Shop PortfoliosVolunteers

Working Large by Tiling Wet Sheets

March 16, 2021

This information is reprinted from the For Beginners column of Hand Papermaking Newsletter #93 (January, 2011).

Hand Papermaking Newsletter No. 81, January 2008, addressed a method for working large through tiling dry sheets. In this issue I’d like to discuss some tips and techniques for tiling wet sheets into a larger sheet of paper, inspired largely by a roughly 47 x 63-inch piece I made with Michelle Wilson as part of our Book Bombs collaboration. We constructed this large sheet from 11 x 14-inch sheets in a bare basement, laying a tarp directly onto the basement floor and covering that with canvas cloth.

We pulled a wet sheet of paper (consider using pulps with longer fibers for strength while working) and couched it onto a sheet of interfacing placed over a base of felts. Then we placed a second sheet of interfacing and another felt over the wet sheet and pressed lightly by hand. (A rolling pin or small board would work as well.) This first sheet was then placed in the upper right hand corner of the canvas working base. We continued to pull sheets. The second sheet was placed to the left of the first, overlapping it by about 1.5 inches. This seam was then pressed together by tapping along its length with the flatter fingerprint side of the fingertips. Your seams will likely be visible, especially when using more transparent pulps such as abaca and flax, but keeping your sheets relatively wet by pressing them only lightly before laying them down allows you to merge the seams less obtrusively. Continue creating a row across, tapping each seam together as you work. Once you’ve reached the desired width of your sheet, you can then start a second row, now laying each new sheet over both the sheet above it and the sheet adjacent to it.

Once you have constructed a base of the desired size, you should press the paper further. Michelle and I went over the sheet with dry felts and additional hand pressure before adding pulp painting elements to the sheet, working with stenciling techniques. When we were finished with the paper, we allowed it to sit for a little bit to allow the stenciled elements to settle into the paper (initially this wet pulp tended to sit a bit on top of the base sheet until the water could be absorbed into the sheet) before providing another round of hand pressing.

The trick at this stage is finding a way to let air circulate around your paper to allow it to dry without growing mold. Depending on the size of your paper and canvas, and the materials you have at your disposal, you might transfer the sheet to a large screen (keeping it on the canvas at least through the first part of the drying process to maintain a stable surface under the wet sheet) or drying rack. You might also hang the canvas in some manner—clipping either side of the canvas to two clotheslines, for example. The key thing is to get that paper away from the plastic tarp! The plastic tarp on cement floor provided us with a good solid working surface for pressing the paper, but it traps moisture, keeping the paper from drying. Papermakers are by nature and of necessity problem solvers, so you will find the solution that responds to the materials available to you in your studio, giving you the freedom to work as large as your working space allows.

by Mary Tasillo