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Field on Nepal

Last week someone asked for a report on the slide lecture given twice by
Dorothy Field on papermaking in Nepal (on 6/24 at Dieu Donne Papermill in NYC
and on 6/28 at Pyramid Atlantic outside Washington DC). Here are a few

I am not an unbiased observer/reporter, as I have worked with Dorothy for many
years, most recently on Hand Papermaking's limited edition portfolio of
contemporary Nepalese papers, which she assembled and documented carefully.
After each of the lectures, I showed the portfolio to those interested.

There were good turn-outs at both locations -- about 40 people at Dieu Donne
and 30 at Pyramid. Given the spaces where the lectures were held, this meant
that all seats were taken.

Dorothy showed almost two full carousels of slides taken over more than a
dozen years (1984-1997) during five trips to Nepal. On each trip she sought
out not only papermakers but also uses of the handmade paper. On her later
trips she retraced her steps, sometimes finding the same papermakers using the
same processes, as though nothing had changed; other times there was no trace
of the mill or the store where she had earlier seen paper being made or sold.

Dorothy explained that two programs, begun in the 1980s, dominate papermaking
today in Nepal. One was spurred by a UNICEF incentive; it teaches traditional
Nepalese methods for making paper (pulp poured onto and dried directly on
cloth screens, the paper made by farmers during the off-season). The other was
started as a joint program by the Japanese and Nepalese governments; it
introduces traditional Japanese papermaking techniques into Nepal, as a
relatively high-tech, equipment-intensive, year-round activity. Many mills
have sprung up as a result of these two initiatives; many of these have
failed, as each seeks to find the particular paper that will catch the eye of
tourists and the export market. The long-standing traditional use for Nepalese
handmade paper, for Tibetan prayer books, dried up almost entirely when China
closed the Nepal/Tibet border in 1959.

Dorothy touched on many more subjects during her lecture, especially
concerning cultural and spiritual uses and context for the manufacture of
paper and its use. She discusses many of the same topics in her essay and
paper sample descriptions in the booklet which accompanies the paper samples
in the portfolio.  Anyone interested in more information about the portfolio
should contact Hand Papermaking's managing director, Tom Bannister, at
1-800-821-6604  or via e-mail at  > tom@xxxxxxxxxxxx <.

Michael Durgin

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