Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mugwort Paper (Part 2)

To make mugwort paper, we first cooked the stems in soda ash (see above). While they were cooking, a load of abaca was beaten. At the end of the beating, the cooked fibers were well rinsed and then added to the load. Below, Mary forms a sheet.

Below, the results of the paper when dried:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The YARNBOMBERS, a tribute

Book Bombs was inspired in part by a group of yarn/graffiti artists from the UK who call themselves the Yarnbombers. This brief post is just an acknowledgment to them and their amazing work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Wall Street Journal: Tolerating the Tent Cities

Jennifer Levitz has just published an article in The Wall Street Journal discussing the new wave of "Hoovervilles" -- tent cities that are not only increasing in many cities, but even being tolerated by them. They are not universally accepted, however, many cities are now recognizing that their homeless shelters are at their maximum capacity -- Levitz refers to one in California that turns away 350 people a night. Some cities are even going so far as to provide PortaPotties and showers. The article includes a slideshow of one of the tent cities in the Nashville, TN area.

To read the article, visit here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Princess Tree Harvest

Princess tree (paulownia tomentosa) is a native plant of western and central China. First introduced to the United States around 1840 as an ornamental plant, it is still sold as such today, as well as being grown in plantations and harvested for export to Japan.

However, the plant is an aggressive invasive that thrives in disturbed areas, and has spread along the East Coast and in some areas of the West. It spreads by both seeds and root. Root sprouts can grow more than 15 feet in a single season.

Like Mugwort, Princess tree has a number of uses. And like mugwort, we are harvesting it from empty lots in order to make paper. Below, Mary sits with our harvest.

Despite small quarters, we managed to spread out the leaves and stems to dry before being made into paper -- see below. On the right is my new beater. It has been suggested to us that Princess tree may need to be de-barked before cooking and processing. As our research progresses, we will have to decide how we plan to process it.

All of our Princess tree was harvested from a large empty lot that sits between Thompson and Master and American and North 2nd Streets -- across from what is now the Crane Arts Building. This lot formerly was the home of a bar and a junkyard that had been labeled a Superfund site. Now a sign proclaims, "Luxury Townhomes Coming Soon!"

Right now the lot sits empty and overgrown. It reminds me how quickly and dramatically Philadelphia can change. Depending on what direction I walk from my home, I encounter public sculpture, empty lots, murals, drug dealers, art galleries, community gardens, graffiti, night clubs, liter, churches, mosques, all within a few blocks. Philadelphia literally changes from block to block, crossing one street can take you into a completely different situation. However, these various worlds can live side by side and never interact.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

NY Times: Homelessness is a Crime

Barbara Ehrenreich recently published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times about a growing trend: in many cities, it is a crime to be poor. For instance, sleeping on the sidewalk or a park bench is against the law in many cities, yet those same cities are closing homeless shelters due to the budget crisis. She reveals the continous circles that entrap many of our poor and leave them no way out or up.

To read her article, visit here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mugwort Harvest

Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) is a common invasive weed that is found alongside roads and in abandoned lots. It is one of the most prolific weeds found in unmaintained spaces in North Philadelphia.

Mugwort has a number of uses, including Chinese medicine. However, most notably for Book Bombs, its stems can be made into paper. This plant was harvested in order to make the paper for some of the prints that will be part of the Book Bombs series. Through this, imagery and the paper itself will combine to tell a narrative of the cityscape, both its manicured and neglected spaces.

The stems will be stripped of leaves and roots, and all materials that cannot be made into paper will be composted.