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Recently, I have been studying a reed bed area planted to purify drainage water from a disused coal mine. Inspired by GF Smiths NotPla’s seaweed paper (1), Gmund Bier paper made from hops (2), and the artwork of Jane Ingram Allen (3), I am keen to explore how I can make paper from the wetland reeds found at the site.

Making pulp from reeds is a complex process. The plant material, in this case, reeds, requires soaking and boiling in an alkali solution to break down the fibres before it can be processed in a Hollander beater or blender (4). As someone new to paper-making, I will start by learning the fundamental paper-making technique using recycled materials that are simpler to turn into pulp.

After researching various paper-making techniques, I did three trials using recycled materials, such as recycled printed paper, recycled cotton fragments, and old cardboard packaging materials. I used different methods for each of these and refined my technique after reflecting on each outcome.

Pulp can be created from these materials without boiling them first, by using mechanical processes such as blending or a Hollander beater. The Hollander beater is a machine that grinds and macerates the fibres into a pulp, whereas a blender cuts the fibres. Although more practical for small-scale use, the blending process shortens the fibres by cutting them, making the paper more fragile and coarser textured than the same fibre processed in a Hollander beater.(5)

Here’s a how-to guide for other artists new to paper-making who would like to try this technique:

    1. Break up the paper/card or other fibre source into small pieces
    2. Cover the pieces in water, and soak the fibres overnight
    3. Blend the fibres with plenty of water to make a pulp
    4. Place it into a container that your deckle will fit into.
    5. Add water (and other fibres, colourant or size) to make a slurry suspension
    6. Use a deckle and mesh to dip and pull up a sheet of paper
    7. Remove water from the underside of the mesh using a sponge and squeegee
    8. Press (couch) the paper sheet onto fabric
    9. Compress the sheets for 24 hours under heavy bricks
    10. Lay out the fabric sheets to dry (this took around 5 days)
    11. Carefully remove the dried paper from the fabric

I learned a lot from these test batches of paper. Although it is a time-consuming process, some of the results have come out really well. I’m looking forward to sharing the outcomes from these in my next post, along with some further tips and tricks I learned by making these.


Sources used:

  1. Notpla Paper
  2. Gmund Beir Paper
  3. Paper-making Artist Jane Ingram Allen 
  4. Making paper from plants – Paper industry technical association 
  5. Hand Paper making – selecting source fibres  


More information

Paperslurry – how to make paper

Making paper from denim – Jonathan Korejko

Stephanie Hare – Papermaking artist

Paper artists directory