Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Workshop Preview: Papermaking with Plant Fibers

A finished piece by Gibby Waitzkin, titled "Florabunda."

By Sarah Leach Smith, Visitor Services Coordinator
Photos courtesy of Gibby Waitzkin

Gibby Waitzkin, up close and personal with some of her pieces.
Paper is everywhere in our lives. There was a time in which people thought of paper as a valuable commodity. Today we hardly think about paper at all. Many people talk about how paper “comes from trees,” but the conversation often ends there. Did you know that you can make paper out of many different kinds of plants? Not only that, but you can color paper with dyes created by plants!

You can try it for yourself in a two-day workshop, "Papermaking with Plant Fibers," offered by Duke Gardens with fiber artist Gibby Waitzkin.

Water lilies "cooking" so that they can be made into paper.
Gibby’s passion for papermaking is apparent as soon as you meet her, and her work has been featured in more than 25 exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. You may recall seeing her oversized paper sculptures in last year’s Art and Nature Exhibit at the Gardens.

These days, the papermaking passion is ever present for Gibby. “I go on vacation to the beach and I come back with my entire car full of palm leaves that have been thrown in the trash that I find on the street!”

Natural dye created from sandalwood.
Gibby will bring a variety of plant fibers to her upcoming workshop to show participants how different species can produce a range of results. Plants are used for both texture and dye, and there is a lot of variation in the finished product, depending on the combination of plant fiber used to create the paper and the natural plant-based dye used to color it. One of Gibby’s favorite fibers is abacá (Musa textilis), a member of the banana family, because it’s nice to work with and holds dye very well.
Plant fibers after being dyed.
Professionally, Gibby is a trained artist who took a detour through the public service and corporate worlds, eventually building her own award-winning design and communication studio in Washington,  D.C. Working with clients such as the World Wildlife Fund on its climate campaign, Gore for President 2000 and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (now the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions), Gibby also became intrigued by conservation. During this time she met several papermakers and the convergence of art, conservation and papermaking became her full-time pursuit. Today, Gibby’s work includes large three-dimensional and structural pieces that echo organic forms.

Gibby in action, sharing her love for papermaking with natural fibers and dyes.
One thing that Gibby hopes people learn from this workshop is to think more about how they use paper and where their paper comes from. Participants will make their own paper from start to finish, exploring plant fibers, creating plant-based dyes and finishing with their own unique notepaper, bookmarks and other creations. Absolutely no prior experience is necessary, and all materials will be provided.

Please join us Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2, to learn, get a little messy,and create some fantastic original paper pieces. For more information about the papermaking workshop, visit our website. To register, call (919) 668-1707 or email us at gardenseducation@duke.edu.

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