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TITLE:  Dante’s Prayer

This work was done by Julia Silbermann in Raleigh for the session “Carolingian and Carolingian Variations”, in 26 Seeds: a Year to Grow.

Manuscript Book: “Dante’s Prayer”, A song by Loreena McKennitt Materials: 5”x10” Frankfurt Paper, Black Sumi Stick Ink, Bookbinding Materials

I always loved the song “Dante’s Prayer” by Loreena McKennitt, so it seemed right to put the lyrics into a manuscript book. I also wanted to illustrate them somehow. Part of the homework was to use stick ink and a Japanese stab binding, which is why I immediately got inspired to look at Japanese woodcuts by Hokusai, Hiratsuka, and Ukiyo-e: and decided to just work in black and white. Apart from that, I am also very fond of the wonderful black ink drawings done by Aubrey Beardsley. These two very different influences resulted in the illustrations you can see in the book. They are not woodcuts though, but all outlined with pencil, and filled in with a brush and Sumi stick ink.

I also marbled each page of the Frankfurt paper with the ancient Asian Suminagashi technique, that uses Sumi ink floating on water.

I used the marbling to create motion on the paper as a counterpoint to the heavy woodcuts and to help transition the eye from the illustrations to the small Carolingian writing. Figuring out the Suminagashi technique turned out to be the hardest part of the whole project. The ink did not want to float on top of the water at all, so I had to use vast amounts of distilled water. I needed to use fresh distilled water for every new marbling pattern and for each side of each single page. Otherwise the ink would just sink down immediately and no marbling could be seen on the paper. Later I read that surfactant chemicals like ox gall or photo flow can help with the water’s surface tension: thus the same water could be used for several marbling patterns. I would definitely try that next time.

The book is closed by a long strip of Arches Cover Black paper, to which I adhered a metal button. I hand-wove the cord with a medieval weaving technique, similar to finger loops and sewed it to the paper strip, so it can be wrapped around the button.

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