'Cinque Tooth™ Pastel and Charcoal Master Handmade Paper
'Cinque Tooth is Papel Texano's specialty "finish" that imitates the "tooth" surface of Renaissance paper.
These deep grooves of Cinquecento paper are ideal for charcoal, chalk and sanguine artists.
They even invented pastels at that time, as the perfect medium to take full advantage of this distinctive surface!
After the machines took over, by the late 1800s this kind of paper seemed lost for good and soon forgotten, after over 500 years of being the "normal" surface of paper.
Made by hand with 21st century methods in Austin, Texas, this very classic surface on handmade paper is again available to artists and everyone!
"Wove" 'Cinque is already available, get a $1 sample from my Etsy store, or even already buy some 15x19.5
- why so much tooth in Renaissance papers?
- Then ancient tooth went away
- Then ancient tooth came back
- And, my story
- So, why so much of a fuss?
- You mean, Yama's curly-hair paper surface is not a real deal medieval veal meal?
- what is that mesh thing exactly?
Felt impressions are the marks left in the surface of the sheet when the newly formed wet sheet is transferred from the papermaking mould to the woven woolen blanket, called a felt, caused by the fibres used to make the felt. These vary from area to area, country to country and over time.a 2013 Vivante interview with paper historians Peter Bower and Neil Harris, live link, archived
Papermaking felts were made out of thick, coarse sheep wool back then.
Since the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, up to our times, we have made a continuous effort to "improve" paper. Same with wool.
Coarse sheep went out, and well educated, finer in, easier to work with in automated machines, softer and cuddlier. I should know, we used to raise mixed-breed sheep when my family farmed in Uruguay and wished for Merino. There I became quite cognizant of the improved quality-assurance lab techniques and national wool marketing policies, besides the use of real hand shears. I already knew well the lower-grade artisanal wool sweaters that were so itchy while growing up in Bolivia.
Even when a modern papermaker can afford real woolen felts (I can't, my felts are cheapest Hobby Lobby polyester), or even real wool army blankets, you're probably out of luck in imitating ancient paper surfaces, modern wool is just "too good".
None of that for y'all back there in northern Italy in the 1400s.
Wool was coarse, thick, curly. Then, following Farnsworth, feltmakers serving the paper mill trade might have actually preferred to use the cheapest wool, from the outer coat, shanks and legs, kemp also, all of which is even coarser than the better grades of wool that then would go for clothing and blankets.
Of course the gulley-like indentations were bad news for those writing with a quill pen, because a quill and coarse paper surface don't play well together. Any kind of paper was still a luxury well into the 1800s. On top of that, most writing paper would be laboriously smoothed using a stone, glzed by hand, which made it even dearer. This polishing was not considered essential for most printing paper, or the lowest grade of a paper mill's product, wrapping paper.
On the other hand, because charcoal, sanguine, pastels require a lot of tooth in order to "grab" the paper, what was a bug to the tightwad marquis using cheaper paper yo write a love sonnet to a damsel, was instead a desired feature for the artistic lad, drawing a quick portrait of same damsel (the lad wins).
It is no surprise that Cinquecento masters were, well, "sanguine" about sanguine, chalk, and charcoal, then pastels... (damsel blushes)
On top of that, our struggling artists of the Renaissance and later could likely only afford the cheapest possible paper (this hasn't changed), thus drawing studies and sketches were almost always done on any piece of "wrapping" available.
Meaning, lots of curly tooth to be found among ancient art on paper...
Then ancient tooth went away
It turns out that the best clients for a papermaker are printers. Oh, certainly we do love artists, but most will only buy a few sheets at a time, some even offer to pay with one of their drawings... (last year I would have accepted that). Writers want it very fine, and very cheap.
I guess that fine illustrations and maps were to blame for what followed. They worked OK as long as they were coarser than the paper... But then, printers came up with the delicate, as they always will. On our end we had to figure out "better" paper, meaning ever, and ever, more smooth, even, uniform paper. Until we got to modern paper, so, so very perfect, that for some pastel work people have to use sandpaper to distress it first.
A loss to the artist. Who cares? Printers, we love printers, yay! Oh well.
Now, if you are still reading, maybe you are one of the very, very few that "gets it".
That the "right" feel of classic handmade paper not just needs some tooth, but the right kind of tooth.
And that, with much respect, bless their hearts, modern "cold press" and "hot press" is quite acceptable - for those who have no other choice.
For a while counterfeiters and some genuine artists were raiding the end pages of ancient book collections, but the good stuff eventually ran out, libraries started to make life difficult. Which is fine to most, as modern overhead gallery and museum lighting just "disappears" the paper texture anyway. "Tooth" is rather difficult to notice until you get very, very close, but who does that anyway? Then, what is the use of complaining about a problem that has no solution? While I will stand up and blame so-called "art professors" that don't support handmade paper as the right support for quality paper-based artwork, I cannot with any fairness guilt anyone about forgetting to teach and encourage Renaissance paper surface - essentially, nobody in the world could make that by the year 1900, just no more ancient-wool felts around. A clever "trick" for pastel on modern paper is to use coarse sandpaper to try to make some curly valleys. Interestingly, many people teaching that have no real idea why they do it, but at least they do feel somehow that something valuable is missing otherwise.
Then ancient tooth came back
Looking back across five centuries, we are finally able to grasp what is truly golden about this fleece, perceiving that -– as with many experimental missteps, accidents, and defects - the textural "flaws" produced by coarser fleece were used to great effect by the masters of the Renaissance. Like the veins in marble, the patina that stains bronze, or the curving grain in exposed wood, Mother Nature provides comfort, complexity, and harmony in what we consciously or unconsciously covet. Man’s desire to sterilize, bleach, and optically brighten our Apollonian hubris of gridded, imagined perfection, labeled by corporations using terms like hot press or cold press, natural, and mould-made (paper made on a cylinder machine) - in short, our foolish attempts to control nature - give way to the underlying, Dionysian truth of the world of nature.from A Quest for the Golden Fleece by Donald Farnsworth, 2017
Enter Donald Farnsworth, quite a dude in the artistic papermaking world. The master of Magnolia Paper, never really had much use for "nobody can" as an answer, and he knew that, for a good modern version of ancient paper to feel right, the curly coarse grooves had to return.
His is quite a story, that he tells in pleasant prose, and generous technical detail. A how-to together with a candid methodological and heart-felt metaphysical analysis of what's just so right about good handmade paper. One more teaser: I'll just mention that his quest even involved Italian high valley hospitality and Navajo medieval sheep as well as a pneumatic earth stamper. An introduction and fabulous pictures, and the real deal, A Quest for the Golden Fleece.
And, my story
In 1390, the Nuremberg patrician, councillor, and entrepreneur Ulman Stromer wrote in his family album: "I, Ulman Stromeir, was the first to start making paper." His mill just outside the city gate was, indeed, the first paper mill in Germany; before then, paper came primarily from Italy.Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300-1550, Metropolitan Museum of Art
My story is oh so more prosaic and a result of circumstances.
So, September 2017, I'm at University of Texas' Ransom Center peacefully minding my own business, relishing my second day of deep study of an actual, real 1493 "Chronicles of Nuremberg", for a few more minutes still not aware of the blindness I had suffered so far from what Prof. Neil Harris of Udine blames for a lot of the loss of curiosity in paper surface even among well educated paper historians, that is, overhead fluorescent light in reading rooms.
As I want to test the "flesh-to-flesh, hair-to-hair" (Gregory's law) hypothesis that Hunter mentions was also respected among incunable printers using paper for building the quires, I do manage to borrow a flashlight...
And, "hmm, what is that?" or some in-pectore similar reaction, when raking light makes it totally obvious that, this paper, probably among the very best paper available to Anton Koberger, the "toppest" printer in the world in the Year of the Lord of 1493, was anything but flat.
Evidently these are marks from the wool felts (we already established that I know wool. I know wool. Even if it's a 500-year-old impression left in passing). Hmm. Interesting... But problematic.
By the way, confirming Gregory's was hard. I should think it was followed somewhat but not religiously, as the watermarks show clearly that some sheets were printed "upside down", etc., so building quires "right" was not an obsession. The paper that Koberger purchased, apparently none from Stromer despite his mill being in the Liber Chronicarum's picture for the city or Nuremberg, was really excellent. It was so tightly pressed and dense that until I trained my eyes to the task it was very hard to notice the laid-lines or even the watermarks without a backlight. Distinguishing between "felt side" and "mould side" was even harder, often more of a guess than a certitude (apparently even experts have had that experience, see Die Produktion der Schedelschen Weltchronik in Nürnberg by Christoph Reske). Because Harris has indicated that pairs of moulds had their respective watermarks one on the left side and the other on the right, a watermark position wouldn't be of help to me (I have some doubt that such rule was much followed universally, but I tend to respect Harris' opinion a lot, so I will assume it was so). And anyway there seem to have been more than one supplier, as I counted at least three different watermarks (today I learned that Reske says six. Oh such fun, to think I could be hunting Pokemons instead...).
So, why so much of a fuss?
"Small" problem: huge. Huge. As a comparison, it took me months to complete just a letter-size mediaeval-laid mould, I tremble at wiring by hand one 19 by 26 inch mould (48x67 cm), much more if two of them. 576 pages, from 144 double-folio two-side printed sheets. A 300-copy edition would mean 3,300 Kg of beyond excellent medieval-era paper. 7,200 hours just for printing - as obviously something like this must be done with a top-press (Koberger had 24 presses...).
That curly-hair surface? just one more good excuse, to shelve the project sine-die. Yes, much satisfaction was had by yours truly when handling an authentic 1493 original of the "Chronicles" and realizing that the "feel", at least to the then uneducated, innocent hand and eye, was essentially identical to wove paper that I already was making, and printing by June 2016. Of course this was helped by the original's laid pattern being so well hidden by what appears intense press work.
But, with a large medieval-laid mould somewhat out of reach and already postponed, and now this, time to move on. By the way, not for love or money are medieval moulds available. Nobody makes them. NOBODY. The one I made, even though small and with errors - wires should be thicker, dixit Harris - seems to be the only one in commercial use in AD 2018, anywhere.
I did toy briefly with a trip to Nepal to get felt made with yak hair. Curly, definitely thick, and Nepali people still know how to make awesome felt without weave, an art also mostly gone from more modern societies. I even had the groomer save some of the hair of our curly, ewok-like 'chapi dog, as of course I felt able to make some felt by myself, knowing full well I wouldn't (so why did I keep that bag?). I even discovered that the headquarters of perhaps the world's largest amateur felting store happens to be close to Austin.
Back to that September 2017, I also happened to visit a colleague in a "nearby" town in Texas (that means a 3-4 hour drive), he gave me a sample of an interesting material he had been working with for his "su" experiments. A synthetic mesh, looked like stiffer Pellon, apparently some matted fiberglass? I put it aside for a while.
In early November I tried it out, just because, and not meaning any harm, as possibly an improved intermediate couching surface in a complete redesign of the YamaVac? Worked quite well there(see the "Tools" section in this website). Then, when I saw the resulting paper, "hmm, what is that?" or some in-pectore similar reaction followed.
You mean, Yama's curly-hair paper surface is not a real deal medieval veal meal?
21st century materials and methods, to achieve medieval quality without getting entangled with pesky child-labor laws.
I find that all this coming together in such a way is some kind of sweet justice and a fair metaphor to a lot of what I have been doing so far.
Three ways there are, to "medieval paper" in AD 2017 achieve, my dear paduwan: One, least likely, repeal environmental, hygiene, labor laws, to be able to dump contaminated water on a stream, collect filthy rags (and where are you going to find worn-out linen and hemp clothing anyway? a museum warehouse?), get some small people in servitude that will be grateful for 12 sous for a 16-hour workday (a 1st year apprentice in as late as 1938, probably 13 years old, was paid today's equivalent of $7.58 USD per week in Britain, maybe only 8 hours per day by then), build a stout'oak stamper, and get going; Two, pretend some of the above, at horrid expense, totally as a subsidized performance act, probably just once; Three, realize that everyone but me uses a motorized Hollander anyway (even Farnsworth mentions a pneumatic compactor for his "stamper". I use a garbage disposal), so being 100% pure handmade is gone - so much more if you're trying not just to revive medieval paper, but more so, to make its use affordable even to little people.
"That one is my chicken", as we say in Uruguay.
My niece using my 'Cinque for her chemistry models? Joy!
Making her own? Total bliss!
My approach is pragmatic. I use 100% rag cotton pulped by Cheney's. Following Harris and Barrett, I load it a-plenty with calcium carbonate, now it's archival buffered. TiO2 is my friend, helps show-off laid-lines and watermarks despite the long fiber (thank you, Brian Queen, you were quite right, as usual, despite that initial surprised look of mine), but only by translucency, the best watermarks are silent with direct light. Someone else told me that TiO2 was an optical brightener, good, less chance that my paper will be used for some forgery, which is something that worries me a bit, my paper is perhaps getting to be too good as a replica. 20-ton car-shop press, natch. I hope to get into gelatin sizing again, Tim Barrett has convinced me of it. Someday I might get around to make a "real" mediæval wired mould à la Hunter, in large dimension, even two perhaps, meanwhile I will use my patent-pending Mylar screens, and the YamaVac agnostic to freeness and drainage, together with this funny fiberglass mesh thing.
what is that mesh thing exactly?
I'm just not ready for that.(that's what she said. Exact words. No, not my Deb, it was my... Uh, this is getting awkward, let's move on)
Yes, eventually I will tell all, as I always do, sigh.
But first I'd like to find out how "good" this is. If experts see it and agree it's awesome, it will be accepted by the trade and I will have a nice market and my label will do the talking even if everyone else knows "how" it's done. It they bury it, it won't matter anyway...
While I sort of wanted to hold until what looks like a great 2018 Friends of Dard Hunter Conference, October in Iowa City, I will do an "official" presentation of 'Cinque Tooth handmade paper as a highlight of the 2018 Austin Book, Paper & Photo Show, January 20 and 21.
Meanwhile, "wove" 'Cinque is already available, get a $1 sample from my Etsy store, or even already buy some 15x19.5