Every once in a while, I write a blog entry and realize later that it wasn't finished. I may write something to what feels like a completion but then find that more percolates up later on. After the other day's post about meditation, I decided that this was one of those times when the story wasn't quite finished. I am not sure what the end is, but I have more to say about meditation as it relates to making paper!
Making paper by hand is a meditative process. It's not just my singular experience. I have read many interviews and bios of other papermakers and have seen this idea repeated:
"Making paper is a relaxing and meditative process that is both expressive and lots of fun."
"Depending on your temperament, preparing your own paper pulp will either be a fascinating, almost meditative process, or a laborious task."
"I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that glass is different from paper; one is three-dimensional, the other is two; one breaks when you drop it, the other doesn’t; one requires major physical labor and sweat to produce, the other only a simple and meditative process."
"In an era when people are losing touch with their hand skills, and the pace of life is ever increasing, the use of old technologies has multiple roles. It allows one to slow down, breathe, and practice something meditative, improving one’s quality of life."
- from the For Beginners column of Hand Papermaking Newsletter #90 (April, 2010)
How curious that, perhaps, I have been meditating all along in the way I have chosen to make a living. I do find it meditating to swirl my hands through the pulp in a vat. There are no other sounds but dripping water and the swishing and splashing of the pulp. I use warm water when I make the pulp during the winter and cool water when in the heat of summer. Sometimes I even make paper outside under the trees, surrounded by my garden. I can't quite identify why it is so soothing to me (and others) and why I love it so much. But one part of the process that is very important to me is making sure I put good energy into what I create. I know it sounds hippy dippy and New Age. But consider this. You make dinner. You are happy and feel love to be making something nourishing and delicious for those who will eat it. You put good intentions into every ingredient even if you aren't doing it on purpose. The food tastes great and the energy you put into it is transferred into those who eat it. On a different day, you are tired and irritated. You make the exact same dinner but it tastes nowhere near as good. I swear you can taste when there is no love. (Have you ever watched Top Chef on Bravo? Carla Hall on Season 5 was always talking about putting love in her food.)
It truly is the same to me when making paper. I am very purposeful to make it with good intentions. (Why does it sound so hokey when I write it down?!) Because I make paper for huge life events, I want the recipients to feel good - happy, blessed, comforted - when they receive my paper. When I make paper for weddings, I think of my own wedding or other happy events. I purposely tune into joyful events in my life and put that passion and joy into the work I make. When I make paper for funerals, I make the paper with enormous empathy, with feelings of hope and kindness, and for the wish of company during the lonely grieving process. (I recently read an interview with Leslie Blodgett, owner of Bare Essentials, about her business. She said you need to know who your customer is. If you can't relate to your customer — in your mind, your heart and your soul — you'll never be able to deliver what they need. I think I have such great feedback because I put my soul into my work and it can be felt.)
While it's a bit uncomfortable to share this with you, who I do not know, even that vulnerability is part of the artistic process. For me, all of this is meditation: intention, slowing down and giving my full focus to a process, creating a unique handmade product, opening myself up, incorporating nature (seeds or pressed flowers) into my work … all of it.
In some of my Etsy listings, I have ended the description of my product with this: "I hope you feel the joy and the passion in everything I make." I really mean it.