In creating many of my paintings I have utilized a Mexican bark papermaking process, called Amatl or Amate (ah-mah-tay). The Aztec word means both paper and fig tree.
The roots of amate papermaking are ancient, originating from pre-Columbian Mayan and Aztec cultures. Bark cloth was first used for clothing and later developed for hieroglyphic symbol writing in the 5th century by the Mayans. Today the Otomi Indians of San Pablito, continue to make and use the Mexican bark paper for the tourist industry and also in shamanistic rituals and ceremonies.
I have found making Amate bark-paper is a laborious, but rewarding process. It involves, 1) cooking the inner bark of mulberry, 2) dyeing some of the bark fibers with colorful dyes, 3) laying strands of the mulberry in a grid formation, and 3) pounding the fibers with a stone beater tool to fully merge and unify the bark strands into sheets of paper with simple imagery created from inlaying contrasting fiber strands. 4) Finally, I use utilize the Amate sheets as a canvas of sort, adding collage and paint to create the completed imagery.
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