If you like getting down and dirty to decorate papers, then you'd probably like making paste papers. The calligraphers' guild I belong to organized a hands on workshop yesterday to make paste papers. It was a kid friendly day, so Michelle and I brought along our daughters, and our instructor Edith also had her (grown-up) daughter there too. I've made paste papers several times before with wheat paste, but I wanted to go this time to try Edith's recipe using cornstarch and glycerin. Apparently the glycerin helps to keep the papers more flexible when they are dry.
To make paste papers, you need a "paste" and paint mixture to spread on your papers and then you make designs with any mark making tools you can think of. As I mentioned above, there are different recipes for making paste, including from wheat or rice flour, dish soap, cornstarch, or even simply wallpaper paste. The paste must be made a day ahead. When you are ready to decorate your papers, mix acrylic paint into a small amount of paste until you get the desired colour.
Now comes the fun part! Spoon some of the coloured paste onto your paper (you can use several colours at once), and spread with a wide brush or a brayer. Use any tools you can find to make marks or drag through the paste. Some of the tools we used were foam stamps, combs for hair and combs for faux painting, sponges cut into interesting shapes, a golf ball, and a scrap of cork flooring with a carved design.
The kids did quite well with their papers and were not afraid to try something new. The nice thing about paste papers is that if you don't like how the design looks, you can brush over it again and start over. Here are some of our finished papers: