Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Day of Papermaking

Yesterday I gathered together with members of Papermakers of Queensland (POQ) on the Sunshine Coast to make paper.  These papermaking days - known as 'Hands on Paper' (HOP) days -  are a POQ tradition spanning 25 years.

Making paper from botanical sources (ie plants) rather than recycled papers is a labour of love. Here's a rough guide to how its done:

1.  Collect fibre - prunings from plants, chop up into small pieces.
2.  Put into old pillow cases.
3.  Boil in a solution of caustic soda (or soda ash) for several hours to break down the fibres.
4.  Rinse, rinse, rinse in water until it runs clear.  I usually do this over several days using a soak then rinse method.
5.  Beat the fibres to break them down into a pulp.  This can be done by hand with a mallet, a garbage disposal unit, a blender, or (the best option) a hollander beater.

The fibre is then ready to be put into vats of water and sheets pulled.

I had the opportunity yesterday to use a hollander beater for the first time, and Helga kindly showed me how it worked.  It was great to see my chunky fibres gradually beaten down to a fine fluffy fibre which hung suspended in the water beautifully.

Our HOP day consisted of members sharing vats of different fibres including Hamil grass, cane, banana, philodendron, lemon grass, and my mixed vat of daylilly, geranium and pineapple leaves.  I also like to add a bit of recycled printmaking paper pulp to my papers to reduce shrinkage when drying.

Once the sheets are formed and the couching stack is high, the sheets are pressed with a hydraulic press to extract the water and compress the fibres.  Then the papers are laid out on boards until dry, then ironed and pressed under weights to get them flat.

Phew!  Lots of hard work but the papers are beautiful and yesterday there was a great vibe of energetic fun making paper with a group of like-minded papermakers.

The Hollander Beater

Lemon Grass fibre n the beater

The Lemon Grass fibre is ready!
Pulling a sheet of mixed fibres, using a mould & deckle

Here I am couchng a sheet

Pressing the couched sheets using a
hydraulic press
Laying the sheets onto boards to dry
The happy papermakers !