While traveling cross-country recently on the way to settle my mother's estate, I read The Watermark, a stunning debut novel by Vanitha Sankaran about paper making in pre-renaissance France. I was totally entranced by the process of making paper from flax and other fibers.
Upon arriving at my brother's farm where we convened to celebrate my mother's life, I clued into the beautiful details of dried foliage around the landscape. These are dried sunflowers, cut down and laying against the fence.
Wild grass on the left and grape leaf on the right...
oak leaves in beautiful bronze and golds.....
and many different grasses in various shades of light golds against the weathered wood of the shed.
After looking at all of these lovely bits, and wanting to do something creative yet without any of my wonderful supplies and stash at home, I got the idea of making paper from the incredible dried foliage I found around me.
I know nothing about making paper, but thanks to the internet, I was able to discern how to proceed. And being on a farm, we had all the necessary things, including a small propane burner on which to boil down (outside!) the fiber to separate out the cellulose and other products, and two small frames to act as a mould and deckle.
I started by gathering a variety of leaves and grasses, and cut them into small bits before putting them all to simmer in a mixture of water and washing soda (the latter helps break down the fibers even more).
Once the mixture had simmered for three hours, it was cooled and rinsed, and then put into an old Cuisinart for pulping. The pulp was then added to a large plastic storage tub with water.
On the right below is the screened mould, wrong side up, on which the paper pulp will be laid by immersing in the pulpy water, as seen on the left. The deckle is an empty frame which sits on top, to contain the pulp, and is what leads to lovely deckled edges.
I added some shredded paper (old bank statements) that I had soaked for an hour or so in warm water to give some adhesion, as I wasn't sure the natural fibers would "gel" enough on their own. This is the look in daylight.
Below is the backside of the paper, in incandescent lighting. I love all of the fibers.