25 Mar Taller Lenateros (paper made by hand)
One of the truly special times in San Cristobal was when we had the opportunity to go to Taller Lenateros and make our own paper, and later in the week print our linocuts on that same paper (and some of their fabulous handmade papers as well!) This cooperative was founded by some of the people who were running Na Bolom, and their goal was to provide employment to the indigenous people so they could sustain themselves. What a wonderful enterprise!
We were brought in, given a brief tour and then set right to work making our own paper! Could you imagine making something beautiful from old recycled office paper? (meaning paper that’s already been printed on with outdated information?) We started by crumpling up sheets of paper from their school system and government offices! one sheet at a time and filled up a bucket of water. Once it was full, we set it to the side to decompose (this is a bit like a recipe for making bread or something!)
Next they gave us a clump of some clean white cotton fibers which we were instructed to cut into very small pieces. Many people in the group were frustrated that their scissors weren’t sharp enough, but we persevered and eventually had a big enough pile to move onto the next task. By now the crumpled paper had completely turned into a mash, so we took a handful of that and a pinch of the cotton fibers, tossed them into the blender with lots of water – whirred thoroughly and then poured into a big tub. When we had enough of the “slurry” mixture in the tub, they instructed us to go out into the garden and gather flowers! What a joy as their selection of flowers even in their tiny little garden was so diverse and different than what we have at home that it felt like a real adventure. I personally was most excited to put lots of the bright orange marigold-like flowers in, since I’m extremely fond of orange!
Next we were shown how to put the screen into the slurry mix and float the flowers on top, scroll around the edges and then flip the mix out onto a sheet of galvanized metal – voila! soon to be a sheet of handmade paper! We each had fun trying to get the flowers “just so” – which of course in the end was futile, since once the papers were dried, no one knew which one was so carefully art directed – was THAT one mine? Artists are so ego driven!!!
So here is my paper! (or maybe not, but it’s one of the ones done by our group!) and here is my heart carving on one of our handmade papers too! What a fun and great experience! These people are truly humble, beautiful members of the human race. We were honored to work in their studio with them, and they were so gracious and welcoming to us gringos!