Chine Colle: making to make do
I read about Chine Colle paper online, but still didn’t know what it looked like, but had the impression of something handmade and precious, something nurtured by several generations of Japanese using the same mulberry trees. The “terroir” philosophy applied to paper.
The one video I found online (Youtube as teaching tool.. hmmm… no option it seems, but not happy about it..) suggested that Chine Colle paper was much more firm to handle than tissue paper, which I was finding curled into a soggy ringlet once it was glued.
I had found a fancy paper in a shop- I can’t say what it is as the writing is all in Chinese- but it was fibrous, with lots of large bits caught in it- some even looking almost insect-like! It was a natural colour, uneven, and quite transparent. Here it is:
I thought I would try to dye it different colours using inks, and perhaps create something akin to Chine colle paper. (I might be totally wide of the mark, never having handled the stuff!)
Here are some pictures of the process which I modified as I progressed, from making a saturated sheet of pure colour (difficult to handle once it stuck to itself) to lifting ink off a glass plate, leaving the edges bare for handling, and also incidentally creating colour variations and texture.
For my first attempt, I thought I’d be careful, and attempt to colour in again… (“Don’t go over the lines!”) And took care to put the colours in the right order, starting with the darks- the dark red, green, peat brown and vermillion, and ending with the yellow. The shadows were to be in angular shapes, to contrast with the rounded fruit, but the yellow would be rounded and reasonably exact. I knew I had to glue each layer carefully- my previous trial had seen bits peeling off.
The results were dire. The colours ran into one another once they were glued, of course, being water-based inks, and the multiple layers were muddy and indistinct. The inks had not printed clearly because of the amount of glue creating a resist. The pear, only two layers, worked best. The glue made colours change, but that’s not a problem necessarily. But the tissue paper I’d added to the front worked best of all, as it was more transparent.
Next, to avoid the multiple gluing problem and to replicate what I thought was the reasonable success of the more abstract colouring, I tried just tearing rough shapes to suggest colour as distinct from form and line. The dyed sheets were very brittle though, and would only tear on one direction. The colours are unsubtle. I ended up making something that looks like a sample colour card for the inks.
Next I tried to combine the tissue and handmade paper, using fewer layers, while trying to use drier glue. It was reasonably accurately cut (the technique for cutting the paper shapes was to place a tracing of the print, reverse side up, under a sheet of plexiglass and cut shapes to fit that.)
This definitely worked better. Still problems with glue lifting off, and the rough texture of the handmade paper makes some parts too lumpy to stick. But I think the rough nature of it suits the finish of the woodcut. The angular shapes match better than well rounded ones. I reckoned I could touch up the glue afterwards.
Still not entirely happy with it, but it was progress.
Meanwhile, with the tracing still under the plexiglass, I tried painting on some pools of ink directly to the glass, then printed onto a black and white print, for a monoprint version. Hard to control where the liquid will end up. I could just paint onto the print with inks of course, but I’ve got addicted to the accidental side of printmaking!