Friday, June 25, 2010

Impromptu Henna Party

Yesterday when I arrived at the artisana the girls where preparing a bunch of henna. I asked what the occasion was, but Fatima simply told me that the girls just felt like doing it. That's one thing that I enjoy about my job here...I never really know what's going to happen on any given day.

I managed to take just a few pictures and do a little crochet before it was my turn. After I got hennaed I was totally useless of course and just sat there and chatted for the next two hours. Fatima took this picture of me right after Ayisha finished drawing it on my skin. She's a really great henna artist! I love all the delicate line weight that she was able to achieve!

When I got home I dabbed the dried henna with some olive oil before peeling it off. The girls told me to just use vegetable oil (probably because it's cheaper), but I opted for the good stuff. I think the oil is supposed to help the henna "set," but it also just feels nice on the skin because the dried henna doesn't feel that great. when the henna first comes off it's bright yellow, then darkens up over the next several hours. By today it was a nice brown color.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Making in Morocco; Refections

A few months ago I subscribed to a podcast called CraftSanity, by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood. It's an interview show about "art, craft and creativity" and is produced by Jennifer "in the hope that it will help us all live long and crafty lives." It's a great podcast with an accompanying blog which features interesting tutorials and stories about Jennifer's crafty life and the crafty lives of the people she interviews. It has been a tremendous asset to me since I've been here in Morocco. Whenever I find myself working out a new product design at home I almost always have the iPod on listening to a podcast, and hers is by far my favorite because it's so inspirational to listen to other artists' stories while I'm trying to create something.

Jennifer's been pod casting for about four and a half years now, so I have a lot of pod casts to catch up on (which is awesome because I don't have to wait a week or two for her to publish a new one). I've been making my way backwards and the other day I listened to episode #59 with Anne Landre about her Mother's Day Project.

As Jennifer states at the begging of the interview, this podcast is heavier than her usual interviews. The purpose of the Mother's Day Project "is to draw attention to the human cost of the Iraq War."

About half way through the podcast Jennifer said something that struck me personally and made me reflect on my work here in a way that I haven't really done before. She said, "I wish we could figure out a better way to solve issues...if we got a lot of women together and chatted and sat around and just made things maybe we could solve some issues sounds so trivial and ridicules but I'd rather see something like that then blowing things up."

In a lot of ways, I guess you can say that is what I do here. Morocco is a peaceful country. It is also a Muslim country. There have been a few instances where I felt that people I know in the States were apprehensive about the fact that I'm spending over two years of my life in a Muslim country. In a way I understand their apprehensions because they only have TV as a reference. I don't think that the American media does a good enough job in distinguishing between people who are doing bad things (like killing other people and themselves) and people who aren't. The media makes a lot of Americans think that the Muslim Religion is what's to blame by saying things like "the Muslim terrorist" or The Muslim extremist." The word "Muslim" is thrown around a lot, while the important words terrorist and extremist become secondary, to the point where Americans just associate those words with the Muslim Religion.

I have lived in Morocco for nearly two years at this point and can say with confidence that Moroccans don't hate Americans. They are warm, welcoming and patient people.

Jennifer's comment struck me because on a daily basis I am literally sitting in a circle of young women making things, listening, and talking. I believe that this has been the real reason to any success that I have had here. Verbal language has never been my strongest asset. Though my language has gotten to the point where I am comfortable in most situations, my best form of communication has been with my hands. Yes, I do provide technical training, like showing Fatima new crochet techniques and how to write her own patterns, or teaching Omima (below) how to master the chain stitch, but this is not what is really important.

What is important is that the women and I learn to put faces to the words "American" and "Muslim." We are all just people and we are good people. The girls are happy that I'm here and don't want me to go, which to me is the highest complement they could ever pay me.

Before coming to Morocco I didn't know what to expect. I knew that Peace Corps doesn't place volunteers in places that are dangerous. Of course, when you're so far away for such a long time your friends and family will always worry about you. I know this has been the case for me. I just hope that the work I've done to write about my experience here, both on my blog and in e-mails, has done a good job in showing the people who care about me back home that this is a place with good people.

Every volunteer wants to make some kind of a difference and fulfill one if not all three of the goals of Peace Corps (see side panel of this blog and read the "three goals of Peace Corps) and I am no different.

note: The pictures featured in this post where taken this past Friday.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Paper Making Tutorial Part 5

At last, the moment you've all been waiting for, the last installment of my paper making tutorial!

In this post I will;

-teach you how to dry your paper

Once you've made all the paper you want for the day you will have a big stack of blankets, pressing cloths (bed sheets), and your newly formed paper, all of which will be soaking wet. Now you will use the board that all of this is stacked on to carry everything to where you want to dry your paper. Careful, it will be quite heavy and water will get all over you.

Like I mentioned in part 2 of this tutorial, you will need a very flat, smooth, and clean surface to dry your paper. You will also need a lot of space. I use my very smooth concrete floors. If you don't have floors like these, you could buy very large, thin boards from your carpenter and lacquer them well, but this will add quite a bit of extra cost to your venture.

Once you are in the space where you want to dry your paper, you will start deconstructing your stack of blankets and pressing cloths. Take each blanket and lay it flat on the floor to dry. Alternatively you could use a clothes line to dry your blankets, but since they will be very wet and heavy this isn't as good of an option. You don't want the clothes line to leave a crease in your blankets (this will effect future paper that you make) and you don't want to hang them by the very edge because these blankets fray very easily. So laying them flat is best.

Two sheets of newly formed paper will be sandwiched between two pressing cloths. Carefully lift the pressing cloths and lie them flat on the floor to dry. Make sure your paper is completely smooth. Smooth out the edges of the pressing cloths, trying to make them "stick" to the floor with there own moisture. This will help the paper dry flat.

That's it! your paper should be dry in 24-48 hours, depending on humidity. Your paper may still have buckled slightly while drying. You can remedy this by using an iron on them or just stacking them up, placing your board on top and weighting it down until you are ready to use the paper. Check out my post A Paper Making Tale... from earlier this month to read about the meandering journey me and the cooperative have gone through to get to the point we are now with this project and includes photos of what the women have made with the paper. Below is a painted and embroidered piece that I created for the Art4Peace show at Cafe Clock in Fes in December 2009. For the show, volunteers created and donated artwork. The proceeds later went to help fund the Marche Maroc Craft fair in Rabat this past May.

I hope that this tutorial has been helpful for you. If you use this tutorial I'd love to hear what your experience was so leave me a comment!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Paper Making Tutorial Part 4

In this post I will;
-Teach you how to make paper with step-by-step instructions!


Here we go!

Before you begin, you will need to prepare the surface where you will transfer your paper sheets. Take your wood board and place it on a flat surface near your tub. Place two or three blankets on top of the board to make a cushiony surface, then place a pressing cloth (bed sheet) on top of those. Line up all edges and smooth out any wrinkles. Your board, blankets, and pressing cloth should all be the same size.

Step 1:

Fill a large tub with water. Their should be enough water to comfortably submerge the mold and deckle. Note the amount of water that you use by measuring the water level with your ruler. The water to pulp ratio that you use will effect the thickness and quality of the paper. This you will have to experiment with to get the paper thickness that you want.

Step 2:
Add the pulp, making note of how much you use.

Step 3:
Gently mix the pulp in the water so that pulp is evenly distributed in water and not accumulated on the bottom of tub.

Step 4:
Hold the deckle firmly to the mold with both hands at a 90 degree angle to the water. Make sure that your thumbs are placed on the deckle and do not overlap onto the screen.

Step 5:
Bring the mold and deckle into the water at a 90 degree angle and in one smooth motion, swivel the mold and deckle so that they are parallel to tubs' bottom and completely submerged, then raise the mold and deckle out of the water, keeping them perfectly horizontal.

If you bring the mold and deckle out of the water and they are not parallel to the water your paper will be uneven. Also, the mold will create a little bit of suction right as you are bringing it out of the water, causing some resistance. Don't hesitate when this happens, just bring the mold and deckle straight up.

Step 6:
Hold the mold and deckle over the tub in the horizontal position while the pulp settles on the screen and most of the water drips out the bottom.

Step 7:
Set down the mold and deckle on a flat surface and carefully remove the deckle. Try not to let water drip onto your newly formed paper as this will leave irregular spots in the paper.

Step 8:
Hold the mold at a 90 degree angle to your pressing cloth and carefully roll the mold onto the cloth until it is resting face down on the bed sheet (this is called "couching").

Step 9:
Press on the back of the molds' screen firmly and evenly, making sure to make contact with the entire surface including corners. This will help the paper stick to the cloth and separate from the screen. The paper will still have LOTS of water in it which will seep out and get everything wet, this is normal.

Step 10:
Slowly and carefully roll off the mold, leaving the new paper on the cloth. If only some of the paper stayed on the cloth and the rest is still on the screen, don't fret! This pulp can be put back into the tub to be re-used. Couching paper is tricky and will take a few tries to get the hang of.

Step 11:
Before pulling your next sheet of paper, you will need to add more pulp. I add about 1-2 cups of pulp after each sheet, but it will depend on the size of your cup and how thick you want your sheets.

Step 12:

Check screen to see if there is any paper pulp stuck in it. I usually throughly rinse my screen after every second sheet that I pull.

Step 13:

Repeat steps 3-10 until you have 2 sheets of paper on your pressing cloth.

Step 14:
Place a new pressing cloth (bed sheet) on top of your two new paper sheets and carefully smooth out wrinkles in the pressing cloth. Then place a blanket on top of that, and another pressing cloth on top of the blanket. Always make sure that the blankets and pressing cloths are lined up along the edges and free of wrinkles.

Repeat steps 3-14 until you have as many sheets of paper you want, or have run out of pulp, or have run out of pressing cloths and blankets. I have enough pressing cloths to make 24 sheets of paper at one time. This usually takes about 1 and a half to two hours or so which is a good amount of time for me. Keep in mind that there is a lot of bending over involved so if you are prone to back pain you will want to make less amounts of paper at a time. Take frequent breaks to stretch.

Now you know how to form sheets of paper! There's just one more installment to this tutorial where I will tell you how to dry your paper.

Paper Making Tutorial Part 3

In this post I will
-teach you how to make paper pulp out of your raw materials

Here we go!

Making paper pulp
Now that you have your raw materials gathered you will need to transform them into pulp. For this tutorial I will be speaking specifically about toilet paper rolls, egg cartons and Laughing Cow cheese boxes. The method for all of these is about the same, with a small exception for the cheese boxes.

First, partially fill two buckets with water. Use one of the buckets for soaking the raw materials. After the materials are throughly saturated with water you will then tear them into smaller pieces. Put the torn pieces (torn into about 1 inch squares) into the other bucket. Keep doing this until all your materials have been torn. For the Laughing cow boxes, make sure that you remove the glossy coating with the words. This will be very easy to do once it has soaked for a couple of minutes.

Now the fun part! Take a handful of the torn pieces and place them in your blender. Not too much! Fill the blender with water. You should have about 1 part paper and 2 parts water. Blend for a few seconds. Pour the pulp into a separate bucket. Repeat a few more times. If you have a lot of pulp to make, try to just blend 3 or 4 blenders full at a time, letting your blender motor rest inbetween to extend its' life.

CAUTION: if at any time you start to smell burning rubber or see smoke coming out of the blender, stop blending immediately and unplug from the wall! This should not happen if you are using a quality blender.

Now you have your pulp! Store in buckets until you are ready to make your paper. try to make your pulp no more than a week before you use it, as it will develop a sour smell if you leave it sitting for long periods of time. This does not mean that your pulp has gone bad, though it can be unpleasant to work with.

Come back soon and I'll show you how to turn this slurry of mush into beautiful handmade paper!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Paper Making Tutorial Part 2

In this post I will:
-Tell you what conditions are necessary for making paper
-List supplies needed for making paper
-Suggest raw materials suitable for making paper which are easily found in Morocco

Time and Infrastructure
Depending on where you live, making paper year round may not be possible or at least, practical. Where I am living now, winters are very cold and we have a lot of rain. This is not conducive to paper making for two reasons. First, submerging your hands into cold water repeatedly for long periods of time is very painful and second, the paper will take much much longer to dry when there is a lot of moisture in the air. So please take this into consideration when you are planing out your project.

You will also need access to a lot of water. This will be more difficult for volunteers who do not have constant access to water like in places where you must carry water long distances or if water is available only at certain times of the day. It is best if the location where you are working is close to a water source. Also keep in mind that where you are working will become quite wet on the ground/floor, so you'll want to either work outside or in a place that can be easily moped/squeegeed. In my case I've been using my roof for now but plan to move the operation to the cooperatives' workspace so that the project will be sustainable.

Finally, you will need a large, flat, clean, and very smooth surface for drying the paper. For now I've been using an empty room in our ridiculously large house. The floors are very smooth, finished concrete with no creases. Fortunately, the workspace in the cooperative has the same flooring and an untraveled area in the corner.

Supplies needed

-mold and deckle (see my last post on how to construct these)
-One board measuring 62cm x 40cm x 1.5cm This you can have made from a local carpenter. It will need at least three coats of lacquer to protect it from warping.
-Blankets cut to 62cm x 40cm. One gray blanket yielded me 18 cut blankets
-Bed sheets cut to 62cm x 40cm. Two full size bed sheets yielded me 16 cut sheets
-One large wash tub big enough for mold and deckle to lie flat inside. Mine measures 61cm at the top, but buy this after making the mold and deckle to makes sure that yours fits.
-Several buckets to store paper pulp
-Blender. You may want to buy a blender just for paper making, as the paper will dull the blades. Make sure that it is of good quality however, as a cheep blender will break quickly and therefore will not save you money in the long run.
-small plastic cup or scoop

-Raw materials for making paper pulp

The following are items that I have found make very nice, cardstock-like paper and can be found easily here in Morocco.

-toilet paper rolls
-egg cartons
-Laughing Cow cheese boxes
-other cardboard packaging items

The egg cartons and cheese boxes can be acquired from any hanute for free. I've read that used photocopy paper can also be used, but have not personally tried it, as I do not have a lot of it lying around.

The following are items NOT to use when making paper

-magazines or anything glossy

That's all for today folks! The paper making tutorial will continue soon!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Paper Making Tutorial Part 1

In this post I will:
-give a brief overview of who may and may not benefit from this tutorial
-give specific instructions and dimensions for constructing your own mold and deckle

Since starting to make paper here in Morocco almost one year ago, I've had many requests to teach fellow volunteers as well as host country nationals, and take my paper making operation on the road. This is a great medium for working with handicraft cooperatives, as well as children as part of an art/environment project. For this reason, this project has great potential for at least three of the four volunteer sectors in Morocco (small business development, environment, and youth development).

Unfortunately, beyond the Training Of Trainers (TOT) workshop I held in my home in September, 2009, and the recent TOT workshop for Fatima and Hafida, I haven't been able to do any trainings outside of my site due to a number of circumstances. Mostly the problem seems to be due to the amount of materials needed. I am more than happy to bring my mold and deckle around to other sites to share this activity, but it's just impractical to travel with all the other necessary equipment. Most volunteers underestimate the amount of work that goes into getting everything prepared to make handmade paper. This shouldn't be a project that a volunteer does on a whim or as a one time only event because of the amount of time and money investment that will need to go into it. Because the initial investment is kinda high, the longer the project continues the more worth while the investment becomes.

That said, I do not want to discourage volunteers or crafters seriously interested in paper making from pursuing this activity if it fits into a larger project that they are doing. That is in fact why I wanted to post this tutorial. I want it be replicated by others. I want people to realize that this can be a very viable project if you and your counterparts are motivated.

I don't want to overwhelm you with too much information, and will therefore split it up into separate posts.

Constructing the mold frame

Below is a diagram to illustrate how to construct the mold. It's made with four pieces of wood.

-cut two pieces of wood to 36cm x 5cm x 2cm
-cut two pieces of wood to 24cm x 5cm x 2cm
-assemble as shown in diagram below using wood screws and glue to secure the pieces instead of nails

Constructing the deckle frame

Below is a diagram to illustrate how to construct the deckle. It's made in two sections, each containing four pieces of wood which are then assembled together to make one structure of eight pieces of wood. The first structure is assembled the same way as the mold.

-cut two pieces of wood to 28cm x 3cm x 1cm
-cut two pieces of wood to 38.25 cm x 3cm x 1cm
-assemble these four pieces as shown in top of diagram below using wood screws and glue to secure the pieces instead of nails (same construction as mold)
-cut two pieces of wood to 32 cm x 1cm x 3cm
-cut two pieces of wood to 30.25 cm x 1cm x 3cm
-assemble these four pieces as shown in the middle portion of the diagram below using glue
-assemble the top section to the bottom section as seen in the bottom portion of the diagram using glue and screws or nails
*the diagram shows the deckle constructed upside down.

Lacquer the mold and deckle
Now that you have you mold and deckle constructed you must protect it with at least 3 coats of lacquer so that water will not warp and damage it. Make sure that you let it dry thoroughly between each coat. This step can take several days.

Attach the screens
After the mold and deckle have a few coats of lacquer and they are thoroughly dry it's time to put the screen on the mold. I used two different types of screen. The firs was a metal screen with fairly large openings, the second was a plastic screen with smaller openings. Both are common here in Morocco and can be found in any hardware store. I bought a staple gun to attach both screens to the mold. I started with the metal screen and then placed the plastic one on top. The metal screen only covers the top of the mold, where as the plastic one comes down on the sides. You don't want the screen to be too bulky on the sides of the mold or the deckle will not fit properly. However, a little space has been allotted for the screen in the dimensions and thus will make a nice snug fit.

Now you have a mold and deckle! You've just completed the first step to making paper! If any part of my directions are confusing to you, please let me know in the comments section. Or, if you use my tutorial to make a mold and deckle let me know! That's all for today, but don't despair, this tutorial will continue soon...

Friday, June 11, 2010

T-shirt Order Complete

It's been a big week for t-shirt embroidering! Unfortunately, Heather from Mushmina was unable to make the trip up here to see us before she goes back to the U.S. in a couple of days (it is quite a trip, with the long, winding road, and she has been super busy since she came to Morocco, so I can't say I blame her), so she asked the ladies to send them by mail by Friday (yesterday).

By Thursday the girls still had quite a bit of work to do so they worked overtime to get the order completed. Here are some pictures from Thursday of the girls working on the last of the shirts.

As you can see from the picture of Fatima and Hannan (above) and Omima (below) they've been working two girls to a shirt at a time so that they could get the shirts done more efficiently (Hafida later joined Omima to work on the other hoop).

Mirrium (below) is very shy and I had a hard time getting her to stay still and stop giggling to take this picture.

The ladies have a lot of fun while they work and carry on long and lively conversations, but on this day they were mostly business.

And finally, below are a couple more photos of the finished t-shirts. To see more T-shirt photos and to learn more about the background of this project, check out my previous post Embroidered t-shirts and new banner photo.