Wednesday, October 24
Tim Barrett, our esteemed host from the University of Iowa Center For The Book, instructed seventy-seven conference attendees, in seven one-hour sessions, on how to make paper. Although none of us in my tour even came close to the “2,000 sheets-per-day” rate we certainly enjoyed trying.
Barrett made sure everyone experienced each step of the process: from dipping the mould into the pulp, to couching the wet sheet, to peeling off the virgin pages, to stacking them for pressing, and then hanging them up to dry. There was a lot of laughter and congeniality as each person tried their hand at it. The Oakdale Campus, where the mill is situated, looks like an office park from the outside. But inside it is a beautiful and functional space dedicated to the wet art which is both inviting and impressive.
It was delightful to see such a well-designed workspace with every function and need allotted for. With the room full of light and instructions from the expert we worked with factory-like precision in our aprons and boots. The sun beams illuminated our work and transformed our group into a scene worthy of a Flemish painting. Does it bear repeating, that there is no substitute for the hands-on experience? It is true. And it was really fun. But to underscore the more serious point: it is hard work and, with production in mind, requires a very high level of skill and strength. And, if Barrett’s crew ever does manage 2,000 sheets per day, they actually have enough clothesline to hang up all the pieces to dry! Thank you UICB for a wonderful hands-on tour and a memorable experience.