More Paste Papers

January and February have passed with me learning about paste papers. I am really quite interested in the varied applications of this genre – historical, contemporary, practical and just plain fun to do! I came upon paste papers as a medium because I have temporarily had to give up the exacting work of cutting and folding papers for bookarts. I was looking for a way to work on my art while suffering severe bursitis (threat of frozen shoulder) with muscle impingement in my Sword, Pen, Needle and Brush etc. arm…only a range of motion of about 12″ across my work bench and no cutting of paper…oy.  So welcome paste papers. (I think it might become an addiction, dear Reader…you should see my stash…)

I reported last month on various experimental papers I  made using corn starch paste and methyl cellulose paste as paint carriers. This month I was also into wheat starch paste, the traditional paste used by bookbinders of old, found also in the nineteenth century decorative paper art of the Moravian sisters whose designs are admired and prized still.

A quick post today so as not to let February pass without a post from me. The physiotherapist tells me to take it easy on the computer and to modify my studio practice until my arm gets a lot better. So less chat this time, more pics. Here we go.

I am trying to use the Moravian sisters’ traditional palette of Prussian blue, carmine red, yellow ochre and olive green. (I have to say it is not easy to find paint makers of modern acrylics today who carry paints thus named. So we have to figure out the chemicals. Next time, I hope I can report my use of home-mixed, raw pigments to get these colours). Within my limits, I am practicing the use of various tools like combs and calligraphy steel brush pens – not to mention Q tips and pastry brushes…(I am fortunate that I am not tempted by the neighbour’s surly cat)



The last image shows some renegade design of my own – actually, a fish pattern adapted from that used by Pisanky makers to decorate their Resurrection-theme eggs at Easter. I carved a lino block or two with the pattern. The lattice designs above are versions of the patterns typical of the Hernnhutter (Moravian sisters) designs, as the “pulled paper”and stippled designs. Will report the how-to’s when I can type more.

And some non-traditional designs in a series I have entitled “Northern Lights” – lots of colour,  and sloshing about of paint and swooping around with combs etc ( no kitty tails, though, honest):

That orange accordion (L) is Stage One of an artist book I made with orange paste paint and a wood grain tool to imitate the fur of my daughter’s orange kitty whom I LOVE… will show you the finished book next time. It opens on the other side of the zig zig to blank pages. The working title of the book is ” Everything I Know About How Cats Think” .

Hasta la vista, everyone. Wanted you to know what I was thinking while waiting for the garden to come back…and to say welcome and thank you to all the new readers for your interest!






17 thoughts on “More Paste Papers

    1. Lorraine,
      In days of yore, bookbinders might have used up their leftover wheat paste glue by mixing in some artist-grade paints and using that to decorate endpapers and book covers. Their tools were whatever lay at hand in the studio – including their fingers. Designs were free and fast. Ladies of the Moravian church in Germany adopted this paper decoration technique and excelled at the design and use of colour, producing a distinctive style. Paste paper art is sometimes referred to as “everybody’s art” because it so accessible a genre – kids love it! It is a subtractive method: you paste on the colour and then selectively scrape it off, leaving arty marks with various implements on the paper surface. Hope you are enticed to try it!

  1. Mary, I love your posts. I am an artist and a naturalist as well. Although your naturalist knowledge far exceeds what I know about plants. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy the art posts (of course I enjoy the naturalist posts) and your writing is perfect. I don’t write much because I trip over myself showing stages of the process before my art is finished or successful. I really just wanted to say, Well done and Way to Go. You are amazing. And I am awfully sorry to read about your injury. Congrats, Tina

    Tina Thieme Brown Morningstar Studio 301 651 1188


    1. Thank you, Tina. Your art is very beautiful – I love those botanical drawings and paintings. I think your writing and content captures your love of nature and art in a most engaging, honest, love-of-life, down-to-earth way. How else could it be for one like yourself who looks so carefully and respectfully at the beauty that grows and lives all around us and would go unremarked if not for the perseverance of an artist? There will always be something for your reader to look forward to in your posts – suprise gifts in the mail are way more fun than regular deliveries. After all, a blog is a journal, not a daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly publication. Please keep writing and making art! It is a daily prayer

  2. These are beautiful Wendy! I remember doing some paste papers as the very first exercise in mark making when I started doing textile classes many years ago – but I never got results as good as yours! We used all sorts of implements as well, from forks and sticks to brushes (no cats!) and cloth. Also folded and unfolded paper.

    So glad that you are managing to find an outlet for your creativity despite your injury – wishing you a swift recovery!

  3. Thank you, Kim! Gonna try more adventurous tools like sticks and forks as you have done. My first attempts at paste paper were when I first began using natural dyes as colour sources…I will dig them out and look at my notes and report -though I maybe did report at the time – I forget! I do remember that the cochineal was a bust and that logwood was spectacular. For patterning I used carved African blocks – so my whole effort was pretty ” alternative” …now I am trying to be a wee bot more geared to historical. It is such fun.

  4. Sorry about the RSI! Hope it heals quickly. Meanwhile I’m glad you discovered paste paper. It’s finger painting for artists! So quick and easy. When I was experimented with this technique a number of years ago I found carved wooden blocks work better than rubber stamps. It was a great use for all the small Indian cloth printing blocks I had collected. I also bought cheap combs and broke off teeth to make different patterns. Decorative paint scrapers are also good. Have fun!

    1. Hi Lu! I am still doing my blog! I am in the process of renewing the whole site..was held up by an expensive clean up when some hackers got to it…but hope to be back soon. THANK YOU for checking up on me!

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