Sharing Passion for Paper: A Visit From Marilyn Wold

December 09, 2017

Sharing Passion for Paper: A Visit From Marilyn Wold

We were recently honored with a visit from the papermaking connoisseur Marilyn Wold. Her passion for handcrafted paper from local plants radiated as she gently dunked her hand in the Kosraean banana pulp. It was a special day at Green Banana Paper as 85-year-old Marilyn Wold and our papermakers Milton, Clifton, and Rodney shared their knowledge and made paper together.

Marilyn Wold and Milton Charley making paper
“Never will I tire of forming a sheet of paper. To me the experience is not only spiritual, but sensual. The vat has the ability of calming one’s soul, it can be healing, joyful, and playful. Papermaking can lift your spirits and take your mind to far away places. For all these reasons I am very thankful for this passion of mine.” —Marilyn Wold

It started back in February, when Marilyn inquired if she could come visit, explaining that papermaking with tropical plants is a great passion of hers. We love visitors, and so she came! Marilyn brought with her immense passion and knowledge for tropical fibers, and curiosity for the younger generation carrying on the craft. It was truly an honor and privilege to have Marilyn Wold at Green Banana Paper. Additionally, she gifted to Matt Simpson and Green Banana Paper one of 50 hand-bound books titled, Hawaiian Canoe Plants for Papermaking. The book is a very special collection of descriptions, uses, legends, and leaf prints of plants brought to Hawaii by the Polynesians.

The Green Banana Paper community is very grateful for the visit from Marilyn Wold. We look forward to continuing this relationship, exchanging passion and knowledge for the tropical plants and art of papermaking.

Here is Marilyn Wold’s writing on the banana plant from her book Hawaiian Canoe Plants for Papermaking:

Hawaiian name: Mai’a
Common name: Banana
Botanical name: Musa paradisiaca
Family name: Musaceae

This species of banana is thought to have originated in India. The Hawaiians had over 50 unique varieties of banana. Some of these trees still grow wild in Hawaii’s mountains. Many banana plants grow as high as 30 feet. The stalk of the plant can reach a diameter of 14 inches. The stalk of stem of the plant is made up of layer son layers of fibrous leaf bases. The stem grows from a large underground stem or corn. The large leaves can be as long as 12 feet, the width measuring 24 or more inches. When the plant is 9 to 10 months old, it flowers. The flowering stalk grows from the center of the trunk. A large bud forms at the tip of this stalk. The tiny bananas begin to form on this bud. It takes 60 to 80 days for the “hand” of bananas to form. After the bunch of fruit is harvested the banana stalk dies. Soon after another new stalk forms form the underground stem.

The banana is not only a food source it has many uses in everyday life. Food, medicinal, cattle feed, cigarette papers, clothing, umbrellas, plates, packing material, and containers for leis or plants to be transported. The leaf sheath fiber was formerly used in thatching and plaiting into clothing. It is used to line the earth ovens when roasting wild pic. The sap from the large blossom was fed to babies.

In Hawaii, the banana tree was regarded as an embodiment of the god Kanaloa. Sometimes called “fruit of paradise” and “fruit of knowledge”, it was believed that the banana plant was the source of good and evil. The serpent was hiding in a bunch of bananas before he tempted Eve.

According to Tahitian legend, the stem upon which the flower grows sprang from the windpipe of man.

According to Hawaiian legend, a brother of Pele, goddess of volcanoes, brought the banana to Hawaii. In Hawaii it is believed to be bad luck to dream of bananas or to meet a person carrying them. To carry bananas for lunch on a fishing trip will bring bad luck. When making sacrifices to the gods, a banana stalk was sometimes used as a substitute for a human sacrifice.

Until 1819 bananas were “kapu” or forbidden to women. The penalty for breaking this law was death.

Once again, thank you for visiting us and sharing your love and knowledge of papermaking Marilyn!

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