Zoë Sheehan Saldaña

While at Dieu Donné, I worked with Steve Orlando and wore knee-high rubber boots. We worked for seven days over a year’s time.

October 31, 2008. Day 1. We made paper-like things from cattail fluff and cattail leavesthat I had collected in Wyoming. The cattail fluff had some little worms in it. We also tried making paper pulp from tobacco leaves, but made a slimy mess instead.

December 9, 2008. Day 2. We tried to make paper towels. We used cotton pulp and formed thin sheets. We made a lot of sheets. Cotton made a nice paper, but not such a good paper towel; the finished sheets were not absorbent. Time to research.

January 13, 2009. Day 3. Second attempt at making paper towels. We used a sulphite pulp (made from trees) donated by the Weyerhaeuser company. We beat the fiber and formed a lot of sheets. The final product was absorbent, but not soft. Time for more research.

Feburary 2, 2009. Day 4. Third try at paper towels. We got serious. We tried two different sulphite pulps, beaten for various times. We made sheets of various thicknesses. We kept track of everything and made lots of notes. When the paper dried, I embossed it using a polymer plate on a letterpress. One sheet was close enough to make me hopeful.

April 8, 2009. Day 5. Fourth paper towel attempt. We had our recipe and got to work. We made about 200 sheets. After the sheets dried I embossed them and then trimmed and folded them to size. A few sheets were too thick and others were too thin; in the end, 130 paper towels passed muster. Done. Time to move on.

September 22, 2009. Day 6. In the morning we made thin linen sheets using the laid-line mold. The dried sheets were exactly right for making rolling papers. In the afternoon we made pigmented cotton pulp that I hoped would be kraft paper. Unfortunately, the color was wrong. But we had so much pulp that we made a lot of sheets anyway.

September 29, 2009. Day 7. We used a more kraft-paper colored cotton pulp to make sheets in the morning. In the afternoon we made paper from milkweed floss and abaca fiber. The end felt like the beginning, except I had a better idea of what I was doing.

In conclusion, I would like to say knee-high rubber boots and Steve Orlando one more time.
— Zoë Sheehan Saldaña, 2009

Zoë Sheehan Saldaña was born in Massachusetts in 1973 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She studied at Oberlin College (BA, 1994), the Rochester Institute of Technology (MFA, 1998), and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2000).