Art Class

Making Paper By Hand 

What you'll need:

  • papermaking mold (screen) and deckle (You may purchase a papermaking kit from TAPPI; kits are also available from craft shops, art supply stores, and toy stores.) You may make your own using an embroidery hoop and flexible plastic window screening or stiff net curtain. Simply place the square of screening over the inside part of the embroidery hoop. Then attach the top portion, leaving it slightly higher that the surface of the screen to form a deckle.)
  • toilet tissue, facial tissue, or paper towels
  • large mixing bowl
  • wire whisk or hand egg beater
  • large plastic bin large enough to accommodate the papermaking mold and deckle
  • kitchen towel, newspapers, or paper towels, folded
  • spatula
  • rolling pin
  • cookie sheet or other flat surface
  • glitter, confetti, dried flowers (optional)
Alert! This activity can be messy. If you are doing this activity at home, be sure to check with your parents or other adult before you begin. Wear old clothes. If it's a nice day, you may do this activity outside on a card table. If you are inside, place a layer of newspapers on the floor underneath your work area.

Before you begin, gather all of your supplies together and put them out on the counter. Read all of the directions from start to finish, to become familiar with the procedure. Now you are ready to begin.

1. First, tear up about 4 cups of toilet tissue, facial tissue, or paper towels into pieces about the size of a postage stamp. Place these into the mixing bowl. Next add enough warm water to cover the paper (about 1-2 cups should do). Watch as the paper starts to absorb water and break down into soggy mush. What you are seeing is the wood fibers in the paper separating from one another. Papermakers call this mushy solution pulp.

2. Now, using the wire whisk or hand egg beater, mix the pulp until the fibers are separated and evenly distributed. No large clumps should remain. You may use your hands to break apart any remaining lumps.

3. Pour your pulp into the large plastic bin, and add more water until the bin is about half full. This watery mixture is called a slurry. Stir the slurry around with your hands. The consistency should be similar to very thin oatmeal. The thicker the slurry, the thicker your piece of paper will be. If it is too thick, add more water. If it is too thin, make another batch of pulp and add it to the slurry a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

4. Fold the kitchen towel, newspapers, or paper towels into a thick pad about 1 inch think and about the size of your papermaking screen, and place it on the cookie sheet. This pad is called a couching (pronounced "cooch-ing") mound. You will be turning your wet sheet of paper onto this couching mound to dry.

5. Now hold your paper mold (the screen part) horizontal above the slurry, screen side up. Place the deckle (the part with no screen) on top of the mold so they fit together squarely. Holding them together firmly with a hand on each side, lower them down into the slurry at about a 45 degree angle to the bottom of the bin, and then straighten them out so that they are horizontal. Swirl them around in the slurry a little, so that the fibers are suspended and evenly distributed in the water. Now, with the fibers still in motion, lift the mold and deckle straight up out of the water.
6. Hold the mold and deckle over the bin so that water can drain out into the bin. As the water is draining out, gently shake the mold and deckle from side to side and forwards and backwards to help the fibers settle. An even layer of pulp should cover the mesh. If you see a lot of holes, return the sheet to the slurry and begin again. If the layer is too thin, you may need to make another batch of pulp and add it a little at a time until slurry reaches the desired consistency.
7. When the water has stopped draining out, remove the deckle. (If no deckle has been used, the edges will be irregular. You may leave them uneven if you like, or you may form edges using a ruler or spatula,)

8. Turn the mold over onto the couching mound using a quick motion so as not to tear your sheet. Slowly roll the mold from one edge of the screen to the other to loosen the sheet. If necessary, you may use a spatula to carefully separate the sheet from the mesh.

9. Place a towel or layer of paper towels on top on your sheet. Using a rolling pin, firmly but gently roll to remove more water. Carefully remove the top layer of toweling. Now lay your sheet, which is still attached to the bottom layer of toweling, out to dry. Your paper should be dry and ready to use in a few hours. You may speed up the process by removing the sheet of paper from the couch mound, or by placing it outside in the sun or in a sunny window.
Once you have mastered the technique, experiment with new materials to make and decorate your paper. Pull apart some cotton balls and add them to the slurry (real cotton, as opposed to synthetic, works best). Or try adding confetti, glitter, or dried flowers to the damp sheet before drying. Add a few drops of food coloring to the slurry to make colored paper. There is no limit to the number of different looks you can achieve.

Creating a Watermark 

What you'll need:

  • correction fluid, puff paint, or waterproof wood glue
  • embroidery hoop
  • flexible plastic window screening (available at hardware and home supply stores) or net curtaining (available at fabric stores), about 18" square, or just large enough for your embroidery hoop
  • hand papermaking supplies (see above)

Alert! The watermark patterns you will make in the activity become permanently affixed to your papermaking screen. Do not use a purchased mold for this activity unless you are willing to have the watermark become permanently affixed to your mold.

A watermark is an area in a piece of paper that is thinner than the rest of the sheet. You can see a watermark best when paper is held up to the light. Watermarks are often used by paper manufacturers to indicate their company name on the sheet, particularly on fine stationery. You can make your own watermark in your handmade paper by following these steps:

1. First, think of a design you would like to use as a watermark. It may be your initial, your favorite animal, or a special logo of your own.

2. Sketch the design on a piece of paper, keeping in mind the size of your screen. Try to make the design clear and simple, with as few lines as possible, but dark enough so that it shows through when the window screen or net curtaining is placed on top of it.

3. Place your screening or netting on top of your design, and carefully trace the design onto the screen or netting with correction fluid, puff paint, or glue. Do not make the lines too thick, as this will cause holes to form in your sheet of paper.

4. Now wait until the design has completely hardened (follow package directions). Your screen is now ready for use in papermaking.


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