A multicultural art form has taken root in Hawai'i- making paper from Hawaiian materials found in nature, employing Eastern and Western techniques along with implements of the Polynesian art form of tapa making. Much of this paper is used to create handmade books.
Lisa Louise Adams, of Volcano, creates hand-made paper books about Hawai'i. Petro Glyphs is a miniature book of pen and ink drawings representing rock carvings of Hawai'i. Its cover is crafted from handmade paper. Three miniature volumes called 'Ulu (breadfruit), 'Uala (Sweet Potato), and Kalo (Taro) feature her original calligraphy and drawings of these early Hawaiian food staples, describing these plants as integral to the heritage and culture of the 'aina-the land of Hawai'i. Each set of books is protected by her handmade paper slip case adorned with original art.
Paying tribute to the reemergence of bookmaking as an art, the Honolulu Academy of Arts will exhibit handmade books, many of them constructed of handmade paper, in an international book show entitled Turning the Page, from Oct. 6 - 30 in its Academy Art Center at 1111 Victoria St. in Honolulu. Hours are Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Many of the books are one-of a-kind. Among them is Lisa Louise Adams' original book, Night Vision.
Adams explains the papermaking process in her own how-to-book called Pepa (the Hawaiian word coined after contact with western explorers, since Hawai'i was without paper and writing).
In one papermaking method, four-foot branches of the wauke, the mulberry plant used in Hawai'i to make tapa-the bark cloth for clothing, are soaked overnight. Wauke is popular for its beautiful translucent qualities and its strength. Adams scrapes off the outer bark to reveal a fine inner bark, and cooks it with water and soda ash for two or three hours, until fibers easily pull apart. Tapa-makers pound the bark- without cooking-to keep the material in one piece. The papermaker, however, wants to separate the fibers to create a fine sheet. After cooking, Adams strains the fibers through a mesh bag and rinses them until the water is clear. She pounds the fiber with a heavy wood beater on a smooth wooden board, letting the weight of the beater do the work to spread and fan the fibers.
Adams often adds any dyes, flecks of outer bark, fibers from other plants, and flowers for color, texture and design. Among her favorites are ginger stems-very twiggy, and akia-a plant used by ancient Hawaiians to stun fish to make them easier to catch. Akia is silky, beautiful and gingery. Adams also likes to add hapu'u pulu, the hair of the tree fern.
The paper itself forms on a screen that she scoops through water where the plant fibers are suspended. After the paper forms, Adams transfers it to felt and then to boards for drying.
She uses handmade paper in many ways to create original books. She attaches it to stiffer material to form decorative covers and cases, uses it for interior pages and sometimes makes entire books of handmade paper with natural deckle edges.
Adams can be reached at her Volcano studio by calling 985-8888 on the Big Island, by writing to P.O. Box 207, Volcano, HI 96785, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.