handmade paper & artist books by lisa miles

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Fulbright ➞ Indonesia

For the past four months, I have been living in Java, Indonesia learning how to speak Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language). I am grateful to be a recipient of a 2017-2018 Fulbright U.S. Student Arts Research grant in order to study daluang beaten bark paper, natural plant dyes, and the book arts in Indonesia. Daluang bark papers are made from the inner bark of Mulberry trees (Broussonetia papyrifera). Not unlike amate bark papers from Mexico, these bark papers were once used for ancient manuscripts. Sadly, they have been forgotten by most modern Indonesian people. I'm here to learn from the few daluang makers who are keeping the tradition alive.

In the world of handmade paper, phrases like “proto-paper,” “near paper,” and “quasi-paper,” are used to describe the beaten bark papers of indigenous cultures, including the daluang papers of Indonesia. Because bark paper is formed by beating fibers with a stone or wooden beater on a board, and not by collecting pulp on a “sieve-like screen,” papermakers and paper scholars are quick to dismiss bark paper as “false paper” or “not paper.” As a 21st century maker, I reject these ethnocentric and limiting definitions which undermine the achievements of non-Western cultures. Exploring the history and technique of beaten bark paper has become a way for me to connect with both modern and ancient makers and to appreciate their unique and significant contributions to our shared human history. It is my aim to bring bark paper and the valid contributions of Indonesian artisans into the international conversations on book and paper history.

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