A lesson in making handmade paper

Making paper is easier than you'd think! On a recent visit to New Mexico, my husband and I were lucky enough to have a private lesson in paper-making by artist and paper sculptor, Jacqueline Mallegni (www.mallegni.com). We started with pieces of a dried mulberry plant and left with almost a ream of handmade paper. I think this counts as upcycling!

Jacqueline pounds the fiber into pulp
By the time we arrived, Jacqueline had already soaked and cooked the mulberry stalks. Our first task was to pound the fibers out of the material. Here, she demonstrates her two-handed technique (I could only manage one). It was like playing the drums, once you got a steady rhythm.

The next step was to stir the pulp into a vat of warm water. It has to mix evenly, without gobs of pulp sticking together.
Mixing the pulp into the water
Then we used a two-part wire and wood frame to scoop up the pulp and spread it flat. I think this was my favorite part. It felt like lifting a baby out of the bathtub. 
Pulling the pulp on the deckle
It takes awhile for the water to drain out. Patience is required!
Draining out the water
Then, you pull off the top frame (the "deckle"), and after more draining, you turn it over onto a sheet of pellum sitting on a wool blanket. Then you brush a sponge back and forth to soak up more of the remaining water.
Sponging off more water
As you "pull" more and more sheets, the pulp gets thinner. You can layer one piece on top of another (Jacqueline called this "laminating"). You use a brush to get the bubbles out. Once the pellum is full of wet paper, you hang it up to dry. (In arid New Mexico, the sheets dried in a few hours. I hate to think how long it will take in our damp Northwest climate!)
Removing bubbles from the laminated sheets
After doing a plain batch, we started adding ingredients. Jacqueline walked out into her desert back yard and picked some yucca stalks and juniper branches. She boiled these while we ate lunch. 
Yucca stems and juniper branches to add to the paper
We pounded them and then chopped them in a blender. The final sludge looked a bit like pesto!
Yucca stems and juniper branches to add to the paper
We tried adding bits of this to our pulp water. I also tried sprinkling coffee grounds on top of the flat pulp. These natural additives made cool patterns and textures.

Here's Jacqueline's dog Bella supervising the lesson.
Bella the dog supervises
Jacqueline told me how to use the same technique to recycle junk mail and other paper into new sheets. That's my next project!

If you're interested in trying this at home, here's a place to buy materials and tools: www.carriagehousepaper.com