Earlier this year I decided to give making my own paper a go after completing a course in the the Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books – Keio University. Where I deepened my understanding of rare books and Japanese culture
This course looked at the history of papers used inside Japanese rare books, and in other cultures across the world.
I learnt about the materials and technologies used to produce Japanese papers, particularly the use of traditional washi paper and also the use of design and decoration techniques.
The hardest part was choosing the right mould & deckle which is what you need to make the paper. I chose an independent small business who makes them on Etsy but you could also make your own. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there using and old picture frame, wire and staples.
This is my mould & deckle below in the process of making paper with flower petals.
Types of Paper Used to Make Paper Pulp
Many different types of paper can be used to make paper pulp at home. This includes newspaper (although the newsprint will give a gray look to the paper), uncoated junk mail, tissue or even clean toilet paper. Some types of cards and card stock can also be recycled this way.
You can easily customise your handmade paper with additives, such as seeds, leaves, yarns, fibers, or a wide variety of other items you can mix in with the pulp. I’m using flower petals here.
Prepare the Paper
Tear the paper and card into small pieces and put it in a mixing bowl. Cover the pieces with water and leave to soak.
The paper should be fully soaked within a couple of hours, however, you may want to leave it overnight or even for a day in order for it to be fully soaked. This helps to break down the paper to make pulp.
Pulp the Paper With a Hand Blender
Use an old hand blender to pulp the wet paper mix. Blend the paper pulp mix until all the pieces have been removed and there is a single mass of paper pulp.
After the paper is thoroughly pulped add it to a large container and fill with water.
- Stir your vat of pulp.
- Hold the mould screen side up, and place the deckle evenly on top.
- Holding them together at a 45 degree angle, dip the mould and deckle to the bottom of the vat and scoop up, holding the mould and deckle horizontally.
- As you lift it out of the slurry, give it a quick shake back and forth, and left to right to align the fibers and make a more uniform sheet. Stop shaking before the sheet is fully drained.
- Let the water drain to a drip.
‘Couching’ means to transfer the wet sheet from the mould to a flat, absorbent surface. Wool felts are ideal, but there are many other options: wool blankets, smoother towels, thick paper towels or bed sheets. Set up your felt with a board underneath and soak your couching materials.
- Remove the deckle from the mould.
- Place a long edge of the mould on the felt.
- In one smooth motion, place the mold face down, press down, and lift from that initial edge. Think of this like a close the door, open the door, motion.
Place a paper towel on top of your freshly couched sheet. With a sponge, press gently at first, then press firmly with as much pressure as possible I use a rolling pin to press my paper even more and get more water out.
Find a flat, non-porous surface. I use a window or glass from a picture frame works well.
Take your wet sheet and gently press onto the flat surface. Make sure the edges are pressed down well.
When it is dry simply very carefully peel it off.
I love making handmade paper. Yes it is a bit messy but worth it! I think it is better to do this outside and when the weather is warm to try the paper quickly.
I like to stick it to glass (see below) that way it seems to dry better and also you have one flat surface and one rough (which I like).
I love been creative and it underpins my love of Nature, photography, sun-printing and any fine art practices.
The paper that is shown are available to buy in my online store as blank cards.