Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Harvest Time! Papermaking with Plants — Phase 1

Photograph of a pond surrounded by reeds, and milkweed on shore.

It's that time of the year when I start harvesting milkweed fibers for paper making to use in my light sculptures, such as Solo Pacifica, which I made using the Japanese kozo plant. I'll need plenty since in addition to my own art, I will again be teaching my craft to high school students across South Simcoe and the GTA as part of the Ontario Arts Council's Artist in Education program.

Autumn is the ideal time for harvesting milkweedwhen their growing season is over and just before their pods begin to open. The milkweeds in my garden didn't grow too well this year. Maybe it's because I started the seedlings too late into the season.

With a grocery bag and a pair of garden clippers; my husband, baby and I headed into the woods in search of milkweeds on a beautiful Wednesday evening.

Photograph of very small milkweed plants.
My milkweeds didn't grow too well in my garden.
Photograph of a baby snapping turtle.
We met a little friend. Maybe he'll want to take a papermaking workshop with me!

Photograph of stems cut into pieces small enough for my steamer.
Milkweeds are stripped of leaves and pods. Branches are cut to fit into a steamer.

Photograph of strips of fibre taken from the milkweed stems after steaming.
After steaming, the fibers are stripped from their woody cores.

Photographs of strips of milkweed fibres left to dry on my lawn.
Fibers are dried, then stored until I'm ready to use them.

Photograph of pieces of dried stems in a box.
The woody cores will make perfect kindling for fall bonfires!

Photo of the large milkweed seed pods in a box.
The seeds will be sprinkled in my garden for next year.

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