Tom Bennick describes what went into the creation of several original art works for a show at The Modern Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Each year the hotel hosts Modern Art, an event for over 70 artists who transform the rooms and outdoor spaces of the hotel into installations, galleries and performance spaces. Thanks, Tom!
Last week I was demonstrating, in the shower in a motel room, making vessels from papercrete. Many thought I was making papier-mâché. I explained that the difference in what I was doing and papier-mâché's is that I use no glue or binder and tiny sheets of paper were made rather than strips of paper pulled through paste.
I discovered papercrete while making prototypes for boxes. The boxes needed to be durable and so just paper would not do. I investigated the process of using papercrete as a building material but I didn't like the use of cement. After quite a few trials and errors I came up with the material that seemed to work. I beat cotton rag and abaca (50%) of each in a David Reina beater for about two hours. This beating gives the fiber the shrinking properties. I use play sand that I have strained so I have a pretty fine sand. The amount used in the mixture is by feel. If the pulp feels gritty it is probably about the right amount. The papercrete can be cast or formed into different shapes and sizes. The drying time depends upon the humidity, temp. thickness. etc. Some of the vessels I have made I placed on a grill on my wood burning stove and they dry in about eight hours. I would not recommend using recycled paper. I tried that and after drying the result was a very soft and not very strong. The papercrete is like concrete when dry. It is very light and very strong.
The one piece with the white strips with the wood at the top and bottom are made from papercrete. I made fairly large sheets of paper then lightly pressed them. The next step was to fold them into the strips. For the middle of the piece I use plain rolled paper stained with black walnut. The other piece was poured into a mold and deckle. The piece has two layers of papercrete. The first is a darker color and the top one is white. I placed circles to block out some of the white so the darker layer could be seen. The seed pods - I don't know what; they are just something I picked up. For the hanging part I used strips of kozo.