"If we too had reduced the spirit of art to a convenient calculation of algebra and daily bread, we would perhaps feel more secure, but also more mortified than we do. The enjoyments of easily-conquered paradises always leave us indifferent."
-Carlo Carra, 1918.

In the basement of the BYU library, in the archives of the Special Collections, deep on a shelf, lies a book so beautiful I will someday take someone I love to see it for their birthday.

On the outside it is a plain, well-crafted, hand-bound book. As you open the cloth covers, a handmade stretch of paper unfolds and falls across the table.

The last time I made paper I was working as an art teacher at a treatment center for girls, we were outside on the muddy lawn with our handmade paper screens. Some girls were in the kitchen throwing flowers in a blender to make different dyes, some were patting their square sheets on the sidewalk, some were dipping and shaking their screens in the colored buckets of pulp. In the middle of it all was a bucket half full of the purest white I'd ever seen. We mixed the pure cotton rag with water to make a thin paste and then dipped our screens in the mix and shook until all the fibers settled, then we pressed the top screen onto the bottom layer to squeeze out the excess water and gently laid the piece onto the sidewalk to dry.

I only tell the story of my own paper-making experience because I like to imagine that pure cotton paste wet and cold between my fingers. I want to imagine the whitest white, and what it's like to touch it. The paper in the book was pure cotton rag, but it wasn't white, it was dyed in 4 different sections running like sunsets across the horizontal page. One section was a blue like you might find on the underneath part of a blue jay's wing.

The German Expressionists believed that blue was the most sacred color, the most spiritual. I still remember the blue of that dyed paper, it seemed to leave an imprint on my mind, if for no other reason than to remind me that beauty exists.

In New York there is an art supply store that I could spend hours in, and in fact, I did last time I was there, (you can verify with elisa, who was very patient). In this store on the 3rd floor in the back room with the one dirty window, there are hundreds of tubes of paint, hundreds of colors. Most of the ones I looked at were watercolors, just small enough to turn in my fingers and bring close to examine each color. I finally settled, with more excitement than I probably showed on a blue that was quiet and bold. The nice thing about buying real watercolors, and by real, i mean expensive, is that the actual pigment ratio is high and there are no chemical fillers to water down or dull the actual color. The blue on the paper I saw in the library reminded me of the dob of blue I squeezed onto my watercolor palette the first time i used it. Pure, potent and real.

I'm going to continue this tomorrow....


Club Narwhal said...

oh how i love this. so much.

Heather said...

I can't wait to hear the rest..........!

shelly said...

This really made me excited! You teaser...