Thursday, July 17, 2008


How to enjoy papermaking in a few easy steps:

1) Have plenty of pulp on hand. If you can persuade someone to let you run the blender, stick your arms into the tub full of shredded paper up to the elbows. Do the same to the bucket of pulp when it is full enough. Throw a bit at a friend.

2) Fill your bowl with the pulp-and-water mix. Hold it as high as you possibly can over the deckle and flip it quickly so the maximum amount of water and pulp splashes out. Repeat.

3) Cover the deckle with newspaper and press as much water as you can out. Be very enthusiastic and energetic about it.

4) Wait happily for several days until the paper dries and you can take it home.


I had forgotten quite how much I enjoy working with kids.

Every year, my sister's church puts on a great Vacation Bible School. I mean *really* great. Jerusalem Marketplace takes the children back in time to Jesus' time--27, 28, or 29 AD. For that week, the kids are placed in one of Israel's tribes. A tribal mom (my sister is one this year), instructs them in the morning rituals of Jewish prayer and talks to them about Jewish life. They go to storytellers to listen to Bible stories--sometimes Old Testament, sometimes New Testament (which is anachronistic for 29 AD, but never mind). Church members dress as figures from Christ's time--there's usually a beggar, a tax collector, and at least one Roman soldier walking around and as apostles (see Matthew the tax collector, who usually turns to follow Jesus on the third of or fourth day of the week), common people who wonder about Jesus, and Jesus himself. They talk with the kids, reenact their parts (the kids are very generous--the beggar is often the wealthiest person in town, truth be known), and often take part in a drama at the well highlighting some aspect of Jesus' ministry.

The kids also take turns visiting various "shops" where wares similar to those in Jesus' day are made. The spend about 30 minutes in each shop making their own baskets, candles, jewelry, and what-have-you.

A lot of kids go every year from the time they are five to the time they are twelve, and then some come back as shopkeeper's assistants to the shopkeepers or, later, to the tribal moms. Many of the adults have played one role or another over the years, some plan on it every year.

I used to attend the church, and pretty regularly worked in the childcare during Marketplace, so I have very fond memories of it and this year, being here and having the time and energy for the first time in quite a long time, I got to wondering about it. Last Saturday, I asked my sister when it was, "Oh, it starts Monday." "I don't suppose they need anyone still?"

Turns out they did: The papermaker had had to bow out at the last moment. My three and a half hours of instruction in the art put me well ahead of anyone else available, so I'm in charge of the papermaking shop.

It is, as you may gather from the above, slightly different from making paper with adults. There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of water spread around.

And it is great fun.

Of course, being an adult, I've done some fretting--mostly about whether or not the paper would actually dry; it keeps getting damp at night and foiling my efforts, but we found space to spread several sheets out singly, indoors, so there will be enough for the kids to take some home after the grand finale tomorrow night, and I can relax about that.

Oh, and I've had excellent helpers from the Jr. High group who have been extremely patient not only with the kids but with the whole messy business of trundling the thirty-plus deckles indoors each night and helping prepare pulp for the next day (they weren't the ones up to their elbows in it, though, that was another, younger group of helpers). They've also become very adept at the art of flipping a deckle over quickly and slamming it down hard so that the paper will come out intact, a technique this particular variety of deckle requires--especially when it has really super wet paper in it.

I've had a marvelous time and, yes, I'll do it again next year if I'm still in the area and if they decide they want a papermaker again--the potter & I had a disagreement today over whose shop was the messiest, but I don't think there is any real doubt--with paper shreds and bits of pulp all over the ground, I think that mine takes the prize easily.


Prior to this, I had also volunteered for Power Lab, the VBS at my home church, which does a more typical rotation of VBS's. I had thought to spend some time quietly in the preschool, but what they turned out to need are team leaders for some of the elementary age kids. It'll be my first time helping out there. I wonder how it will turn out?

1 comment:

  1. We love vbs -- just finished up this week. The Little Guy loves to go to VBS at his own church because he knows everybody, and all the volunteers dote on him.
    I think the HS and JHi volunteers are especially sweet.