Art Therapy: A Playdate with Paste Paper

I belong to a local writing group.

Now you might wonder exactly what a writing group does.

Mine writes. We also critique.
And sometimes we play.

In fact, a few of us have taken to having regular “art therapy” sessions where we spend a whole day doing art, talking writing and sometimes sharing wine–and chocolate.

As artists, we fully believe we need to feed our souls.

And so, our most recent “art therapy” sessions involved making “paste paper”, an activity I first saw when I discovered this short video about artist Paulus Berensohn. The video is aptly titled, “Soul’s Kitchen”.

Go watch it. Seriously.
I watch it over and over.
I love this man.
Seriously.

Tracking down Paulus

I first discovered the video when it was recommended by another blogger. I was so intrigued with both the video and with what Mr. Berensohn does that I decided to try track him down. I wanted to find out a little more about his journal-making workshops and whether he had any advice for me. I knew he lived too far away for me to attend one of his sessions but I hoped he’d be able to tell me where to go for help.

I did manage to track him down and immediately sent off an email. I wasn’t sure he’d respond, partly because I’d been told he had some health problems. But he did respond, almost immediately. He not only offered words of advice and instruction on making paste paper, he also sent along his own recipe for the paste.

I’d already shown some of my writer friends the video so I knew they were already on board to give making our own paste paper–and journals a try. So with the recipe from a master in hand, we got our supplies and set to work.

The result of our first session

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Here, you can see Rhea mixing up some green paste. Our initial paste is in that pot. It’s made up of things like glycerin and gesso along with a thickening agent.

Once the paste thickened and cooled, we began to colour small bits with acrylic paint. I happened to have a box of acrylic paints hanging around. In the end, it seemed like we ended up with quite a bit of pink and orange! I’m not sure if those were the most plentiful bottles, if we mixed too much of those colours or if we were simply drawn to pink and orange.

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You can see some of the materials we used here; there’s foam brushes, sponges, empty margarine dishes (we decided empty yogurt containers would be a perfect size in the future) and water.

Our original plan was to do this outside but it was just a tad too cool on this day so I covered my kitchen table with plastic to protect it.

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That’s Elizabeth getting creative in the photo above. She tried some stamping on her paper. We tried masking as well. In both cases, we left some areas with thicker paste than others just to create a bit of texture.

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And we got messy! That’s me (above) smooshing colours around together. I spread various colours onto a page, then put another page on top and “smooshed”. It’s a pretty loud design but it might look good as a book cover. What do you think?

We used stamps, combs and other materials to texturize and add designs to the paste which we applied to 90 lb. drawing paper. We used 70 lb. paper too but much preferred the results with the heavier paper.

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And then we hung each sheet out to dry. Aren’t they pretty?
I love that photo!

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Later, as darkness neared, we spread some out on the table to dry overnight.

We were like a bunch of kids. I think you could compare it to finger painting. It was that fun!

But wait. It got even better!

A few weeks later, Elizabeth and I got together to make some journals with our paper.

We’re both already experienced at making books so we were pretty excited to give this a go.

Our bookmaking session

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We used a copic binding to sew our books together. In the photo above, Elizabeth is starting to stitch her final cover onto her journal.

But here’s how we started:

First, we folded our pages into signatures to the desired size.

We covered chipboard with our paste paper, using glue and scor-tape.

Anyone who knows me through scrapbooking, KNOWS how much I love Scor-tape. I recommend it to everyone. It works so much better than glue plus I worry about glue drying out at some point as I’ve often seen it do. Scor-tape is definitely my go-to adhesive. I always keep it in my scrapbook stock!

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There’s a bit of a knack to holding everything together tightly enough when you sew so that it doesn’t wobble loosely when you’re done. But really, it’s not that difficult. Instructions for copic binding are readily available on the Internet.

You could use paste paper for any book cover and you might prefer that if you’re not so much into the sewing thing. You could even cover a generic journal you purchase at a dollar store. It would be great to cover scrapbook albums too.

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There’s me sewing a small book together. The blue, with black through it, turned out to be pretty cool. I think it’s my favourite.

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After punching holes through the signatures and book covers, we simply ran crochet cotton through paraffin wax. That’s all we had but I much prefer waxed book-binding thread. (Note to self: find somewhere to order it).

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Look! That’s Elizabeth’s book on the left (see the stamped images) and mine on the right. I used something to create designs in the paint. (Maybe a pen? I don’t remember now but I’m sure you get the idea.)

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Here’s another look at the two books. These journals measure about 8″ x 10″. They’re a great size but next time we want to get bigger sheets of paper so we can go a bit bigger yet!

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Here’s another one Elizabeth made. The size is about 5″ x 9″. It’s a fun size too.

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I wanted my second one to be purse size. I like carrying a little book in my purse and this one will be perfect. It measures about 3″ x 4″. It’s so pretty I hate to use it but I have to keep reminding myself that, not only do I have more paste paper ready to use to create a book, I can make MORE anytime!

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Look at how gorgeous that coptic binding is.

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And there’s my two journals again.

This paper was so nice to work with too. I can’t wait to do it again. I’m seriously thinking this needs to be a workshop. It would have to be a two-day workshop, perhaps two mornings as the paper needs to dry overnight.

Who wouldn’t LOVE to try this?

Seriously. Who wouldn’t love to make their own journals? You can use them for journalling, art, doodling, recipes or simply give them away as gifts.

And that was just a couple of our art therapy sessions. If you want to know a little more about what else happens at “art therapy”, read my friend Elizabeth’s story that appeared in the Sault Star newspaper here. It doesn’t matter whether  you’re a writer, artist, stay-at-home parent or have a full-time job, I’d say a little therapy never hurt anyone.

So go ahead. Get a group together and make some art.

And be sure to tell me what you think about our paste paper in my Comments section.

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