Sunday, April 19, 2015

Invasive plants

Many papermakers make their handmade paper using plants as the fiber to make the sheet. It can be a lengthy process, especially when dealing with very fibrous plants. Some papermakers let plants sit outside in a bucket for 6 months and let nature break down most of the material to prepare it or the vat, while others cook plants in soda ash to speed up the process, which can be dangerous since it is caustic. No matter how you do it, it takes work, patience and time.

But there is a group of papermakers in Detroit who have thought of such a great way to help the environment while making handmade paper with plants. They harvest invasive plants - ones that are not native and have negative effects on our economy, our environment, or our health - from city parks, lots and green spaces. Then they travel throughout Detroit to offer paper making demos and workshops with plants like Phragmites, Honeysuckle and Garlic Mustard.

Artist Megan Heeres is involved in the project because, "I endeavor to make a large-scale installation that is biodegradable. After many years of making large scale works and installations, storing them and hauling them around, I have begun to question my role in the creation of more. This isn't a value judgement, but rather an experiment to determine how my work shifts when I think very consciously about the materiality from beginning to end. And how by involving community in the process of making, it will also alter the evolution of the work. The Invasive Paper Project is a continuation of my fascination with materiality, with time, with chance, and with play but in a more more community-centered setting in which ideas and outcomes can shift."

Invasive plant species and their effect on our ecosystem is serious, which is why I do not ship my plantable papers outside of the US - I do not want to introduce a plant that is native to the US but ends up being an invasive species elsewhere. I love that this artist is using noxious weeds to make paper in this time when our planet's temperatures and climate is changing, which can only lead to invasive plants multiplying even more. It may be a small gesture in the overall scheme, but every little bit helps.

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