Tapa cloth or bark cloth is a traditional textile from the islands in the South Pacific. You can see some examples of tapa cloth here.
In the school setting we try to duplicate this process using paper. This lesson was adapted from my favorite book "Art from Many Hands" by Jo Miles Schuman.
The word Tapa is Samoan or Tahitian depending on what resource you consult and describes the border of the cloth. Tapa cloth is made from harvesting breadfruit or paper mulberry trees. The inner bark of the tree would be beaten to release the fiber much like flax is beaten to produce linen. This fiber would then be flattened or "felted" if you will into sheets. The resulting cloth was used for clothing, bedding, and household items. Special cloth was made for religious occasions as well as for royalty. It was quite fragile so it was made quite frequently.
I used pieces of foam core board as I had some in my stash but you can easily do this on corrugated cardboard from the recycle bin.
Now traditional designs are based in nature including flowers, trees, fish, animals and birds as well as the sun and the moon. In Tongo these design tablets were made on large leaves upon which thin strips of palm or coconut twine were sewn forming the design. Here we make ours with regular household string. Pencil in your design and then using tacky glue, glue pieces of string into place.
You also want to make these texture boards which just have lines of string.
Easiest way to make these is to smear some glue over the board and then wind your string around the board.
You want to take your paper and crumple it over and over quite a few times.
You then can iron it out flat.
If you want it colored like the yellow cloth in the picture above, paint it with some tempera after you have ironed it flat.
Most Tapa cloth is based on a grid design. Using a ruler make out this grid on your cloth.
Now you want to place a design board under your cloth and using crayon in either red, brown, or orange rub to bring up the image.
Now use the striped string board and in a different color of crayon rub this design around the image you have already brought up.
Don't rub the stripes on top of the design just around it.
You now want to add some touches with some black tempera.
You can use the end of your paint brush for dots.
You can use a piece of cardboard to stamp in a striped design.
Finally you want to paint your border black.
and that's it. You could spread this project over 2 sessions. The first to create your design blocks and then a second to rub the designs and paint the cloth.
Fascinating project and there are lots of resources on the web in google images. Give it a try.
We'll see you next time.