Last Saturday, Clif and I went to Readfield to visit Dragonfly Studio, which was participating in Maine Craft Weekend and was therefore hosting an open studio. Tom and Christine Higgins—a painter and paper maker, respectively—share the studio near their home in Readfield. Dragonfly Studio is tucked into the woods and overlooks a distant, glimmering Torsey Lake. A studio with a view, that’s for sure.
First we looked at Tom’s paintings—vibrant landscapes, some of which were painted right outside Dragonfly Studio. Clif and I both liked Tom’s work very much, and if our budget were bigger, then there is a high chance a painting would have come home with us. There was one, in particular, that really caught my attention—an autumn painting with a bright blue sky and brilliant flashes of fall leaves. (We did, however, buy a pack of Chris’s lovely cards, one of which will be used for a wedding card this week.)
Then we looked at Chris’s work—prints, fiber containers, sculpture, and paper on panels. After we admired her work—earthy yet snappy and appealing—she asked, “Do you want to make some paper?”
Why not? I’ve never made paper before. We went outside where Chris had a large pan of water with floating fiber that had been ground in a big machine she keeps in a nearby storage shed. The main fiber was sweet Annie, but Chris had something else mixed with it. Unfortunately, I foolishly didn’t take notes, and I don’t remember what else was used.
I donned a big plastic apron, and with my hands, I swished the fibers back forth, as instructed. When the water was sufficiently churned, a screen was dipped to catch the fibers and strain the water. I lifted the screen, and by gum, I could see the birth of paper unfold before my admiring eyes.
The newborn paper was tapped onto newspaper and blotted. (In one sense, it remind me a bit of working with pie dough.) And given to me, still wet, to take home.
“What am I going to do with it?” I mused, not wanting this beautiful, fragrant paper to be stored on a back shelf and forgotten.
“You could write on it or cut into shapes,” Chris suggested.
I could. Or I could try to make a fiber container. I really admired Chris’s, which were filled with dried flowers.
“I could mould it over a plant pot,” I said.
“There’s not enough paper,” Chris said. She gave me two small plastic cups. “Try these.”
And that’s exactly what I did when I got home. I wrapped the wet paper around the cups, crimped the edges a bit, and tied a bit of twine around the bottom, both for looks and to hold its shape. Even wet, my little fiber container looked really good. Perhaps not as good as one of Chris’s, but good enough for me, especially on my first try.
Over the next day or two, I diligently checked my little fiber container as though it were an incubating egg. (It was in the guest bedroom, with the door closed to keep out curious cats.) Every so often, I would touch the container gently, to see if it was dry. When it seemed dry enough, out came the plastic cups, and there was my fiber container, just the right shape and just waiting for a small bottle with some dried clippings from the garden.
Not only was I very, very pleased with how my container came out, but I started thinking of ways to make them on my own, not from scratch, the way Chris does, but in a more streamlined way with pretty paper and paper mache. Clif even suggested using brown paper bags.
We’ll see. In the meantime, thanks to Chris’s generosity, I have my own fiber container, and every time I go by, I gently touch it and admire it.