My paper making class went on a field trip to an artisan paper studio called Donoso Papel, the only one in Chile that makes paper by hand the traditional way. It is a one-man business, and the studio is in a garage! However, the owner named Julio has a large-scale press and other custom-made tools for paper-making. It was so special to see and participate in the process. The visit also made me really happy that it is still possible to make a living off of a traditional art like paper-making. The care and attention to detail put into each sheet and project is amazing.
When we went, Julio was making paper out of cotton fibers. He had previously soaked and processed the cotton to make a pulp:
To test the fiber, you can see whether or not it is translucent when put in water and held up to the light:
This is the machine that breaks down the fibers. You generally let it run for hours while the spikes in the wheel turn the pulp. It is called a pila holandesa. We have one at my school for our own paper-making!
We pressed each sheet onto layers of felt:
And sprayed each new layer of felt with water to moisten it for the next sheet:
Then, Julio put the stack into the press to squeeze all the water out:
Even when moist, paper made form plant fibers is strong enough to pick up (unlike recycled paper that will crumble apart). This is because the fibers weave and lock into each other.
We let them dry and I got my sheet back the next week!
Samples of Julio's paper. He makes paper for custom cards, menus, books, etc.:
Amate paper from Mexico. This "paper" is not formed with a pulp and a screen. Fibers from a tree are criss-crossed then pounded out by hand. Sometimes it is made as full sheets, without leaving the holes.