During my art residency, I had the opportunity to guest lecture for the Life and Aesthetics course at Chiang Mai University. It’s offered by the Faculty of Fine Art but open to anyone at the university so it was a diverse group of students. My question for them was: Where do stories come from and what do we do with them?
I shared with the class my interest in people’s stories and how they can be anchored to objects. Several of my personal projects explore this idea. Experiences and memories come to mind when we see or recognise things from our past. Sometimes they are objects, sometimes words, sometimes a smell, sometimes a feeling. When we take the time to articulate our stories, they frame our viewpoint and how we interact in life. When we take time to listen to other people’s stories we find intersections with our own and make connections.
Pitchaya, translator extraordinaire and Toi, professor in the visual art department.
Drawing upon our childhood in search of moments/events that stand out.
Looking for patterns/organic groupings in our memories.
Looking through their shared memories, I got a peek into what it’s like growing up in Thailand. One thing I noticed that recurred frequently in their drawings/writing was the use of 555. 5 is ห้า (H̄̂ā). I need to take that up!
We closed with Q+A which oftentimes doesn’t work out too well but after class, I was pleased to find students eager to participate in my collecting childhood project and wanting to chat. Thankful for this experience and being able to meet and interact with so many new friends.
In Year 9 my CDT (craft design and technology) teacher ran an after school environmental club and taught us how to make a mold and deckle for papermaking. We would collect paper scraps from the classrooms to blend into pulp to make new paper. I also did some recycled paper pulp making with my kids back when I was teaching kindergarten but have never made paper from natural plant fibres. I found my mold and deckle cleaning out my classroom in June and knowing I was going to be in Chiang Mai this fall, on my list of to dos during my time here was to learn how to make Saa–mulberry paper.
Natsumi is a friend of Pitchaya, one of the art residency coordinators. She’s on a one year exchange at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University from Japan and we connected at my cyanotype workshop last weekend. She’s been refining her papermaking with mulberry and exploring other natural fibres like coconut. She offered to show me her work and process and let me have a go at making mulberry paper.
first soaking of the bark
sodium carbonate is added to the water and the bark is boiled to further soften it
the inner layers of the bark removed first to use, the outer layers continue soaking
breaking down the fibres with a meat tenderizer mallet
the rubber mallet breaks down the fibres into even shorter pieces
separating fibres and suspending in water
flattening out the surface
pouring the fibre mixture on the mold will create paper similar to sample 2
some of the other paper samples
coconut fibre experimentation
She showed me on her laptop some of the other papermaking equipment/machinery she used in Japan that speeds things up. In Chiang Mai she is making everything by hand. It is a long and laborious process but I found it, like printmaking, to be quite calming and therapeutic.
Will have to see what type of papermaking I can get up to back in Hong Kong.
Both her and Pitchaya are creating site specific installations for doi saket_inter which is opening November 5, 2014 at Nong Buow Lake, Doisaket, Chiang Mai. If you’re in the area, go check out the art festival which coincides with Loi Krathong.