Paper making (studio)
The hand-forming of paper, often using a mould and deckle to gather and form the sheet.
|Status||Currently viable (see ‘Other information’ for further details)|
|Historic area of significance|
|Area currently practised|
|Origin in the UK||15th Century|
The first paper was made around the 2nd century in China from plant fibres which were beaten in a pestle and mortar. Papermaking spread to the Islamic world in the eighth century AD, and the earliest use of water-powered pulp mills date from this time. The technique gradually travelled towards Europe providing a substitute to animal skins for writing (Nb. papyrus is not paper and was a local material produced in a very different way). Literacy was poor and mainly restricted to religious organisations and the legal profession. Imported paper from Europe, and later the early production of paper in England coincided with Gutenberg’s invention of moveable printing type.
Making paper by hand takes place on two scales:
- ‘Studio’ paper making by individuals – there are several hundred people who make paper in this way
- ‘Commercial’ mills making paper on a batch production basis
Making paper by hand is not that different from making paper by machine. In this context, both commercial and studio paper making is done by hand; the processes of commercial and studio making are largely the same, but the scale of making is different.
Paper is primarily made from cotton and linen flax, but other materials such as bamboo, eucalyptus, esparto, kozo and sisal can also be used, and hemp, seeds, petals and recycled rag added to provide texture and character. The fibres are first beaten in water and for coloured paper, lightfast and permanent pigments are added. The sheets are formed individually using hand moulds and deckles, and then each sheet is laid onto cloth felts and pressed. The paper can then be surface sized and left to air dry.
- Paper mould and deckle making – last UK practitioner recently retired. Only trainee is French.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
The number of studio papermakers means the basic skills of paper making are in use and are fairly safe, but many lack the deeper understanding that comes from practise and repeat-making on a larger scale. Furthermore, the treatment of the fibres is all-important in papermaking, but this is a skill that a lot of studio makers do not have because they haven’t been trained in it.
Craftspeople currently known
- Alison Newman at PULP Paper Arts Workshop, Glasgow – teaches and undertakes commissions.
Jonathan Korejko – teaches and undertakes commissions.
Lucy Baxandall – teaches and undertakes commissions.
- Chrissie Heughan – teaches, undertakes commissions and exhibits.
- Gill Wilson
- Peter Ford
- Hilary Sussum
- Claire Christie Sadler
- Mandy Brannon
- Elaine Cooper
- Maureen Richardson
- Lucy Baxandall
- Jane Ponsford
- Jackie Parry
- Houston, Keith, (2016) The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time
- Kurlansky, Mark, (2016) Paper: Paging Through History
- Turner, Silvie, (1998) The Book of Fine Paper