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© natARTlie 2019

Four Paper Making Mistakes

In the beginning there was.... a carpeted apartment. Living in this apartment made me think I couldn’t make paper at home. I’ve made many mistakes (see list below), and I’m still making a ton, but I’m also making paper. Believe it or not, making paper in a carpeted apartment is not one of my mistakes. So without further ado, I'll share some of my oopsies with you in the hopes that someone, somewhere, will be entertained by my antics or find the information 👇🏽 helpful in some way.

I make my translucent paper with over-beaten abaca fibers. Enter mistake #1:

There I was, minding my own business and making beautiful paper, when it occurred to me that I had no way of saving and storing the pulp that was floating inside my vat after I was finished making paper for the day. So I tried the nylon netting I was using to strain pulp prepared in the blender. Oh no, no, no, no, no! And no! I needed something strong but with a very fine weave. Enter organza fabric, which thanks to the wonderfully talented bookbinder Daniel Kelm, I started using to super-strain my wheat starch paste.

organza fabric over pasta strainer makes for the perfect finely beaten pulp sieve, ya heard!

Boom! I had found a solution to my straining issue. Or had I? On a weekday night (nuts, I know) after cleaning up post-papermaking, I realized the organza I had clipped onto my bucket was very saggy and heavy and I needed to adjust it. Suffice to say, I spilled half my pulp on the kitchen floor. I realized then that I had made mistake #2. I rushed over (not really, I don't do anything rushed...) to the dollar store and got a pasta strainer shortly after. Armed with my strainer and organza, I was able to drape the fabric over the strainer and place both of these over a bucket that would collect the water below. In this way, the fabric was supported enough that clips were not needed. I was also able to pick the fabric and pulp up and manually strain the latter when needed.

Mistake #3 came before the straining incident. This one is a tiny mistake for all you nipping (book) press using papermakers. In preparation for pulp painting, I pressed my freshly pulled papers but apparently I went a bit overboard. Pressing it too much led to the papers drying quickly and attaching to the pellon. Many were torn and not suitable for pulp painting. I now turn the wheel of the press halfway when prepping for pulp painting. 👍🏽

Mistake #4 came when I tried transferring my pulled paper from the papermaking mould onto the pellon, a process called couching (pronounced 'coo-ching'). Since I was doing this in my kitchen, I needed a surface with a lip for all of this to take place. I purchased some cheap aluminum baking trays thinking 'you're a genius Natalie'. Turns out, I'm not. The trays began to oxidize very quickly! I wasn't ready to give up though, so I purchased a small cafeteria tray to place my wet pellon over and a large plastic tray to couch the sheets. 💫

Not-so-nifty aluminum trays

Cafeteria trays, two sizes. Used for papermaking at home

That’s all for today, folks! I hope you learned something my mistakes, or at least had a good laugh 😺

Till next time!