To understand the art of handmade paper, it's best to start at the beginning. Paper was invented in China around 105 A.D. Working with pulped cellulose fibers created from plants like the mulberry shrub, mixed in a vat of water, the original papermakers captured the fibers on a screen, creating a thin and flexible sheet of paper. From China, papermaking spread to Vietnam, Tibet, Korea & Japan. It wasn't until around 751 A.D. that papermaking began to travel to the Western World. In Western style papermaking rag fibers from linen and cotton textiles were used to create paper. Prior to this, in the 9th century in Europe, people were mainly writing on animal skins, or parchment. With Johannes Gutenburg's invention of the moveable type printing press in 1456, the use of paper greatly increased. In our modern lives it's hard to imagine a world without paper.
Today, one of the most exciting aspects of making paper by hand is that it is a sustainable practice. Unlike machine made papers that are made from wood pulp, handmade papers are primarily made from "tree-free" fibers like cotton, abaca, flax, and hemp. In traditional papermaking it is common to grow the plant materials from which you make paper. For example, in Japan, papermakers grow Kozo (mulberry bark), and Gampi (a bush), to use as the main materials in their washi papermaking. At Pulp & Deckle we look forward to experimenting with growing our own plant materials from which to make paper. We will also support small businesses such as Carriage House Paper, by purchasing their supplies.
Many contemporary artists make paper to use as material for sculptures, drawings, or even as an art piece on its own. Papermaking has also increased in popularity as a craft for making wedding invitations and handmade books. No matter the desired end product, papermaking is something that anyone can learn and enjoy. It's a little like cooking, in that there are ingredients, and you put them together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. Every piece of handmade paper is unique to its maker.