My only encounter with making paper was in a long ago class in which we shredded toilet paper, blended it and transformed it into, well, paper that looked like it had been made out of toilet paper. I never could figure out what the big deal was about doing this papermaking stuff. Well, I found out this week!

Papermaker and bookmaker friend Val Bembenek and I launched the first in a series of workshops earlier this week. Val led the first workshop. It proved to be a day of fun and learning for all of us.

Papermaking Workshop with Val Bembenek at Barbara Kemp Cowlin's Studio in Oracle AZ

Having fun making our first sheets of paper

The process of presenting a workshop starts well before the actual class. In the case of paper making, a huge amount of behind the scenes work happens. Val collects all kinds of native fibers, leaves and flowers which are used in the workshop. So collecting materials is part of it. Paper pulps are made during the weeks before the class. The process varies depending upon the pulp being used, but somewhere in there is cutting, tearing, boiling for hours and then smushing the materials in a blender. Quite involved and time consuming to say the least.

Val arrived on Monday (the day before the workshop) with a truck load of buckets and basins and bins full of stuff. My studio was transformed into a paper making space.

Papermaking Workshop Studio View, Barbara Kemp Cowlin, Oracle AZ

A view of my studio, full of papermaking supplies being put to use

On Tuesday morning, Val magically finished organizing a mind boggling bunch of stuff into order. When the attendees arrived, she was ready. Val is a master at teaching this class. She put us through the paces and we had a great time learning and doing. She made it all seem effortless and fun.

The time passed so quickly. I made new friends. I learned a ton. All of us finished with at least a dozen sheets of beautiful paper, all unique, all different. It was a wonderful day.

Papermaking Workshop Val and Barbara making paper together

The master (Val) on the left, teaching one of her students (me) on the right how to "kiss off" a boo-boo

Now I need to get real creative with these beautiful papers.

For more information on Val Bembenek, papermaker and bookmaker extraordinaire, just click on her name, and you’ll arrive at her website.

We have more workshops scheduled. To see what’s coming up and to sign up, just scroll up and click on the blue workshop button .