Why handmade paper?
Much of my recent work involves a combination of traditional and contemporary Asian-style hand papermaking techniques using bast fibers — the strong, woody material obtained from the stems, stalks, or leaves of a variety of dicotyledonous plants.* Paper mulberry (aka kozo), gampi, mitsumata, and abaca are some of the more common plants used for this purpose.
These bast fibers are located between the rough outer bark and the inner woody core of the plant. Once the bark is separated from the stem, the outer layers of green and black bark have to be removed and the inner lighter colored bark is then cooked and beaten by hand before the paper can be made.
As you can see from the image gallery, the creamy "white" inner bark is extremely fibrous—the same living tissue used by the plant itself to transport organic nutrients during photosynthesis. Its strength and flexibility are why bast fibers have been used for thousands of years to make rope, twine and netting. About two thousand years ago, some clever individual(s) realized it would also make a fine paper surface. (More on the history is coming soon...)
While this is a labor intensive process, it’s also rewarding as the natural bast fibers bring a unique presence to the resulting paper, filtering, reflecting and even transmitting light.
*flowering plants with net-veined leaves