Sunday, July 10, 2011

Papier-Mache Art Bowls 10: Solar Drying

The day I had been home from the hospital for exactly one week was the first day I felt really down and out since coming home. I was emotional, felt fragile, felt under the weather and icky. It only lasted a day, and I've felt better since. The nurses and doctors all keep saying I'm doing really well, actually amazingly well this soon after surgery. I have nothing to compare my experience to, so in one way I just take their word for it and am grateful for the good progress, and in another way I feel reborn, brand new, like everything is being done for the first time, all over again. I'm learning about my body's new equilibrium, which is not settled into yet—the "new normal" if you will, that I have not arrived at yet. So everything is still al earning curve, still experimental.

Feeling down and out, though, that day, I made some new experimental papier-maché art bowls. I tried out some ideas that I had been thinking about for awhile, but hadn't had time to do, what with preparing for surgery and everything else that had been stressing me out. Once again, while making art I thought about nothing else. Every other concern went away—which is one good reason to keep making art throughout this recovery and healing process. The other, more fundamental reason to keep making art, of course, is that it is my best response to life, be it good or bad or neutral or just blah.

Since I made my papier-maché projects in the late morning, and it was another hot sunny summer day, I set the bowls out in the sunlight on the porch to dry them via solar heating. This sped up the drying process rapidly. The bowls took half the usual time to dry, and once they had firmed up enough to come out of their molds, they finished drying very quickly. Often I've made papier-maché at night, and left it out overnight to dry. This was faster and easier, actually, and convenient because the weather was cooperative. Obviously, solar drying is going to go better on sunny rather than cloudy days.

Solar drying this time was a two-stage process. First, set out the bowls in their molds to dry in the sun. Later on, typically only two or three hours later, I was able to remove the bowls from their molds, carefully, and continue drying them on paper bowls set out in the afternoon sunlight.

After taking them out of the molds, they dried quickly enough that I was able to turn them upside down, when firm, to finish drying. Everything was dried and firmed up long before sunset, so I could enjoy looking over the completed project in the late afternoon light, and again the following morning.

So when convenient I can recommend solar drying as a safe, accelerated drying technique for papier-maché. You will need to have a sunny location, preferably on an indoor floor or porch. You need clear sunny weather. And you need to be sure that the pieces are protected from any wind gusts, so that they don't blow over, or become damaged while still drying by being knocked around by wind, or similar environmental factors.

One or two of the bowls did slightly distort during the last stage of drying. I supposed I could have left them in the molds till they were completely dry, and avoided that. But the distortions were very small, and not displeasing. So even if I was a little impatient in experimenting with this drying technique, and perhaps took the bowls out of the molds a little sooner than usual, I think the end results were well justified by the process.

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Blogger Elisabeth said...

What a wonderful way to aid your recovery, Art: creativity in the sunshine.

2:00 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, Elisabeth, and right on, my thoughts exactly.

Although I'm not able to get out much yet, and it's been very hot and humid this past week. So this was a nice morning, all in all.

3:25 PM  

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