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Barkcloth for Puppetry & Painting


Making Barkcloth from Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera): "This method commences by stripping the bark from the tree, separating the inner from the outer bark -which is discarded- and then beating the inner bark on an anvil, usually with wooden beaters, to spread the fibres." Pacific Tapa, Roger Neich & Mick Pendergrast.

In this process, I use the inner bark of the Paper Mulberry tree. I strip the bark from the tree, then proceed to scrape the outer bark with sea shells (or I sometimes leave it for the texture and effect on the final work). I put it in water for one or two days, I take it out and place it on an anvil (still partially soaked) and I start beating it with wooden beaters I made myself to expand the fibres. This beating process has many stages and it can take months. After the barkcloth is dried, I soften it with rocks.


I paint on it with natural earth pigments, that is, rocks I find at the beach or in the mountains. I grind these rocks, add water and paint on the barkcloth. I also use Chinese ink and embroidery. I am currently exploring how to transform the barkcloth into the main material for making my puppets, from just making the clothes they wear to creating a whole character.


Each step of this process, with its ritualistic and community-based approach tells us of a narrative of birth and decay, a cycle of yin and yang. The intrinsic wisdom of nurturing time developed by so many peoples from South East Asia and islands of the Pacific. My quest is to delve into that world of blossoming and regeneration and to offer a platform for a collective effort.

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