During the Picnic Club Detroit visit to Rouge Park, I did a quick lesson on Garlic Mustard which is an invasive plant here in Michigan. It came to our region by way of Europe as a culinary herb that tastes very much like it sounds. Spicy and garlicky. It is edible, but it has never really caught on as a crop. Instead it finds its way in to parks and green spaces and goes crazy. I have been experimenting with different invasive plants to determine which ones would make viable fibers for paper making. Generally, once removed from a site, these plants get thrown away or incinerated. As an artist I am interested in reframing these invasive by-products. Is there a way in which we can safely use them to make viable products, projects and learning opportunities? And what is our relationship, as artists, to the materials that we use to create works? How can we stretch and challenge what and how we use materials?
Along with the help of some fabulous and diligent Detroit Picnic-ers we were able to remove over 8 pounds of the plant. I am happy to report that after going back to the site where we removed the plants, they have remained at bay.
In order to begin the papermaking process, I throughly cleaned and rinsed the plants to remove dirt, sticks, and anything that might damage the Hollander Beater (an essential papermaking tool).
I then cooked the plant fibers until the cellulose began to break down over the fire.
The cooked fibers get transferred to the Hollander Beater where they get macerated and the cellulose breaks apart completely – allowing for the papermaking process to form new cellulose connections.
* The Hollander Beater pictured here is not my own. And the fiber is NOT garlic mustard. My pictures did not turn out but I wanted to make sure folks got the idea.
Once pulp has formed, it is transferred into a bin and sheet forming begins.
Once sheets are formed, they are stacked and then pressed to remove excess water and compress the fibers together. The sheets are transferred to blotters and into a “dry box” which forces air through them in order to dry faster.
Below are the finished sheets! The first set was finished in the dry box, giving them a smoother finish.
The second set was air-dried and they are much more wrinkled and varied.
Thanks to all who came out to learn, to forage, to explore and to help remove Garlic Mustard.
For those interested in hearing more about the project contact Megan Heeres via her website: http://meganheeres.com/contact.html