The photographs I have taken in the past few days seem dimly inadequate for the things I have seen. But I will try and fill it in. I arrived in Barcelona late in the day after a boat ride from Italy, a bizarrely surreal experience itself. I got to my hostel, sweaty and hungry, only to feel like I was squatting someone's mold farm. And paying for it. I can deal with cockroaches and leaky sinks and curious plumbing, anti-social types who play computer games in the dark and humidity. But not all at once. In the morning, after sleeping in a greasy cocoon, I headed to the train station to visit the Museu Moli Paperer de Capellades paper drying in the attic
Though I arrived at lunch, I was shown around by the current resident artist, Alyssa Casey, who is in Capelledes for three months before heading to Rome to work with Roberto Mannino, whose studio I visited two weeks ago. This was the start of three days of saying "yes" to all suggestions, sometimes to the frustration of Victoria was trying to offer me a choice. All options seemed great all the time. Late lunch. Drinks with unfamiliar names. Driving to see abandoned paper mills in the area. The river valley once supported at least 17 mills. Victoria's son is researching and cataloging the state of the abandoned mills and was an excellent guide. One was huge but also overgrown with large fig trees in the middle of rooms. All the wood--floors and ceilings had been long gone, leaving the mud and brick walls open to nature.
in the corner, abandoned mill
The second mill was better preserved and stood along the river near a group of pine trees, the largest in Spain of that type. The sun was setting behind the red cliffs, birds sang and though it was 9 o'clock and we had not yet thought about dinner, I felt very good about where I was with these moments-ago-strangers.
giant spanish pines
The next morning, I helped cast a larger-than-life mold of a nose in paper, and appreciated the smoothing properties of formation aid. Then the tour groups began. Though Capellades is in a small town, an hour from Barcelona, every kid who grows up in the area remembers a school trip to the museum. They are given a tour of the mill, complete with examples of materials used to make paper, and demonstrations of the historic process. The tour ends in a workshop room where the guide gives them a short demo on how they can make a sheet of paper with the vats of pulp, molds and deckles provided. Off they go. Alyssa and I helped, making sure the kids used the right side of the mold, removed the deckle before they couched. It was magic. They have an amazing set-up for the workshops, streamlined with so many helpful details. Like having the kids couch onto a stack placed in a tray to minimize mess. I could go on. Also, I mentioned that Catalan is the primary language here. Which means, apart from gestures, I couldn't communicate. The best I could do if they asked me a question was so tell them, in their second language, that I could not speak that language. It was hilarious and fast and very very fun.
18th century papermaking
Lunch starts late in Spain. Around three, after the tour groups and some cleaning up, we met Victoria at her house for lunch on her porch, leisurely talking in three languages, until we decided finally, at five, to load up the car and heard to Barcelona. Which is a whole other adventure. But, if you are in Barcelona and have any interest in paper, Capellades is beautiful, interesting, and the best longest 24 hours I've had in a while. Their website is available in English, too.
p.s. Three people I love are having surgery this week, for minor to serious problems with a range of potential results. Much love to my sister, my mom and Jeremy S. while all y'all appreciate the good things and people in your lives, ok?