When Jo Stealey leans over and plunges her arms elbow deep into a tub filled with cream-colored slurry—a combination of fiber pulp and water—it seems plausible that her husband has dubbed her “Queen of Big Messes.” At MU’s Fiber Studio, located in a repurposed industrial dormitory kitchen, she greets us in a knee-length rubber apron, informing us, “I usually wear rubber farm boots, too.” Holding a frame and screen (called a mold and deckle), she reaches into the tub and sieves a rectangle of wet cotton-like fiber, shaking gently to strain out the water. A sheet of paper is born.
Creating a sheet of paper involves straining pulp with a screen frame combination called a “mold and deckle.” The resulting sheet is “couched,” or released from the mold and deckle, onto a “felt,” which is a cloth that separates wet sheets from each other. The resulting pile of sheets is called a “post.”
A solution of pigmented pulp can be placed in squeeze bottles and then applied to wet paper; the wet paper can also be collaged with other materials like dry paper and string.
Paper is comprised of cellulose fiber—which is derived from plant cells. The fiber is “macerated” in a Hollander beater with water to create pulp.
A “post”—a pile of wet paper sheets separated by cloths—is taken to the paper press for extraction of water.
The pressed post of paper is transferred to the dryer.