Creating a False Deckle Edge on Paper

Mould and Deckle
Paper Mould and Deckle

If you have ever had the experience of seeing a really old document, you may notice that the edges look kind of ragged.  This is what is called a deckled edge.  It is called that because the uneven edge of the paper is formed by the part of the paper mould called the deckle, which is the frame like structure in the photo above.

Hand made paper
Handmade western style paper

In my post on making the book Bedtime Story, I had mentioned using a beautiful handmade paper I purchase several years ago. The paper measures approximately 6″ x 8″ but I also needed a few pieces that were about 3″ x 6″.  If I were to get out scissors or an Exacto knife, I could easily make a smaller piece of paper but it would like sort of odd with three deckled edges and one straight edge. So how do you go about getting a false decked edge? It is pretty simple but first a bit about paper.

The piece pictured above is western handmade paper. What that means is that the paper has very short fibers. If is also a relatively weak paper compared to Eastern style papers (often misnamed ‘rice’ paper) that are long fiber papers. So the technique I am about to describe works best with western style papers because the short fibers break apart easily when wet.

Apply water
Preparing paper to make a false deckle

After measuring where you want the edge to be, you take a soft brush soaked with water and brush it along the ruler edge. If the paper is very thick (which was the case with this paper) you need to do this several times until the water soaks through.  Then you pick up the paper and very slowly and carefully start to tear from top to bottom. The result is a false deckle that should serve your purpose.

Redeckled Edges
Creating a false deckled edge

Working Title for the Unsuccessful Print

In my last post I talked about a print that was not successful and asked for feedback. One comment I just absolutely loved from my friend Julie was she was struggling with what the girl was holding and thought is was a broken golf club. I busted out laughing and decided that will be the working title for this piece and any follow up efforts.  Thanks Julie!

A Poor print
New Working Title:  Girl Holding a Broken Golf Club

An Unsuccessful Print

It is important that I share my work that does not come out as planned as well as the work I am happy with. Let’s face it, for every good piece of work, artists (I know this is true for myself) make a few crappy ones.  Sometimes I just rework the same thing and other times I abandon the idea altogether or just put it on pause.    Below is a print that did not come out the way I had planned and I will talk about how it came to be and why I think it basically is not so hot.

A Poor print
Example of a print that did not come out as planned

The original idea for this is pretty much as pictured, a girl sitting on a hill over a stream looking at a big starry sky. The other things this work originally was going to include were a full moon, then a crescent moon, and a cat.  But for some reason, I removed the cat and made a different piece of work with a cat.  But that is another story.   So I decided the focus should be on the girl.

I also wanted to do a reduction linocut, which is a way to print in color. It has been a long time since I have made one and I wanted to see if I could still register my blocks properly.  So what is wrong with this print?  Basically, it is too dark. The one I photographed is a bit lighter but in the majority of them the ink is even darker than the one pictured.  So I decided to add some hand coloring to see if that perked it up.

A poor print 2
Same print with some added hand coloring, but it is still not working for me

It did perk it up a bit but not enough to my liking. So now what?  Basically, I love problems like this.  I will probably make this piece again as a drawing but I may also cut it again and print it in lighter colors.

The point is this:  failure is a great thing. Making art is problem solving.  My thoughts are lighter colors but if this was your work, what would you change?

New Tools, Yahoo!

New stuff!!

Not long ago after getting tired of sharpening my lino cutting tool every three seconds and still not having it sharp I decided “Enough!”   I have been cutting with the same old tools for 30 years and had gotten used to their quirks so much that it never even occurred to me to look for something else.  But it did on that wonderful day a week or two ago.

So I called up the wonderful people at McClain’s printmaking supplies and asked a bunch of questions, thought about the information over the weekend, then called back on Monday and placed my order.  Today, packaged with great care, were my supplies, some samples of blocks, technical information print outs, and their beautiful catalogue. The catalogue is such a treat because it contains artwork submitted by printmakers from everywhere.

I have come to realize that dealing with specialty stores for something that is really important to you is really the only way to go. Great service and expert advice are priceless. And a bonus:  going through he catalogue, I came across one of my linocuts reprinted!

From 2020 McClain’s Printmaking Supplies Catalogue

Process of Making an Artist Book

Several months ago, I watched a wonderful video called Between the Folds which went into great and surprising detail on the art of paper folding, also known as origami. The video covers way beyond what we traditionally think of and even gets into how the art form is also being used by scientists to study complicated problems.  So of course after the show was over, I got a piece of paper and started to fold it. The form that I liked the most is pictured below. It reminded me of a mother holding a baby.

Folded paper
Experimenting with paper folding

I saw this video not long after visiting my grandson. One of the things I enjoy most about my visits is participating in his elaborate and nurturing bedtime routine. I started to think of lots of parents and their children and bedtime routines, remembering the one we had with our daughter. It quickly came to me that this was the making of a “bedtime story”.  So I started to experiment with coloring papers and different types of papers thinking of a quilt like form to play with.

quilt squares
Experimenting with colors

After deciding on the colors I would use and folding a number of the squares, I pieced things together as seen below.

quilt together
Squares pieced together

While this may look nice, it was clearly not going to work. My overall idea was to have this structure fold up into one square that could be stored in a box, sort of like folding up a quilt and storing it and taking it out when you use it.  The other problem was that I wanted to add stitching and it was very difficult to stitch in this form. So after wresting with this for several weeks, putting it away and taking it out to think about it some more, I decided it needed to come apart.

Quilt pieces
Form now cut apart: what to do next????

Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the ‘quilt’ idea and not enough on the ‘story’ idea.  Perhaps putting equal emphasis on both: the quilt and the story?  I found some handmade paper I purchased a few years ago that spoke to me for no reason except that I knew they would be perfect for something someday.  That day came today. So here is the current version of the Bedtime Story, though it is still far from finished. The smaller squares are not yet glued down so this is a layout pictured below. I will post the piece when it is finished.  I am also documenting this via short (1 minute) videos on my Instagram account.

quilt book form layout
Getting there but not done yet


Postscript note:  you can now see the finished project here. 

Basic Plant Identification: Part 2

Star of Bethlehem
What am I?? My key number is 6 – 2 – 3

It has been a while since I have seen this flower and I could not remember what it was.  Since it was plentiful I dug one up and examined it.  The base reminded me of an onion type plant:  white, bulb like, with thin green leaves coming from the base. But the flower was not typical of onions which are more like a puff ball. If you ever grew chives and let them go to flower, then this will sound familiar to you.

So I decided to key out the plant and fortunately, this was a very easy one to do.  Using my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide that I discussed in an earlier post, I had to look up three characteristics of this plant and apply the appropriate “key” number for each characteristic. 

Key from Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide

First, what is the type of flower.  This type of flower is “regular”, meaning it is radically symmetrical. If you cut the flower in half, each half would look the same. Think of a young child’s drawing of a flower with a center and petals coming off the center. Because this flower has six petal, the key tells me to assign a number “6”.

Next they ask what is the plant type.  It is a wildflower but this category also asks about the plant leaves. They are not opposite or whorled as discussed in part 1.   The leaves seem to be growing out of the bottom of the plant. These are called basal leaves. Another great example of basal leaves is our friend the dandelion. Next time one creeps up in your yard, take a look at the leaves growing out of the bottom. The key above tells me to assign my second number which is a “2”.

The last characteristic the key asks about is the type of leaves. They are not toothed or lobed like the henbit or purple dead nettle in part 1.  They are entire (no teeth or lobes) like the ginger leaves of a previous post .  So the key tells me to assign another number “2”

key 2
Key descriptions from Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide

So my three number key is “6 – 2 – 2” .  Now I find that number.  The key number gives me several other choices. Fortunately, there are not that many with this particular plant. The first description under that key number asks if the leaves are narrow. Since they are, I go to the descriptions under “narrow leaves” and it gives me a choice of flower colors. I go to the choice that says ‘white, pink, or greenish flowers’ and then look at that page. On that page, a number of flowers are depicted and my flower was among them. It is a Star of Bethlehem:  Ornithogalum umbellatum.  Now at the beginning of this post, I mentioned that when I pulled the plant the base reminded me of something onion related. Well, our Star of Bethlehem is part of the Lily family (Liliaceae) and so are onions.


Surprise Gift Print

Alice's print

Today, after a very frustrating trip to the store, my friend Alice and I took a socially distant walk together on a local green way. When Alice asked if I would like to walk I said yes but warned her I was not in the best mood.  When I met Alice she handed me this print she made by taking a rubbing from an old mason jar.  I was delighted to get this and also of her thoughtfulness.  Oddly, I just realized as I sat down to write this that not long ago I took a book out of the library on the history of mason jars which is worth looking up if you get a chance. Thanks Alice!

Basic Plant Identification: Part 1

Henbit and purple nettle
To the left, Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) and to the right, Henbit (Lamium amlexicaule)

A few weeks ago when I was talking about my love of sidewalk weeds and identifying plants, some of you had written to me saying you wanted to learn more.  In my last post on this topic we talked about some characteristics of plants but I was unable to show examples due to the time of year and the slim pickings of available plant life.

So let’s start with the photograph at the top of this page. These plants seem to look almost the same at a quick glance and many times people either mistake the one for the other or do not realize at all they are entirely different plants.  They are common lawn “weeds” so you have probably seem them before. They are in the same family (Lamiaceae) and the same genus (Lamium)  but are different species.   As I mentioned before, it is often difficult to be able to key a plant down to the species. If you (as an amateur like myself) get to the genus that is pretty good but if you can actually just look at a plant and identify the family, that is excellent.

Example of “opposite” arrangement of leaves

For these plants, lets start with the leaves.  The example above is called opposite leaves because the leaves are directly across from each other along the stem.  The example below show leaves that are called whorled because the leaves surround the stem (think of it as lots of opposite leaves together rather than just two).

Whorlled leaves
Example of “whorled” arrangement of leaves

Another characteristic of leaves that is important are the edges of the leaves. The examples we have here (see below for a close up) fall into the category of toothed edges because the edges of the leaves have little teeth (as opposed to being smooth).  In out last post  on this topic, we looked at wild ginger leaves that had a smooth edge and that was called an entire leave.

toothed or lobed edges
Examples of “toothed” edges of leaves

Here is another characteristic to look for: the shape of the stem. Notice in the close up below that the stem is square (I just am showing one but both these plants have a square stem).

square stem
Square stem

So now you know what a Toothed leave is.  You also know two very important characteristics (opposite or whorled leaves and square stems) of a very common plant family: Lamiaceae.  Why should you care? Well, the family Lamiaceae is more commonly known as the mint family.  Next time you tend to your basil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary plants take a look at the position of the leaves and feel the stem.  Now there are other characteristics that make these plants part of the mint family. It is important to know that because there are also other plants with opposite leaves and square stems that are not part of the mint family and perhaps we can look at those characteristics another time.  But for now, pat yourself on the back for getting to know the members or your herb garden on a different level.

Stickwork Installation

It was great fun to work on this installation in progress at Davidson College with artist Patrick Dougherty.  I will take photos of the finished work but here are some of the work in progress. My handiwork consisted of wiring pieces together (see last photo on right) and helping to move stuff. The wiring was more fun that moving stuff!  But it all has to get done so all work is helpful. Check out Patrick’s work at other sites.