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Parchment art in the pergamano method demonstrated in Palmerton

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Mary Behler talks about how she made a card in the pergamano method of parchment art.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Mary Behler talks about how she made a card in the pergamano method of parchment art.
Published July 15. 2011 05:01PM

"It's a great treat to enjoy some of our local talent," said Secretary Betsy Burnhauser at the June 13 meeting of the Palmerton Area Historical Society. She introduced Mary Behler who does parchment art.

Behler said her art is not very popular in the United States and supplies cannot be found. The art began in the Ukraine and spread throughout Europe and Turkey. It has existed at least since 500 A.D. The early tools were made from little round stones that were used to scratch the paper until the proper effect was found.

Ninety percent of the art is to make cards, but Behler creates framed artwork, some angels and other items in addition to the many cards she brought. The bookmarks make excellent gifts and will last forever unless they are lost, she said.

Her pictures have won prizes at the fair.

Goatskins were the first medium used since they could be punched. With the advent of the printing press parchment art went dormant for 200 years because printing was easier. Then people realized they did not want to lose the art.

Papyrus stems were split and spread flat to dry for use as paper. Soon fabric was mixed with other things and parchment came into being. It was expensive at $1 a sheet.

Today's tools were developed in the 1800s. A four-pronged instrument was used to make holes in a square and then the center could be taken out. It was popular for wedding cards.

She pointed to a lacy design and said that is the true pergamano art.

Behler was introduced to the art in Florida where she took a class. There is a15-hour test to became a master.

An exceptional old frame came from the Trexler Estate. The picture is of a lady in a full skirt, but four pieces of paper were needed to make all the layers.

A picture of a girl required every method of doing the art.

She made several angels. One has 5,000 bumps where the parchment was pricked.

She takes designs from coloring and flower books. It was when her son's daughter had twins that she got into making baby cards.

The pricked paper is combined with such things as feathers, fabric, wood pieces, dried flowers and painting. There is a special pergamano glue when pieces have to be combined. The glue is hidden where pieces overlap.

A small container of special wax is used to dip the point of the tool so it goes through the paper easier.

One thing she likes is that a person can work 10 minutes or two hours, take a break, and then come back to the work.

"I try to do things everyone likes," said Behler.

For information Google pergamano.

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