Monday, 10 March 2014

⊙ The day they let me loose in a paper factory ⊙

If you are new here then you are very welcome. 
Come on in 
Don't be a stranger.

The following is a piece I wrote whilst teaching a group of deaf Nepali girls how to make books a couple of years ago. We shared no common language, I taught by sign language and demonstrating and gentle tweaking on shoulders. The girls had been rescued from trafficking, they were learning to make crafts in order to survive. I volunteered to teach them and spent a couple of months in Kathmandu alternating between extreme home sickness and a propensity to stay forever. I did come home but I have never forgotten.

This is my homage to paper, dry soft skin and thin mountain air.


I'm being driven through Kathmandu in Nepal, in a taxi, seats furnished with bathroom mats and a very sweet, earnest driver, we swerve around school buses with drivers glassy eyed and leaning into mobile phones.
School girls with long, once white woollen tights scatter across city highways, over shawled and over wrinkled old ladies wander through heavy traffic. 
Vehicles suddenly go into reverse and one way means actually any way you like?
everyone shrugs and moves over
this would enrage the British, the rules; what about the rules?

A surplus of sadness pills in my stomach, that life can be so fragile, that this is we are, all leaning like dominoes on each others ability to think clearly, to move in turn, to skim over imminent disaster like rice rolling in an oiled pan 
no mans land:
no rules land

Oil and water, I dream of them, I'm inhaling dust here,
this airless, dirtbowl of a city,
my feet are cracking open and I have callouses on my toe pads
I'm becoming old before I'm ready
the dust settling into my lines and widening the cracks,
the thinning and drying of skin and surface whilst everything still boils and rages underneath

I am still a volcano

I reach up and out and in
over and over
feet grinding into ground that could tilt into an emergency
I'm holding on to the sides of my yoga mat in a rush of electrical storm
in a gale of thunder cracks and dry lightening

evening storms canter around the valley like dice in a cup
drying up
rolling up
spitting me out at dawn
wide awake, I recognise a cuckoo's song;
it's Springtime in Kathmandu
I'm here, I'm here

I dream of an oasis, a sea, a pool? a wetness that isn't here
I'm landlocked
I never felt so far from the quench

We survive the journey to the paper factory on a bus racing 
car chasing, 
motorbike ricocheting 
piece of road, 
"the factory highway "

Lots of industry gathered in one place, 
past the Rose Garden Restaurant and the lone petrol pump.. 
I enter through the grey gates held open by a small walk on character part Nepali
verging on the role of oriental doorkeeper of some exotic brothel, a twinkle in his toes
a query in his eyes? He should be in the movies...He is in this one, mine.

And I'm in the paper factory, a huge hanger of a building
Wide open at each end and tables in the murky dark with workers all masked
breathing in paper dust all day. 
I'm glad to see a kitchen, lunch being prepared for workers, this isn't a sweat shop
this is a good business here.
A sign proclaims they do not employ children.

The production manager is a sweetheart, he indulges my over excitement and lets me roam the factory sighing and distracting his workers. I am spoiled, suffocated by choice, overwhelmed by colour combos and size and weight and colour.

sewn book blocks
I'm here to buy paper for book covers, these are the sewn book blocks that I have taught the girls to make. And below is the first stack that I dare to rifle through. It's too much, even for me who likes nothing more than fanning through reams of print and colour.
too much choice

It's everywhere, piled high, a laundry of assorted flora.

paper towers

paper carnation

Giant carnations of pink chrysanthemum, I am high on giant dry flowers.

paper dyeing

The garden is the dyeing department, a dip into green then a spreading and a sunbathe.

paper spreading

paper drying

die maps

The paper die cutting department, located in a leaning shed...a huge press and these paper dies looking like architectural room plans. I'm in love with their lines, their ability to cut precise sharp creases. The kiss of paper, the hiss of press.

die map

die map 2


dotty spots

my booty

And ladies applying dots of colour to boxes, labouring under a rare sunbeam that spotlights spots in the dreary dark.

These last sheets are some of my buying decisions. 
They are already attached to books...drying now in the quiet studio.

Here I am
Coating myself in ointments and creams
exporting paper reams and dreams of the sea.


The PaperLove Blog Hop is a celebration of all things paper! Follow the links to discover more bloggers who love paper and use it to inspire and delight. And if you want to explore a whole world of paper, and stretch your paper passion further with a host of creative projects, why not join the innovative new online course PaperLove (starts March 31). Led by book artist Rachel Hazell, PaperLove is a five week creative adventure for paper lovers. Find out more here.

Majo Bautista / Tona Bell / Louise Best / Cathy Bluteau / Jennifer Bomgardner / Giova Brusa / Lindsay Buck / Beka Buckley / Joanna Caskie / Jonathan Chapman (Mr Yen) / Halle Cisco / Sarah Clare / Cathryn Clarge / Dawn Clarkson / Rhiannon Connelly / Jenny D'Fuego / Molly Dhiman / Ian Dudley / Ayisatu Emore / Akmal Farid / Monika Forsberg / Claire Fritz-Domeney / Louise Gale / Chrissy Gaskell / Julie Hamilton / Emma Hawman / Rachel Hazell / Holly Helgeson / Claudine Hellmuth / Kim Henkel / Sarah Hoffman / Joanne Hus / Paula Joerling / Beth Kempton / Julie Kirk / Eos Koch / Katie LaClair / Kristy Lankford / Michelle Manolov / Doreen Marts / Rosie Martinez-Dekker / Tori Mears / Maria Mederios / Lise Meijer / Debbie Miller / MaryJane Mitchell / Suzy Naidoo / Grace Noel / Hannah Nunn / Camilla Olsson / Jo Packham / Rachelle Panagarry / Monette Pangan / Melanie Paul / Nicole Piar / Jen Pitta / Liz Plummer / Julie Reed / Michelle Reynolds / Lisa Rivas / Angee Robertson / Natalie Ryan / Aisling Ryan / Elisabet Sapena / Kyrrha Sevco / Jamie Sprague / Elizabeth Steele / Terri Stephens / Juniper Stokes / Mary Tanana / Maike Thoma / Linda Tieu / Gabrielle Treanor / Tammy Tutterow / Deborah Velasquez / Jordan Vinograd Kim / Cat Whipple / Brooke Witt / Katie Wood / Amelia Woodbridge


gill said...

Hi Louise
I love all your pictures of your paper factory!
More please! the colours are wonderful

Lizzie said...

What a wonderful, poetic post, Louise! Obviously paper has this effect on you... or is it just Nepal itself, in its crazy, other-worldly, far-from-the-worldly, separate entireness?

The paper is amazing. I am a little jealous... I so love paper... today I have made covers for 5 books, until my glue ran out. Crisp, slightly textured French paper; textured damask-effect crinkly paper; warm, saffron yellow, rough and bitty Lokta, with the wonderful soft edge of hand-made sheet paper... sigh...
Yesterday I was tearing pages - such a satisfying occupation.
But I would love to visit that paper factory!

I'd love to see some of your students' finished books, with those gorgeous papers on them.

I hope you are well (apart from your poor feet, eh?). Keep well, stay happy!

jax said...

Died and gone to heaven ;o) So much wonderful paper!! I would have been there all day trying to pick ;o)

Anna Watkins said...

Lou, what beautiful writing, and the pictures are gorgeous. It's crazy to think that you're over there at THE SOURCE of all the amazing hand made papers and books we see sold here.
It's great to be able to follow your story!
Take care!


louloulovesbooks said...

Thanks lovely ladies for your always thoughtful and kind comments. I wish you could all have been there with me. I am trying to find out about having a consignment shipped home but it is very tricky & complicated to do business here! Post Service is a nightmare, couriers are too expensive. Looks like we'll all have to carry on shopping in Paperchase etc.

Linda / PaperPhine said...

You make me wanting to go back to Nepal immediately! And even though I always took a huge bundle of wonderful papers with me from Kathmandu (three times now, to be exact) I never yet had the pleasure and time to visit a paper factory - next time I'll find the time (and hopefully the factory) and perhaps I'll just stay there...

nath said...

beautifully written. i miss you. xxx

suzie said...

I'll get back to you…..I popped in, in a hurry but I need more time to absorb.

ronnie said...!

Francesca said...

Totally utterly amazing. All of it. It's another world. Enjoy enjoy enjoy. X

Carol said...

Just beautiful writing and photos. Those bundles of paper, and that hot pink at the end. Just gorgeous.

Sarah said...

WOW. What an amazing place, I can imagine feeling totally overwhelmed, where to begin!! Can't wait to see the finished books :)

Anneliese said...

this is one of the most delicious blog entries I have ever read.... thank you for sharing it!
For a moment I glimpsed into the paper factory, I walked with you through that dream infused with colour!
(for a fellow hand made paper addict)

Anonymous said...

Saying hi. Love the whole post. Lovely written and beautiful pictures

from /Camilla Olsson - also in the blog hop

Anonymous said...

Such a beautifully written post, so descriptive, I felt I was with you travelling to the paper factory. The colours and textures of the papers are amazing. What an incredible experience you had. Lovely post.

Giova Brusa said...

My oh my!!
You went to paper heaven and came back to tell the story.
I hope one day to see it too, and I hope it is as good as this!

Louise Gale said...

Oh my goodness, what a beautiful post full of poetry and paper. Love all your images and your words. A fellow paperlove blog hopper here. So lovely to find you. Great name too. ;-) Lots of paperlisciousness love to you xxx

Cozycomfycouch said...

Hello Louise! Your blogpost is beautiful! How amazing! Your experiences are truly amazing! I admire your courage, your strength and your dedication!

Ayisatu Emore said...

Oh my word. I didn't imagine to see this exciting a post on the hop( I have been judging by the quality of my blog - cough cough)
Thank you very much for visiting and giving me my first comment. I owe you one( I say carefully).
I absolutely NEED to see your paper making in the flesh before I die.
Wow I am loving this blog hop.

Ayisatu Emore said...

It has been incredible seeing your blog post on paper ( you really love it. Don't you?)
I admire your work and you have officially been bookmarked. I want to get dyeing paper immediately. Thank you for giving me my first ever blog comment. Feel like I officially have a blog now. I owe you one. It is great how something like this connects people. Speak soon

michelle Manolov said...

amazing post, thank you for sharing....what memories you must have :-)

Monette Pangan said...

I feel as if I stumbled into a storybook! Thank you for your wonderful post--what a treat on a Monday afternoon! The photographs are beautiful although the imagery you've woven with your words have left me sitting here and smiling. I have a feeling that had I been there, I wouldn't have been able to tear myself away!

Hannah Nunn said...

Hello! What a poetic post. The factory looks awesome. I can imagine and relate to your over excitement!!! Thankyou

Hannah Nunn said...

Hello! What a poetic post. The factory looks awesome. I can imagine and relate to your over excitement!!! Thankyou

Dawn Clarkson said...

Such fabulous photos of such fabulous stuff WOW! Dawn

Grace said...

Gorgeously written!

Holly said...

Your photos are absolutely beautiful! I can't imagine how you could possibly choose from all the wonderfully saturated colors and prints! So much yummy paper goodness! Thank you for sharing.

findingmywayinla said...

Hello Louise, What a wonderful post you have done. I love visiting and working in other countries. I would love to go and do books with you if you decide to venture out to Nepal again. Lovely pics too. MJ

findingmywayinla said...

Hello I love you too. Great post and lovely pictures. I enjoy traveling to other countries, I have worked in India and China and loved them both. What a great experience for you to teach in Nepal. MJ

hallec said...

Beautiful photos of the paper process!

Julie said...

What a wonderful adventure! Thanks for sharing for those of us who have never gotten to see such a place firsthand. Time for a trip!

Mary Tanana said...

What a wonderful post! I loved the imagery just from your words alone...

Eos Koch said...

Wow, amazingly beautiful paper and what a lovely experience.
Thank you for sharing in such a beautiful and poetic way.

Paula said...

Oh my goodness, all of that beautiful paper. So nice meeting you through the blog hop!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous, fab, colourful, exciting and beautiful. Just like you!

louloulovesbooks said...

Thank you everyone for your very kind comments, it has been amazing to visit all of your blogs and connect with you in some small way. I have done about two thirds of the list, I will get around to you all eventually. I am overwhelmed by your generosity and the time you have taken to write.

Liz said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog! And for sharing such gorgeous photos - how lucky to be able to see that factory, I'm hyperventilating just looking at those photos!

BackHomeArt said...

What a wonderful post. You are a great writer!

xo Katie

louloulovesbooks said...

Thank you Katie

Maz Hawes said...

What an amazing experience! I almost feel I was there with your evocative words and wonderful colourful images :))

Julie Kirk said...

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this post Lou. So beautiful.

I too would have been overwhelmed at all the amazing sights, colours, options!

A [rather belated but still full-strength] hello! from a fellow PaperLove blog hopper.

Julie :-)

Marylinn Kelly said...

I just found your blog in the middle of the night (when I am never at the computer) via a Pinterest pin and even in my groggy state am filled with deight at your words and photos. What a lovely site. Lucky us. Thank you. xo