Making Paste Paper

I had the great good fortune to take part in a paste paper* workshop with Larry Lou Foster recently. Larry Lou (Louise Lawrence Foster), a book artist and fine binder, is a respected expert and innovator in paste-paper design. She has studied paste-paper traditions extensively and, over the years, replicated many historical patterns, as well as created new designs. It was a delightful and intense two days of work and study. Larry Lou is as generous as she is knowledgeable, and she was determined to share with us as many of her techniques and insights as our time with her allowed.

Printer, paper maker and book artist Frank Brannon, who met Larry Lou while in the MFA in Book Arts program at the University of Alabama, introduced Larry Lou to Laurie Corral, director of Asheville BookWorks, who immediately engaged her for a weekend workshop this spring. Frank is working on an edition of a book that will contain many examples of Larry Lou's paste papers, along with a discussion of her work. He not only designed the book and letterpress-printed the text, but made the paper for it as well. Once he's incorporated Larry Lou's paste-paper samples, which she created for the edition, he'll bind the books and make them available for sale.

Here are a few photos from the workshop. All of the paste papers pictured are Larry Lou's, although each of us who took the workshop came home came home with a lovely and ample supply of our own paper for book covers, boxes, cards, collage, etc.

* Paste papers are one of the earliest forms of decorative paper, first used in the 17th century for covers and end papers in books. Many of the beautiful and intricate designs of these papers are being used as inspiration by today's paste paper artists, who are also creating wonderful contemporary designs. The "paste" in "paste paper" is usually a wheat- or rice-paste mixture, to which pigment (acrylic paint or ground pigment) has been added. The colored paste is brushed onto dampened paper, then a variety of objects -- kitchen tools, carved brayers, and found objects, -- are used to draw into the paste while it is still wet. For those of you who may not have the convenience of a class, one of the best books on paste papers is Diane Maurer-Mathison's The Art of Making Paste Papers.

Larry Lou, using a long dowel to create diagonal lines on the paper,
over which she'll draw a design.


Cassie Bryant said...

I wanted so badly to go this workshop! (I'm doing Frank's intermediate letterpress in a few weeks instead.) So, thank you for posting about it and for uploading some photos of Larry Lou's gorgeous paste paper. If you have photos of the paper YOU made, I would love to see -- so know that you have at least one highly appreciative lurker out here. :-)

Clara said...

Cassie, if you haven't taken a class with Frank before, you'll love him. Enjoy your class!

Carol said...

Thank you for sharing Larry Lou's fabulous paste papers. What a great workshop that must have been. I'll have to do some more paste papers when I eventually get my life back and on track. Which will be soon I think.

CHERYL said...

Thanks for blogging about the paste paper workshop with Larry Lou. What beautiful papers! I'm looking forward to seeing some of the papers you made. CHERYL

buntpapierfabrik.blogger.de said...

A big compliment from Germany to the bookgirl for the fantastic paste papers!
I also make paste papers and use them for my collages. I'm looking foreword to following your site,
best wishes from Christine at www.christine-wenger@ish.de

Mike Shipman said...

I'm experimenting with paste papers and marbling along with becoming more competent at bookbinding. I came across this blog page and really enjoyed it. Gave me some ideas. After a quick search, I discovered that Larry Lou passed away Feb 29, 2020, this year, at 79. I had thoughts of trying to attend a workshop, but I'm probably too late by a few years, anyway. The papers I see on the blog are amazing, well beyond the "fingerpainting" I see and was exposed to during a bookbinding workshop during which we made paste papers. I'm glad Larry Lou was able to pass on her skill and craft to others who will continue her legacy in their own way.

Dancing Mel said...

Mike Shipman: Yes, sadly, Larry Lou passed away earlier this year. I am a long-time friend of hers (we met in the Book Arts Program at UA), and am her executor.I am sorry you did not get to meet her, as she was a magnificent person!