In late July, I took a quick trip to Clayton, NY and visited the Antique Boat Museum where a group of Brooklyn and Queens makers were planning to launch a paper skiff onto the St. Lawrence River with the intention of going 168 miles down river to Montreal. Yes, a paper boat! The group, Mare Liberum, describes itself as “a collaborative exploration of what it takes to make viable aquatic craft as an alternative to life on land.” That’s a practical undertaking given that nearly 1/3 of New York City’s territory is water, but so few of the five boroughs nearly nine million inhabitants engage that territory. One way to increase access is to make boats and encourage others to do so, which is exactly what Mare Liberum has been doing for several years now, teaching classes and open-sourcing many of their boat designs [PDF].
In NYC, the collective typically use reclaimed plywood, canvas, and even bamboo. In Clayton, the plan was to use a century-old Lake Ontario skiff, and produce a paper mold — a la papier-mâché — of the skiff and then affix a wooden skeleton to the body. The result is a beautiful two-person craft that not only floats (and survived the journey), but weighs much less than a completely wooden boat of similar design.
At NYC’s upcoming third annual World Maker Faire, Mare Liberum compatriots Marie Lorenz, A’yen Tran, and Stephan von Muehlen give a presentation on making boats and their water-based projects, while Mare Liberum will also be building a paper canoe using little more than craft paper and wood glue! In just two days they plan to go from material to finished project using “the presumably lost art of building a boat by layering paper and glue over a form to create a sea-worthy vessel.”