Homemade Paper Making

Paper Making I decided to begin making paper to see whether I could combine my photography with a completely localised process.

After some initially brief research I focused on using the abundant Yellow Flag Iris we have growing in the garden here. Collecting, preparing, cooking, washing and beating this material into a fibre with which I'd successfully make paper.

This all went pretty smoothly. Sourcing the materials to make the Mould & Deckle, a suitable Vat, using the old kitchen blender (I completely screwed this and bought another..!) Where the process fell down was in the actual image making. Cyanotype chemistry I use was reacting with the basic plant material. I looked at the pH and tried to find information on the interweb etc, all to no avail. To continue I decided to re-use an old cotton bed sheet to make a Cotton Rag paper.

The making of the cotton rag went through most of the same process, except the cooking part. Again it made some successful sheets of paper, essentially Blotting paper. Without some form of sizing the chemistry just got sucked up deep into the fibres. At first I tried what I had available: Agar Agar, Gelatin and PVA. The PVA as an internal size - this sort of worked but gave very blotchy prints, so clearly it was not a solution; the Agar Agar and Gelatin were tried as surface sizing. Again, very mixed results, most likely from the quality of my coating technique. What did they use in the industry.? AKD, and it seems only one retailer of this product that I can find in the UK. Out of stock, I had to wait for a few weeks before I could order and receive some.

Eager to get to work I quickly prepared a batch of pulp, measured its weight, weighed out the needed AKD, re-blended the pulp and made a few sheets of Cotton Rag to test. Result, as can be seen here.

I've been mixing in some of the pure Flag Iris paper sheets to the Cotton Rag, it gives an off-white colour paper that has inclusions of plant material fibre visible. Importantly it's not reacting with the chemistry. I just now need to make LOTS more sheets to perfect that part of the process.

I intend to carry on making paper, it fits well with my analogue mindset. I want to try some other natural fibres like Willow Bast, either as a mix with cotton rag or on their own.

Handmade Paper Making
© Matt Thompson. Paper Sample (Longhouse Iris). Cotton rag + Yellow Flag Iris.