2017 - Interesting Beginnings
Hello there, my name is May Babcock.
I’m a papermaking artist and founder of Paperslurry.com, a blog dedicated to sharing and expanding the art and craft of hand papermaking around the world. I’ve traveled to teach for years, and in 2017 the Pawtucket Rhode Island community started to have a chance to learn, too.
Families and children from Galego Court started learning papermaking from plants during afterschool programs at the SCLT Galego Community Farm. Eventually, I offered a ‘more official’ arts, craft, and plant science education project—Pawtucket Paper. We made paper from Japanese Knotweed (an invasive plant in the garden), and other garden weeds such as mugwort, garlic mustard, and bird vetch. This wouldn’t have been possible without:
a RISCA project grant
collaboration with the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) Galego Community Farm
collaboration with the Pawtucket Housing Authority.
Since then, various free public events and workshops have been held, including a fall harvest festival, volunteer days, and even group hula-hoop ‘pulp painting’. More recently, youth staff have been collaborating to design handmade paper products from waste fibers.
2018 - A Warm Embrace, and Nudge Forward from National Arts Strategies
In 2018, I was awarded a Creative Community Fellowship, a program by D.C. based National Arts Strategies that brings together cultural trailblazers for six months, to learn life-changing skills and to see dreams become reality — and drive transformation through arts and culture.
2019 - A Prototype Space, and Important Questions
Here’s the question:
How might we use hand papermaking to create positive change for Pawtucket?
In response, Pawtucket Paper Center’s goal is to establish a hand papermaking center that:
Increases quality of life, economic opportunity, and professional arts access
Offers accessible papermaking space and educational programs for the New England area
In its first year, uses 2000 lbs. of waste and invasive plant fiber to make and sell paper products, amplifying local youth programming through co-designing products
Encourages stewardship of the local landscape through innovative partnerships with local environmental groups
Pawtucket Paper Center will be the only facility of its kind in the nation.
What We’ve Been Doing So Far
Learn the art and craft of hand papermaking! In this first year of workshops (starting in November 2019), you’ll see a lively range of options, creative techniques, and partnerships.
We partner with local organizations that encourage sustainability and environmental stewardship. Past events include Japanese Knotweed papermaking at the Blackstone River Watershed Council, a papermaking plus dinner event at Harvest Kitchen, and a make ‘n take papermaking table at East Bay Bike Way Art Day.
Designing Handmade Paper
I have been working with SCLT Youth Staff to co-design and prototype commercial paper products, ready for retail sale during the upcoming holiday season.
After School Plant Papermaking
After-school students and families from Galego Court and the neighborhood learn how to harvest plant fibers from the farm, cut them up, cook them, process them with blenders, and make sheets of paper.
Volunteers pull and process Japanese Knotweed, a pervasive and invasive plant in Galego Community Farm. Through hands-on demonstrations, volunteers make their own pure plant handmade papers from this waste fiber. Knotweed, mugwort, and bird-vetch paper were used for place cards at a SCLT 2017 fundraiser dinner, and donor gifts in 2018.
Fall Harvest Festival
We demonstrate papermaking from garden plants at the Galego Community Farm annual fall festival. Festival attendees get their hands wet, and make their own sheet of paper and stenciled pulp painting to take home. ‘Pulp painting’ is an artistic technique where one paints with different colored pulps, making paintings that are 100% paper.