Turns out there’s more to paper than an A4 jotter pad…Taking cue from Japanese papermaking, today’s post features ideas and inspirations for creating your own handmade, decorative papers. Nothing too heavy here: you can try these as an absolute beginner. It’s more just an excuse to look at some pretty pictures.
The common starting point is wet paper pulp. Naturally we’re going to use this as an excuse to plug our Japanese paper-making kit, containing everything you need to get started. Simply shape the paper pulp into sheets using the ‘suketa’ frame. If you’d like to make your own, you’ll need a deckle box and for the best results paper pulp with long fibres.
Dried flowers are a straight-forward one to begin, adding a romantic feel to pressed papers. We first separated out small petals and flowerheads, before drying them flat. You can then mix them with the raw paper pulp, for an all-over pattern, or press individual flowers into shaped paper that’s still wet. Drizzle a little of the paper pulp over the top and, as the paper dries, it’ll secure the petals in place.
Makes for a charming addition to handmade invitations, labels and wrapping paper. Plus, bonus, your home composter will love them…as will your pets…
Wabi-sabi (侘寂): the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Mistakes and mishaps are all part of the process, as in life. We went all kintsugi on this frayed Oxalis leaf, ‘repairing’ the break with gold tinted paint and thread.
A therapeutic way to spend a cold afternoon, combine dried flowers with natural dyes to add interest to your papers (read our paper dyeing guide here). Dry the petalled paper thoroughly first, before dipping it in the dye.
Taking it to the next level, lightly press torn papers into your wet paper sheets and sprinkle over a little of the wet pulp to seal. We used adverts from vintage sumo fanzines.
The wet paper can also be moulded. Press stamps (made from anything!) slightly into the surface for a DIY take on blind embossing, without needing expensive equipment. As the paper dries, it will hold the shape.
Right, now one for the papermaking Big Dawgs: transferring the dye from pressed flowers. It’s printing directly from nature.
There’s a couple of approaches to this. The first way is to literally hammer fresh petals onto the surface of dry paper. You heard me right: cover with a second sheet of paper and then pound down those bad-boys. Not on your Nana’s antique bureau, mind.
You’re looking for leaves and petals with bright colors which aren’t too juicy or too dry; anemones, poppies, love-in-a-mist and violas transfer colour well. Experimentation is key, depending on the season it’ll take a little trial and error to find good flowers, so find a variety and play around.
The colours should start to transfer almost straight away, emerging through the top layer. You’ll get two prints, one on each sheet of paper. (This technique works on fabric too).
Once the prints have thoroughly dried, the plants will turn crumbly and easily peel off. But we left our papers ‘stuck’ together, loving the effect of a bloom preserved between thin sheets.
The second approach is to use heat. You’ll need to sacrifice a pan because we wouldn’t advise cooking in it thereafter. Flower-wise we used woad. Other yellow wildflowers also work well but take care to avoid any potentially poisonous specimens.
Lay the flower between two sheets of paper, and hammer down lightly to seal. Pop a piece of cardboard top and bottom and tie the layers tightly like a parcel with string. Cover with water in the pan and heat gently for approximately 20 minutes, until you see the water start to colour. Use tongs to take the bundle off the heat, open it up and allow to dry.
The paper will absorb the colour of the plant, the heat creating a soft halo effect. The dye will fade slowly over time, testament to the fleeting beauty of nature.
And there you have it- some wonderful techniques to pimp your paper. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little guide.