I met the artist Sarah Horowitz in Portland a few years ago and immediately felt a kinship. Later we learned that we share the same birthday (although I could have been Sarah’s babysitter)! Sarah’s exhibition Briar Roses opens this Thursday (September 5th) at Froelick Gallery in Portland, featuring a series of new drawings on paper.
Sarah applies surface treatments to almost all of the papers she uses. Her introduction to paper as a substrate came through printmaking (she does exquisite etchings and often utilizes chine colle). She became familiar with Japanese papers which are strong, thin and hold up to getting wet (a necessary step in the etching process).
When she started to draw with a quill on paper, the surface became an issue. A sharp quill works best on a smooth surface because the quill doesn’t catch on the fibers. In addition, the paper needs to sized so that the ink doesn’t bleed. Someone introduced her to a paper dyed with kakishibu (a traditional Japanese persimmon dye) which in addition to coloring the paper acts as a waterproofing agent, similar to sizing.
Soon Sarah started making her own inks (iron gall and walnut) for dyeing kozo, mitsumata and gampi papers, which she purchases primarily from Hiromi Paper. These give her shades for tinting the paper; next she applies gelatin sizing; and finally she draws with sumi inks which are heavily pigmented and sit well on top of the dyed paper surface.
Sarah also creates artists books. The paper for her book Effigies was dyed in a big vat of indigo, which she heated and dipped long sheets of kozo through. She hung them to dry and spent the next year gelatin sizing all of the paper for the edition. Every drawing in the edition is done by hand.
FYI, Sarah does not size her papers for printmaking, since etching requires properties that are opposite from drawing: the paper needs to be absorbent and the thick oil based inks she uses do not bleed.
For her book Archeaologies of Loss, Sarah printed etchings on thin transparent sheets of gampi which she affixed to larger sheets of Somerset paper using chine colle (with rice paste).
Sarah’s current show features a collection of dyed papers, some dyed a long time ago, others dyed for the show, some antique Japanese papers she’s collected, and some new ones from Hiromi Paper’s kozo color line.
I hope those of you reading this in Portland have a chance to see the show and meet Sarah! I’m jealous – let me know what you think of it!