If you are interested in making your own book cloth, mulberry paper is an essential backing paper. It is thin and flexible and has long fibers, which makes it strong. It may seem strange that a thin paper can be strong, but imagine how long hair gets tangled and how very short hair doesn't. The fibers of the mulberry plant (also known as kozo) are floated in water and their fibers co-mingle and intertwine as the sheet of paper is formed, giving it strength.
I've been printing on muslin recently in order to make quilts and for an important part of my latest project in progress, a series of nine house-shaped boxes and yes, a house-shaped quilt (more about this in the future), all called: HOUSEWORK.
Backing cloth. I backed the cloth with mulberry paper so I could cover the houses that I built out of museum board and binder's board. Mulberry is also a terrific printmaking paper: I could have printed directly on the paper and created the sculptural prints that way. You could make relief prints and wrap a variety of objects (even pre-made objects like bottles and jars) with your own images, then give them a coat of heavy gel medium. Because the boxes are meant to be handled, though, I wanted the added sturdiness and tactility of the cloth.
To back the cloth, I
used a cold water wheat paste. It mixes up most smoothly on a plate: put
about two teaspoons of paste on one half of the plate, about 1/2 - 1 cup of
water on the other, and use a brush to bring the powder to the water
and mix it a tiny bit at at time until all you reach a smooth consistency that just holds its shape. (Instructions: page 22 in Making Handmade Books, other pages in my other bookmaking books.)
Painting paper. Since 1997, I've been painting paper to incorporate into my books. (Techniques are described in Painted Paper.) I like altering my materials so the patterns and colors are original. I don't want the viewer to look at my work and say, "Oh, I've seen that paper at the art-supply store." Mulberry paper becomes more fragile when wet, but it is still possible to use acrylic inks to paint it with a brush and splatter it with a toothbrush, which I did for my house about lichen, "They Must Agree."
Painting paper and making scrolls. Cloth that has been backed also makes an excellent scroll. It is flexible, strong, and after coating the paper you can write on it. I made a few different scrolls for this project as well. For this house, "Sea Light," I coated the mulberry paper with acrylic gesso (tinted slightly with blue acrylic ink) so I would be able to write on the scroll without the letters spreading or bleeding through the cloth. (Instructions for scrolls on pages 102-107 in Making Handmade Books.)
I tinted the mulberry paper with various blacks, grays, and pearlescent colors for "The Divide" so it would look like asphalt. Using silver gel pen on top of the painting turned out to be the most legible; a crow quill pen dipped in black ink was what I wanted for the second text, but not as easy to read.
I hope to properly photograph the houses this week so I can post them. I'm installing them in a show in the display cases at the Albany library on Sunday, April 3, and they will be available to view April 4-30, 2016. More soon.