Flax Papermaking

Flax used to be grown on the CSB campus during the mid 20th Century by the Sisters of Saint Benedict, who would make linen out of the flax for clothing and vestments.  

In the Fall of 2013, students, faculty, and community members participated in a workshop to learn the process of flax fabric and papermaking. This workshop was a cultivation of the work created by CSB/SJU faculty members Scott Murphy and Sienna Kuhn. Murphy & Kuhn wanted to bring back this local, non-commercial process in order to create something truly gratifying to both them and the community. Together, they utilized the handmade flax paper with Murphy's photography, which features Kuhn as the focal point. The image was combined with the literary work of LAI director Mark Conway, using an excerpt from his poem, First Body. According to Murphy, "...making photographs and paper by hand is immensely satisfying and the end products are beautiful."

In addition to the flax paper, Murphy and Kuhn used an alternative photo process called gum bichromate. Originating in the mid-19th century, the bichromate process uses a handmade emulsion that can be pigmented and binded with a variety of materials (e.g. watercolor, ash, egg, graphite, charcoal). Murphy & Kuhn chose this process, as it allowed them to experiment with a variety of materials in a deliberately local way.  

The photography industry has become so commercialized, and the dichromate process is a way one can bring their photography a little closer to home. By using local materials, those involved could slow down, take their time, and work with their hands and create photography free from commercial pursuits.

This created a unique broadside produced collaboratively by many members of the CSB/SJU community:

See the full First Body(ies) little book and learn more about the gum bichromate & papermaking processes