Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Artist, Brewer, Hops and Paper?

Photo: Thomasette Scheeler, OSB
Every now and then I come up with goofy ideas. This one was born while reading an article on hops in one of my brewing magazines. Perhaps I should mention that I am a home brewer: a fanatic my wife would say. Anyway, in the feature the hop farmer bemoaned that extra hops not sold to brewers are of no value. Hmmm...what a waste...Thus, I began considering products that the extra hops could be used for, and, hello, why not paper.

Sister Thomasette Scheeler and I became friends over many morning coffees and conversations at the Local Blend in St. Joseph. Knowing that S. Thomasette was a papermaking artist, she became my go to source to pursue the possibility of hops as an ingredient for making paper. Which, of course, led to our experiment.

I provided a one ounce bag of whole Nugget hops harvested from neighbor Katie Ballentine's vines in September. Thomasette agreed to start the process by preparing the pulp using the hops, water and recycled white paper. We agreed on a day to meet at her studio to conduct our experiment.

Being the kind and great teacher that she is, S. Thomasette taught me and guided me through the artistic process of making paper. We combined the hops, paper, and water into a blender and mixed until we had pulp. We filled the vat with warm water and added the pulp. Using the mold, screen and deckle, we scooped to capture the pulp in one continuous motion and then raised the mold to allow excess pulp and water to drain. Remove the deckle, turn the mold upside down on the felt, and, there it was, wallah: hop paper - pale green background, specks of gold and various shades of green! Beautiful, amazing, and obviously, possible. After pressing and drying, we had made close to 50 sheets of 5 1/2" X 8 1/2" sheets of paper

 It was a wonderful thing: the artist and the brewer coming together to realize an idea - make tactile a thought. Mission accomplished. And, best of all? The process, of course: we had a wonderful time.

John Ludwig

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