Orvieto is a small city perched on a rock cliff in Umbria, Italy. The church of Orvieto, dating from 1290, has an incredible mosaic facade which has been recently restored and cleaned–all the glass tiles glisten like fire in the afternoon sunlight. Today we took my Paper Paintings Italy Retreat students to visit L’Orvietan, a paper artisan’s studio space, just down an alleyway across from the church.
A Few Words About Paper
Lamberto has been working with Pamela Haack and I for four years, captivating the students’ attention with wonderful stories about the history of paper, book binding and printing, paper marbling, and some history on the space in which his studio is housed; all with a wonderful sense of humor and lots of patience.
He reminds us that before there was paper architects and artisans had ideas for building things, like huge churches, that just needed to be memorized or scratched into sand or stone. We also considered that the first paper in Italy was made from animal skin that took about four months and one dead sheep per page to make into a book.
Not very good news for the sheep or the sheep farmer.
As my students pondered life before paper, they had the wonderful opportunity to touch a parchment page, examine some books from the 16th century, and marvel over Lamberto’s dedicated studio space where he hand-watercolors etchings and creates beautiful marbled papers.
Oh, the artist’s life!
The students learned how the first books were hand written by monks; that the black ink was derived from candle smoke and the red from ground up garnets, both mixed with gum arabic and water to create inks that could be painted with painstaking patience.
After the lesson on paper, Lamberto served pastries, savory treats and coffee before moving on to a one-on-one paper marbing lesson for everyone in our group. Lots of laughs, ooh’s and aaaah’s as the students created their own sheet of paper to bring home or to incorporate into their artwork this week.
I finally had the chance to work with my new fangled gimbal for the iPhone! check out my “Cinema quality video!”
Painting the Town
We split into two groups, after marbling they were off on their own to shop, eat, explore, and enjoy a beautiful day in an amazing town. Some blue shoes and green leather handbags were purchased, some good food, gelato and cappuccinos were enjoyed amongst friends old and new. A town so rich in history offers much treasure if you wander and explore the side streets and alleyways.
Pamela introduces us to the most amazing local people, off the beaten strada.
Back in the Studio
We returned to our villa after lunch. Everyone took a little break in order to enjoy a house made cappuccino and a moment to catch up on email before returning to the studio for a Gel Press Printing Plate demonstration by Yours Truly. Yesterday we worked on many techniques for creating a colorful palette of hand-painted paper, saving the gel plate for a day of its’ own.
Tomorrow we will begin working with collage, ripping and gluing in the studio shortly after another amazing breakfast served family style at the villa. In the afternoon we head to Montepulciano, a Tuscan Medieval hill town where we will have not one, but TWO artisan studio visits!
Just pinch me.
for being a part of my