Husker, Do

My friend Sonja learned to make paper from corn last summer in San Antonio. When she came back to Alabama, she said she wanted to make another batch and said, "You know a place we could get lots of corn husks?"


My father keeps a garden every summer, filled mostly with lush rows of corn. My grandmother also used to keep a garden, and one of my most vivid memories from my childhood is wandering up and down the rows of corn behind her house, parting the leaves like a beaded curtain, catching the ladybugs and letting them crawl along my fingers.


So my dad saved all the husks from his last corn harvest, and laid them out to dry in the back of his old green Bronco. In August, I stuffed them into my trunk and drove them back to Tuscaloosa, where Sonja kept them in her shower until we made our paper. (For the record, it was her guest bath. Someday I'll recount all the other unusual things that my friends and family keep in their spare showers, but not today.)


Our beat was a bit too long, for those of you keeping score. The corn fiber quickly turned to soup. Papermaker's Tip #181: It's best not to do internet searches and read trashy novels while doing a beat. You lose track of time, you end up with soup. We added it to the cotton fiber and the result was crisp, speckled sheets. Okay, but not ideal.


For my thesis blend, I beat the corn for a shorter time, threw in the silks, and ended up with a lovely paper infused with the memory of summer. I love to think that a little bit of South Carolina made it into this book--straight from the ground where I grew up--and with it, a little bit of my dad, and a little of my earliest sense of adventure.