How an Artist Casts Paper

Pulp is made by cooking and beating plant fibers or cloth. While it can be prepared from scratch, it's more convenient to buy commercially prepared pulp. Most artists use pulp made of cotton linter, the young cotton fibers which are found closest to the seed of the cotton plant. To help the fibers bond together, an adhesive called methyl cellulose is added to the pulp. It also helps to harden the dry paper.

One way to cast paper is to place the pulp directly into a mold made of a nonabsorbent material such as plastic, terra cotta, or plaster which has been varnished. The pulp is patted into the mold with the hand, and then the excess water is removed with sponges. The artist continues to sponge the paper, all the time squeezing the sponge to remove the excess water. At the same time, he slowly begins to press the paper into the mold. The casting is allowed to dry in the air, and when it's completely dry, the form is removed from the mold.

© 1999 Marilyn J. Brackney

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