A bunch of people, aged between 13 and 50 years of age, waited at the CoCCA workshop in Vilankurichi. Though a weekday, they had gathered to create art with pulp, paper and paints. Artist Shantamani from Bangalore was in town for a 10-day workshop to tell them how. She was here at the invitation of Contemplate Art Gallery.

“Please cut these into small bits. We'll be doing body art today,” Shantamani tells her students handing over rolls of plaster of Paris bandages.

A couple of years ago, Shantamani, a Fine Arts graduate from M.S. University Baroda, was intrigued by recycled paper and its applications. As an artist, she wondered about the potential of this material. “I wanted to work with this material. I wanted to feel it and experience its texture, instead of just working with tools,” she says.

So, in 2004, she went to Glasgow, Scotland to learn the art of making paper from Jacki Parry, an artist and a professor.

Multidimensional

“My approach to art changed when I learnt paper making.” Her knowledge of mass, weight and the three-dimensional properties of paper aided her in working on large installations comprising paper and other materials. Her installations have been displayed at Florida and she will soon show them in Paris as well.

At the workshop, there are tubs of pulp.

Rags to riches

“This is cotton rag pulp. Industrial waste from Tiruppur. Cotton rag is beaten to pulp in factories and this pulp is used to make paper,” she explains. She takes a screen (a mesh stretched over a frame of wood) and places another frame around it. She dips them both into a tub, drains the water and lays the screen on a piece of cloth. A rectangular blob of pulp lodges itself on the cloth. Shanti covers that with another piece of cloth and felt, and dabs a sponge gently over it. “Make a pattern over it,” she instructs. I make a print of my palm and pour coloured pulp over it, rather messily. “Leave it to dry for a day and a piece of paper with your palm-print will be ready,” she smiles.

Shanti believes that a material is very important in terms of context. Her installations include ones made of paper and charcoal. “Paper making is about dealing with raw fibre,” she explains. “Working with paper doesn't necessarily have to mean doing something with the surface. There is something beyond the flat surface too.” She loves teaching this form of art. “Though CoCCA's outreach programme was initially aimed at children, we have people from various professions here. There are interior designers, teachers, students and architects in the group. These are the resource people. They will take this craft forward.”

Shanti's students gather around her. They have already made collages on paper, books out of handmade paper and have experimented with the art. “We will make casts of body parts today,” she says. “Dip small pieces of the PoP bandages into water and stick them on to your palm, leg or your face. Allow the PoP to set for about three minutes. Once it dries, remove the mould and use it to make paper casted body parts,” says Shanti. The participants get busy and I make a cast of my palm too. Works of the participants will be displayed on May 25 at Contemplate Art Gallery, Avanashi Road, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. For details, call: 90954-12346

Keywords: art workshop