EBSQ Live Studio – Recycled Artisan Paper, Part II

This demonstration was originally presented by Kris Jean on 9 March 2009 in conjunction with EBSQ goes green.

Recycled Artisan Paper was a detailed and through presentation. Because of the quantity of information- multiple techniques for creating and embellishing papers, supply lists, how to make tools, etc., we will post this presentation in regular installments.

This is the second installment of Kris Jean’s handmade paper how-to. Today we feature The Basics, The Sifter Method and Drying Techniques.

Homemade Paper

Embossed Handmade Paper

The Basics

This first batch of paper I’m going to make is from an entire Family Circle Magazine and red gift wrap from Christmas that is the same consistency.

First thing you need to do is get your dishpan and fill it 2/3 with water. I prefer to use distilled water to keep out extra chemicals and minerals which might degrade your paper. Thus making it last that much longer.

Though the paper you are recycling has more than likely been treated or exposed to bleach, other miscellaneous chemicals and minerals during its processing and/or printing. We want to keep this down to a minimum when recycling it. Since the paper has already been processed once there is no need to beat a dead horse.

Next we will make our MASH or wet paper.

Now take your paper and cut it into roughly quarter sized bits, or you can tear it. When choosing your paper to recycle; keep in mind your finished product is no better than what you put in it. It’s also a good idea to recycle the same style of paper at one time – this will give you a more consistent final product and more strength.

NOTE: Printed papers like newspaper and magazines result in grey paper. This is what real recycled paper looks like. If you purchase white recycled paper it’s probably been bleached or was pre consumer scraps. I added the red Christmas paper to give it a slightly pink cast.

Place paper in dishpan of water and swish it around, mixing it thoroughly. The goal is to separate any papers that might have clumped together and ensure everything is going to get nice and wet. In ideal circumstances you should let this sit overnight. This way the water penetrates and loosens up the wood fibers in the paper. If this is not possible you can proceed after an hour of soaking, however for thicker starting paper it will be required.

At this point you could actually take this mash and make paper. It won’t hold together well because the fibers will not be interwoven enough to give it strength and it will flake apart at the seams. So in order to ensure our fibers get fully interwoven we need to make SLURRY.

Slurry is paper fibers that are submerged in water, ready for pressing/molding etc. In simple terms, it’s a big mess of wet paper that looks like a nasty sour milk shake.

To make our slurry, we need to pour off the water into a separate bowl (it will be nasty but we are not done with it yet). Use a cup or simply dip the blender vessel into the water and fill it approx halfway. Take a couple of handfuls of the wet paper (without squeezing) and add it in. Be sure to put the cover back on the blender or you will have a H-U-G-E mess.

Use your pulse until it is a nice homogenous mixture of small bits of fiber with juice. As you look at it you might notice it starts to separate. This is ok. It’s natural for the buoyancy of the paper fibers to take over, some will float some will sink, depending on the paper you use.

Normally to really get the paper mishy-mashy I pulse it about 10 times at 10 seconds each.  Due to blender differences, this might be longer or shorter for you. How long you run it can affect your outcome; Longer will lead to softer, weaker paper. Shorter can result in stronger, larger see-able bit paper. The biggest variable is your starting paper.

Now that we have made our first batch of SLURRY, pour it into the empty dishpan. Go back and repeat making more slurry until you have used all of your paper mash. If needed add more water if you run out.

It’s very important not to overload your blender with too much MASH and not enough water. It will not make a fine enough SLURRY to really be effective and it can kill your blender. (My blender is a $2 garage sale find specially purchased for this purpose)

Using your hand agitate all the slurry together from all your batches. Let it stand for a few minutes. Depending on the material you started with, you might notice a black/grey film start to rise to the top. This is an inky residue kind of like soap scum. Use you hand as a skim and drag it across the top. Once you get to the other side slowly drag your hand along the side to the top and wipe it off your hand. This will keep that mess from tinting/affecting our paper further.

Now it’s time to grab our DECKLE. A deckle is the screen contraption we are going to use to make our paper sheets. They are readily available for sale online.

To make this deckle, I stapled the wire screening along the outside edge and wrapped it around. It’s been around the block a few times so it’s well loved and a quick made one. You can spend as much time as you like to make yours – I made this one in less than a minute.

When choosing what you are going to make your DECKLE from it is important to remember these three things:

1. Can the water get through?

2. How long will it last if it works amazingly and I want more later?

3. What size of paper do I want?

If you use an 8×10 frame with 6×8 opening – your end result paper will more than likely be 6×8. The opening is the most effective area to make the paper.

Sifter Method

The sifter method is used for thinner papers. (Keep in mind most of the paper you make will not be as thin as it was when you put it in the mash.) Homemade paper is generally the thickness of 3 or four sheets of paper. This is due to not having hydraulic presses and other machinery to smash the living daylights out of the paper.

Put your deckle in to the slurry all the way to the bottom screen side up. Using two hands slowly move it side to side, gradually lifting it out of the slurry.

Once out let it drip for a few seconds. This is your first piece of paper – albeit it a wet mess.

For a nice uneven rustic deckle edge, I use my thumb and roll bit of paper off all along the edges, usually the width of the frame it’s self. For a regular deckle edge I just leave it as is. For a straight edge, cut it after it’s dry.

This leaves me with paper the size of the opening. A deckle edge is like the thumb print of homemade paper; its thinner and shows the fibrous nature of the paper.

This wet paper is very fragile and will stick to just about anything at this point. Don’t try to press it with your hands or use your roller just yet.

Now we are going to WRING the paper. Wringing the paper means to press the water out of it.

Place a large piece of felt (mine is doubled over) over it and then use your hand to press the water out. Do not lift the felt. If you use colored felt, wash it first or dyes will bleed on to your paper depending on its color. I had issue with purple felt leaving a nasty yellow residue of all things. Lesson learned.

After you wring with your hand as much water as you can, switch over to the roller. This dual one I got from my Grandmother Dorothy many years ago. It really fits the bill size-wise. Hold the deckle at a 45 degree angle to the dishpan and work from the top to the bottom. The water will gradually make its way down and drip out. (hard to do and hold a camera)

The water will bleed through. This is ok.

Now we are going to remove the paper from the deckle.  We are going to use more dry felt to wring our paper. Slowly lift one corner and peek. If you are lucky the paper will be stuck to the felt and not the deckle. If it is attached to the felt slowly lift it off the deckle, keeping the paper attached to the felt. If it’s not attached to the felt, use your fingernail to slowly lift a corner of the paper and push it on the felt – then continue pulling the felt back slowly leaving the paper attached to the felt.

If it decides to cling to the deckle, flip it over and press with your hands from the bottom of the deckle and repeat the above steps.

Once the paper is off the deckle, lay it felt side down. Place another piece of felt on top of it and use your roller.

The paper should want to stick to the dryer sheet of felt, this is what we want. If it doesn’t flip it over and do it in reverse. Remove the wet one and squeeze out the water back into the dishpan.

Take yet another sheet of felt and wring the paper one last time.

Allow to dry

Drying Techniques

Drying really is not that hard, as long as the paper is wrung well.

If you have, it’s more than half way dry already. You can pick it up, and could literally hang it on a clothes line if you wanted.

To dry your paper you can leave it on a new dry piece of felt (make sure it’s dry), but as a result your paper will warp as it dries and will need to be flattened. I would not recommend drying under a heavy weight as this will lengthen drying time too long and yucky things can happen!

As a personal choice I dry my paper on plastic transparencies. I bought a pack of 50 at a garage sale for a quarter. On my final step, I lay the transparency on top of the new sheet of paper and WRING it one last time with the roller. The new paper will easily stick to it. I lay them about the house and they dry relatively flat. Thicker papers will tend to roll and warp. You can hang them or tape them up to get them out of your way. It’s very convenient and won’t mar the paper.

Don’t think you can make thinner papers by WRINGING it between two transparencies.  It just makes a mess – or paper lace if you are a glass half full kind of person.

With the transparencies, you can also use painters tape to ensure flat paper by taping the edges of the plastic down. More often than not, it won’t curl itself off the paper (at least for me) and it’s still a snap to remove. You can even hit it with a blow dryer if it’s taped down. But be warned using heat with certain additives will turn them brown or weaken colors (dried or live flowers, herbs, etc…)

Another way to dry your paper is sandwiching the new paper between two felt pieces and drying it with an iron (steam keeps it wet so no steam) – this method ensures a flatter paper – but again using too much heat can kill your colors and your additives. To flatten your air dried paper, you could also put it in your flower press if you have one, or between the pages of a phone book.

For me, the best method is air drying. In about 10 hours (more or less depending on thickness) the paper is ready to go and it didn’t use any further resources (energy).

If you can’t find transparencies, you can test lots of different things to dry your paper on. Some people use Formica.  If trying something new check it often for signs of sticking. So far I’ve only found one thing that my paper stuck to and that was the bottom of a pizza pan. It took me a bit to remove it.

Now if your paper is too wet when it comes to drying you will see the edges (or bumps) start to darken as the water evaporates. This uneven coloring is the main side effect, but if it’s SUPER wet mold/mildew could set in because it’s taking to long to dry.

For clean up you can a couple of seed packets to the slurry. (after the blender!!)

Mix, then pour some slurry seed mix into a flower pot that has soil already in it. The slurry will act as a top layer of soil (water often). You can also add seeds and mold the slurry into small balls and toss them randomly into your back yard for flower seed bombs. Another option is adding seeds, and make additional pieces of paper (seed paper), and wring softly as to not crack the flower seed casings.

Do not pour down drains as it WILL clog any screens in pipes. Non seed options for clean up include pouring off water, and squishing the Slurry into balls then toss in the trash or put them in your recycle bin after dry. AGAIN, do not pour down drains.

NOTE: Since they are paper, these papers will accept the same medias, but might absorb it slightly differently and not as uniformed (like water media or markers) but work VERY well with acrylics and all types of regular glues you use in your art.


Be sure to join us next week for more of Recycled Artisan Paper.  The next installment of Kris’ presentation will cover The Pouring Method.

About the presenter:

Kris Jean, a world wide collected artist, has dabbled in her fair share of mixed media. She has been recycling her own paper for years. In the past 5 years no scrap paper has left her studio; it has all been recycled.

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One thought on “EBSQ Live Studio – Recycled Artisan Paper, Part II

  1. Fantastic tutorial. I use a sponge as part of the initial wringing process instead of a brayer, but other than that our technique is similar. For final drying I put paper on cardboard, placemats, bamboo . . . all give different textures to the paper.

    Thank you for taking the time out to take and post all the pictures. I can refer people here for sure.

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