creating beautiful journals and books

Workshop review

This report of a workshop I ran for The Papermakers of Victoria is   featured in their current newsletter, Deckle Edge.

Chris's Paste paper Bundoora

Above: Paste paper by Chris. Below: Content assembled by Gail includes script using the ‘other’ hand. Photographs by Chris.

Content assembled for a book by Gail includes script written using the other hand.

Finding Content:

a two day workshop with Marama Warren

by Val Forbes

Before we even started on the weekend’s activities, our group was somewhat agog to hear Marama’s self introduction: this sweet looking mild mannered woman with a background in journalism, had at one time worked for an arts magazine in New Zealand and then was a publicist for touring music groups – she had in fact toured with the likes of the Rolling Stones – we had a roadie in our midst! After a few years of life on the road she decided to settle down and grow herbs in country NSW. Paper-y interests developed there, and combined with her writing background she is well placed to help those of us who tend to have trouble adding content to book structures and other artistic endeavours.

Some of us have so much trouble with content, that when Marama invited us to bring along “any half-finished projects (we) have lying around”, I was hard put to make a selection from the myriad number of UFOs I have stashed away around the house – good thing the sons have vacated their rooms so I have more storage space. Fortunately I found two unfinished projects with a related theme, leftover from two previous workshops – this was to be my focus. Other participants came with their own projects, or ideas for projects, all very different, but Marama was up to the challenge.

We started off with warm up writing exercises, which were timed and called a “writing dash”. We were not to stop writing, even if we had to keep writing the last word over and over again if we couldn’t think what to write next, oh, and we weren’t to think! In one exercise we had to write with the non-dominant hand, which put a whole new perspective on things. At first the topics were more general, but by the second morning we were asked to write about our projects, to try to elicit what we had thought about it overnight. For me this produced a wealth of words I can use to add to my project, as well as suggesting other projects that just popped out of all this non-thinking writing dash. At the end of each day we had a debriefing, where we outlined what we had done and where we were heading, and we all got to know each other better too.

Despite our widely differing projects, we all benefited from the very relaxed atmosphere Marama created, as she spent time with us individually, giving us concrete hints as well as helping us to come to our own decisions, be it content, structure or materials. Marama had brought along samples of her books for ideas, and in response to our interest, she showed us how to construct the waterfall book structure. There was also a foray into paste papers where a couple of participants were caught up in a flurry of paste colours and swirls. All told it was a fruitful and satisfying weekend. Thank you, Marama!

Author Val Forbes pictured below.

Val Forbes with a handful of content


Some comments from others:

Marama was inspiring: a very smart, skillful, & empathetic woman…The writing exercises were an emotive & effective stimulus to ideas, & even helped to suggest content – how clever is that? Marama made all things possible. Then she introduced her stylish technique of applying paste & colour to paper – I lost my way in a frenzy of colour play! To make a book from the starting point of text addresses unfulfilled creative needs. I have much homework to do!


I did come away from the workshop inspired and I finished off my woven structure with some covers and my waterfall book. I have ideas for a flag book and my concertina with sections but haven’t found the time to go any further, hopefully I will have them done in time for show and tell at the meeting.


The helpful exercises and techniques open up far too many ideas for the ‘Diary/Record Book’. Another book subject also developed out of the overnight break, but a wonderful idea on a mock up production has set the groundwork for my final piece when I have all the physical components ready for assembly – one day SOON.


Between play and words we oscillated, unlocking deep -seated memories, childhood impressions, subconscious feelings, thoughts, pleasures and fears. Special connections to physical locations, events and people were captured in time … Marama cleverly and perceptively engaged each participant in a journey of self-realisation and we gained the confidence to construct a book of substance.


Papermakers of Victoria is open to anyone with an interest in paper, whether professional or non-professional, in any associated area, and at any level of expertise.

The group has members in all states and territories in Australia and several members in other countries

They run a broad and fascinating program of paper focused workshops each year.


One comment on “Workshop review

  1. greengaze
    January 9, 2016

    What a lovely review!

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