Making Paper: The Start – Harvesting plants

Since taking a workshop back in July 2010, I’ve been seriously contemplating creating my own paper from start to finish. This is the year to go for it! I’ll be utilizing a couple of books written by Helen Hiebert, an amazing paper artist in Portland (and the one I took a Paper in 3D class from out at Sitka.) I’m looking forward to learning from this experiment and hopefully utilizing some of the paper in my own art creations.

Where does one start? Well, looking at the back yard, one of the easiest plants to use happens to be growing right next to the house. The previous owners of our home had planted several stands of white iris. They have never really grabbed my attention. I don’t encourage their growth. We’re hoping to plant something else there in the near future. However, iris have wonderful leaves for paper making. Hummm, maybe they will have to stay depending on the outcome of this project.

Harvest site in below photo.

Materials gathered so far.

First questions: How many pounds of material will be required for adequate paper making? How will I measure the amount harvested? What will be my retting agent? Should I wash & dry the leaves prior to breaking down the fibers?

Time to pull out the books and do more research.

I think I’ll attempt to wash off the leaves an allow them to dry in the sun. This should help break down the mushy plant fibers and make the first boil (with soda ash) more effective. Plus washing the leaves will remove unwanted extras (spiders, bird droppings, dog pee).  Off to the wash basin!

The leaves will now continue to dry during the next umpteen days. We should be having sunny days for the next week or more. Once the leaves are fully dried, then I’ll take a weight measurement. Approximately 1lb of dry vegetation will create 15 sheets of paper. Now it’s up to the sun.

Ahh, one of my morning helpers keeping a watchful eye over an untrustworthy ball!

By afternoon, he was helping wash the leaves.

Which turned into play time.

Frog Report

We may be in “the year of the rabbit” but I strongly suspect it’s a frog year around my house. I’ve never seen so many tree frogs in previous years. Maybe it’s due to all the rain or I’m just poking into areas they like to hide. This morning I found a group of 4 frogs nestled in a large plastic garbage can used for collecting yard debris. It only had a few leaves in the bottom and an extra plastic container lodged inside. Apparently it’s the right environment for resting amphibians.

Yesterday I discovered two more hanging out in a similar situation in the garage. It’s a good thing to check through stuff before chucking it out. You never know where the frogs might be hiding!

Published by paperstew

I'm an artist in Albany Oregon focusing on paper and natural objects for inspiration.

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