For someone who makes a living using paper, visitors to my studio are often surprised that it is not filled with paper objects. The fact of the matter is, most of what I make ends up leaving my studio. One can see more of my work in window displays and magazine spreads, at photo shoots or online than you can see on the shelves of my studio. Wherever possible, though, I do try to find ways to get some of the beautiful papers I own out their storage drawers (where they lie flat and protected from dirt, dust, and light) and into use around my home.
During a recent visit to an Ikea store in found a lovely, 15-inch-diameter plastic serving tray. By lovely, I mean the size was great, it was sturdy, and it was inexpensive. The only thing wrong with it was that it was an ugly shade of beige with an insipid amoeba-pattern printed on it. However, ugly was a problem I knew I could tackle so I bought it.
In my studio I had a gorgeous piece of decorative Japanese Katazome paper that I had been saving for just the right project. Katazome is a handmade process of stencil-dying paper using a starch-resistance method that can be traced back to 15th-century Japan. In brief, a design is cut into a stencil (the stencil paper for this particular process being a work of art in itself). The stencil is then treated with an elixir made from Persimmons, which gives it a rich tobacco coloring and prevents it from absorbing any of the starches used in the design transfer process.
Once the stencil has been prepared, it is placed over a sheet of handmade paper and a starch solution is applied through the stencil onto the paper’s surface. When the starch is dry, pigments are applied by hand. As a final step, the entire sheet of pigment-dyed paper is placed in a bath to loosen and remove the dried starch layer. The result is visible in the sheet used for this project (Note: The areas of the paper that appear white were covered with starch prior to the pigments being applied. Once the pigmentation was complete and the starch was washed away, the white areas of the paper became visible again.) For anyone who is familiar with the beeswax and pigment process of making Ukrainian Eggs, the process for making Katazome is similar.
Beautiful, bold-shaped tray, meet gorgeous handmade paper. The marriage has been a successful one. As I write this the finished tray sits beside me on a table holding a pot of coffee, a newspaper, and the most delicious H&H bagel any New Yorker ever tasted.
1.) This inexpensive plastic tray from Ikea (approximately $10.00) provides the foundation for this project. A sturdy flea-market find would have also sufficed.
2.) A sheet of Katazome paper. The vividness of the design and the resiliency of the paper itself make it a perfect material for my purposes. In choosing a paper for your own project, consider a pattern that will disguise the slight overlap that will occur around the lip of the tray.
3.) Use a soft-lead pencil to trace the bottom of your tray.
4.) Once you have drawn this circle, use a ruler to find the center of the circle and mark the location with a pencil.
5.) With a straightedge running through the center of the circle, draw lines at 3/4 inch intervals around the circumference of the circle. Each line should extended 4 inches beyond the circle’s edge.
6.) Use a craft knife to cut along the lines made in the step 5 above. Then, cover the surface of your tray with a thin coat of adhesive (I used Modge Podge but Elmer’s glue, thinned with a bit of water, will also work), positioned the trimmed circle in place, and smooth out any air bubbles that may be present under the surface.
7.) The tray I used had a small, curved lip. Special attention was needed here. I glued in place one of the strips of paper, then worked my way around the tray gluing each subsequent strip of paper down. Because my tray had a slight concave lip around its edge, each strip of paper glued in place was overlapped, slightly, by its neighboring strip.
8.) Once the front surface of your tray has dried, turn it over on your work surface and continue gluing each piece of “fringe” by wrapping it around to the back of the tray (in my case, the convex surface of the tray).
9.) This is a picture of the back (or bottom) of my tray showing all of the strips of paper glued in place.
10.) Once the edge “fringe” has been completely glued in place and dried. Trace the bottom of the tray again (as in Step 1) on another sheet of paper. This circle has NO fringe and should be carefully out out using a craft knife or scissors. Glue this final piece into place, being sure to overlap slightly all of the paper “fringe” from the previous step. Smooth out any air bubbles that may occur. Allow to dry.
11.) I recommend finishing the piece with another layer or two of Modge Podge or food-safe decoupage sealer (allowing each coat to dry before adding another coat). The final tray is bold and beautiful and it has brought me into almost daily contact with a lovely piece of paper that would otherwise have languished, out of sight, in a drawer.