opaque and translucent. Plus, it is a real crowd-pleaser in demonstrations. During a slide presentation at Penland many years ago, a young man came to me and said, "Hey, man, I love the way you digitally alter the design." Perhaps I had not explained the process well enough. >>>

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The moiré pattern can be used with other traditional patterns too. Done with the stone pattern, it can look very much like stones under water. Using gently creased paper, the pattern is even more dramatic as the paint stretches and contracts in two directions, mimicking the flow of water. And lately, I have been thinking about how important water and the quality of water is to marbling. Water is essential to marbling. The carrageenan is mixed with water to form the bath, aluminum sulfate used to treat paper is mixed with water, and sometimes water is used to rinse completed papers. To save on water resources, I have been experimenting with not rinsing papers. With careful preparation and mixing of both the bath and alum mixtures, the acrylic paints do not offset or run at all, eliminating the need to rinse. The carrageenan sheets off, and the papers dry beautifully. In a class of fourteen students, this one step saves many, many gallons of clean water. The paper I used for the sample above is by Tom Balbo. He calls it "engraver's paper." It is 50-percent bleached abaca and 50-percent cotton, internally sized. I have used Tom's papers in my cartonnage pieces for years. Although the paper for this sample is white, his colored papers have an excellent depth of color. I have enjoyed watching Tom make paper in his Cleveland studio and appreciate his conservation approach to papermaking. Tom reuses water from any drainage, soaks Pellons instead of rinsing them, and uses any remaining water to nourish the kozo garden at the Morgan Conservatory. Marbling has been a great source of pleasure of the years. I appreciate this opportunity to share a sample with readers of Hand Papermaking.