The The Art & Craft of Handmade Paper Art & Craft of Handmade Paper

The The Art & Craft of Handmade Paper Art & Craft of Handmade Paper

by Vance Studley

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ISBN-13: 9780486142531
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 05/05/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
File size: 13 MB
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The Art & Craft of Handmade Paper

By Vance Studley

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1977 Litton Educational Publishing. Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14253-1


Handmade Paper

The importance of paper in our lives today is inestimable. It is the bearer of thoughts, recorder of knowledge, promoter of commerce; it is the surface on which lie many of the world's greatest artistic treasures. Oddly, little has been written about the ways in which the artist, the craftsman, and the student can make their own paper. Quality paper yields unsuspected richness of texture and possesses a tactility which enhances the images made on its surface. A piece of paper is not just a piece of paper, but becomes an essential ingredient in the creative process and can give life to the artist's mark. For all the differences there are between kinds of papers— rag paper, wood, watercolor, newsprint, etc.—they all serve the user for various needs.

Today's artist is no longer satisfied with paper as merely a surface to hold an image. He wishes to extend the use of paper and pulp by utilizing flexible form and responsiveness as integral parts of what artists do best with media: give shape and unity to ideas.

The lithographs of Daumier, the etchings of Rembrandt, the velvet-like aquatints of Goya, and the pastels of Degas were executed on papers of incomparable quality which survive today as testimony to the handcrafted expertise of the European papermaker. Fine paper is an inspiration to artists whether it be in sheet form or dealt with sculpturally as liquid paper. It can be formed, poured, shaped, embedded, layered, molded, and colored. Paper can be made from cotton rags, celery stalks, iris, gladiola, straw, wheat, bamboo, cattail, hemp, potatoes, reeds, beans, linden leaves, burdock stalks, St. John's wort, horse chestnut, hollyhock, marsh meadow, thistles, and blue grass. The list grows with each experiment of the papermaker.

The requirements are simple. The reader will need several basic items: a workspace, raw materials (from your garden or grocery store), several hand tools, one or two hand appliances, and a flat drying area.

It should be remembered that the first few attempts at forming pulp into paper will take practice and the initial sheets may look crude, uneven and quite unlike paper you are accustomed to seeing and using. Save these first sheets; they make excellent materials for collage, mobiles, and papier-mâché, and can always be repulped at a future time for new sheets or as an additive to other pulp for exciting mixtures of color and composition. It is from · this starting point, from these unexperienced beginnings, that skill can grow, transforming the crude to the polished originality that is within each student, artist, and craftsman.


Paper serves us so constantly in our daily lives that it is difficult to imagine a world without its benefits. On every side we are confronted with books, magazines. newspapers, and posters. Most of our knowledge of the past comes to us on paper; most of our current information is printed on paper; and the record of what we do and say and think today will be made available to the future on paper. It is difficult to conceive that in ancient times there was no substance of this kind. Tracing the various materials in use prior to the advent of paper makes us realize how impossible it would be for modern civilization to endure, even momentarily, the total lack of this indispensable material.

Written language is an essential condition for the development of communication. Before written language, there was only spoken language, often guttural in sound. Primitive people passed on their knowledge by word of mouth, depending on memory to accurately record myth, event, and story. The Chinese, like the people of other lands, had used the method of tying knots. Different knots—large or small, single or multiple, loose or tight, in various colors—indicated many things. Eventually, written symbols evolved as communication.

Picture drawing or pictograms was another way by which primitive people expressed themselves. Chinese script, especially, was a product of pictographs from which the Chinese written language evolved.

In China the earliest writing had no fixed form. It was done on the protective covering of certain animals such as tortoises, on mammals, skin, bones, and later, on bronze, stone, bamboo, wood, silk, and finally, paper. The invention of paper made the book possible. It was the surface on which man was to create his images of religious belief in which the artist was so instrumental.

Oracle Bones

Oracle bones date back to the sixteenth century B.C. Scholars learned that the marks on these bones were primitive forms of ancient writing recording the events of that time. The inscriptions contained records of questions asked of the gods or divine ancestors. Before going into a battle or offering sacrifices, or in the event of sickness, the Chinese subjected the shells or bones to the extreme heat of fire. The cracks which resulted on cooling were interpreted by the wise men.

On the shells or bones were recorded the reasons for seeking guidance and the divine instructions as interpreted. These were valuable records which were kept for later verification and as a result, were preserved carefully. This preservation has provided today's scholar with much information about the early lifestyle of the Chinese.


Stone was most likely the first material upon which effigies and, later, characters and letters were graven in other parts of the world. Through this medium of expression an inordinate number of historical records have been made available to the modern world. With sharp carving tools Egyptians carved hieroglyphs in monuments of stone, called obelisks. These four-sided shafts terminate in an abrupt pyramid. One such ancient obelisk stands today in Central Park in New York City.

Clay Bricks and Tablets

The Chaldeans of ancient Babylonia impressed characters with incising tools of bone into clay bricks or tablets of various sizes. This is known as cuneiform, meaning wedge, because the marks made in the clay were wedge-shaped. The clay tablets were then baked until hard. These tablets were transmitted from one person to another, just as letters and accounts written upon paper are exchanged today. Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian ruler and general, formed a great library of clay tablets, setting scholars to collecting literary, historical, religious, and scientific works, and to making translations and editions of valuable thought.


The use of such metals as brass, copper, bronze, and lead was not unknown to early civilization. In the Bible, reference is made to the use of lead for permanent writings. Other metals were used in preserving treaties, laws, and alliances. The Romans used bronze in recording their memorials, and on the field of battle Roman soldiers engraved their wills on their metal buckles or on the scabbards of their swords. Being a favorite possession, bronze articles were inscribed at first with names or other symbols to show ownership, later with writing to commemorate an occasion or explain the reason for making the bronze objects, or to describe their use, or to record the names of their makers.


Large books constructed of pieces of wood, were in use before the time of Homer (ninth century B C.). The main material came from the box and citron trees. Each section of wood was usually covered with a thin veneer of wax, chalk, or plaster, and letters or marks were scratched onto the coating with a metal or bone stylus. This technique permitted erasure by recoating the wooden boards. The separate boards were fastened together with leather thongs and thereby composed a book, called a codex. The table-book remained in use until the fourteenth century A.D. In the Orient, characters were inscribed into strips of dried bamboo which were strung together to form a bundle. This object was cumbersome and difficult to store. Each time a book was used the string had to be untied and re-tied. The ancient Chinese did not number the strips and confusion occurred if a string snapped and the bamboo strips were disarranged. Replacing them in their proper sequence was, often times, never done.


Writing on palm and other species of leaves was practiced from the earliest periods in Rome and Near Eastern countries. From the large palmyra leaves, strips of varied length and about two inches in width were cut. A metal stylus was used to make indentations on the leaf and these scratches were filled with a dark paint derived from the carbon in ashes making the letters clear and distinct. Each leaf was pierced with two holes, and the leaves were strung together with cords to make a book. From the use of leaves of assorted trees for the making of books in ancient times the word "leaf" is now used to mean a part of a book.

Bark of Trees

The bark of many trees has been used as a writing material in almost every period and region. The ancient Latins used the inner bark, known as liber; in time the term liber denoted a book itself, and from it our word "library" originates. The American Indians wrote their language of symbols with wooden sticks and liquid paint upon the hammered bark of the white birch trees of northern America. The native aborigines of Central and South America, including Mexico, have, on many occasions, made a type of paper by beating the inner bark of moraceous trees. History does not show that the native aborigines of what is now the United States ever made paper of any form or type.


Parchment, a sheetlike material made from animal skin, occupies a unique and highly regarded place in the history of paper evolution. It evokes a sense of antiquity and is associated with quality that is practically without peer. Parchment is durable and has for many hundreds of years withstood the rigours of age and continuous use. Parchment has been the bearer of valuable records and stories from the age of classical Greece to medieval times, and many ancient parchments survive to the present day as witness to this exceptionally useful material. The word "parchment" derives from Pergamum, an ancient city of Mysia in Asia Minor. Scholars feel that parchment was probably in use as early as 1500 B.C., however, it was not considered to be a common writing surf ace until much later, most likely around 200 B.C.

The skin of animals has proven to be most difficult to prepare and has its attendant problems: soft versus hard, porosity, and surface acceptance to various media. Animal skin is tough and is capable of much manipulation and treatment at the tanner's hand. It may be colored, polished, flexed, and decorated by embossing, incising, punching, and stitching. It ages slowly in use and when colored, scraped, incised, or simply stored unused, retains a beauty of its own. True parchment, unlike leather, is made from the split skin of the sheep. The grain or wool side of the animal's skin is made into skiver, that is, material suitable for use in bookbinding. The flesh or lining side of the skin is converted into parchment of the finest quality.


Vellum is made from calfskin, goatskin, or lambskin and is usually made from the entire skin. Vellum often may be distinguished from parchment by the grain and hair marks which produce a somewhat irregular surface. Parchment is more consistent in appearance and does not possess these elusive characteristics. Parchment and vellum must be scraped, rubbed with lime, and stretched so the skin takes on a uniform appearance. It is then sanded with fine pumice making it an ideal surface for writing and calligraphy. Scribes throughout the ages have been very selective with the skin to insure uniform color and surf ace quality in bindings requiring many pages. Parchment remained in continuous use through the Renaissance, and it is said that to produce a single copy of the Gutenberg Bible required the skins of three hundred sheep. Parchment and vellum are still in demand and use today owing to the nature of fine diplomas, certificates, patents of nobility, etc. Calligraphers find these materials to be ideally suited to the extremely fine detail required of good workmanship. If paper had not been invented, expensive parchment would not allow for the extensive written communication we have enjoyed for many hundreds of years.


The first successful attempt to manufacture an article resembling modern paper, so far as is known, was made in Egypt at a very remote time. An aquatic plant known as papyrus, afforded the material. Papyrus is a strikingly attractive plant, the stem of which grows from ten to twenty-five feet high. The stem is triangular in cross section and around its base grow several short-fibered leaves. It is smooth without any knots and tapers gently towards its flowery cluster, which is large, delicate, and tassel-shaped. The plant grows profusely in the stagnant shallows of lakes and rivers in many parts of Africa. It is from the thin coats or pellicles of the papyrus that papyrus paper was made. These were separated by means of a sharp, long pin, or pointed mussel shell, and spread on a table with a thin stratum of water in the form the size of the sheets required. On the first layer of these slips, a second was placed transversely to form a sheet of desired thickness, which, after being pressed and dried in the sun, was polished with a shell or other smooth, hard substance. Twenty-two sheets were the most that could be separated from one stalk, and those nearest the pith or center made the finest paper. The commerce of Egyptian paper was flourishing in the third, and continued until the fifth century B.C.

The growing use of animal skin, and the geographical changes of the Nile region contributed to the demise of papyrus. Cultivation became difficult and papyrus declined rapidly. The words "paper," "papier," "papel," etc. are derived from the Greek word papyros. Biblios was the Greek term used to denote the inner fiber of the papyrus plant, and writings on sheets of papyrus were known as biblia.

There are many other flexible writing and drawing materials that may be compared with papyrus: the Amatl bark papers of the Aztec and Mayan peoples, and the so- called "rice paper" of Formosa. Rice paper, which is a misnomer, is a thin substance cut spirally from the inner lining of a tree indigenous to the country, and has no relation to rice, its derivatives, or to true paper. It is used in China primarily for sumi painting and calligraphy.


Paper is a material made in the form of thin sheets from rags. straw, bark, wood, hemp, or other vegetable material. To be classified as true paper the thin sheets must be made from fiber that has been macerated until each individual filament is a separate unit. The fibers are intermixed with water and, by the use of a fine mesh screen, lifted from the water in the form of a thin stratum. The water drains through the fine openings of the mesh or screen, leaving a sheet of knitted, clotted fiber upon the screen's surface. This thin layer of intertwined fiber is considered to be paper.


This is the manner in which the Chinese court official, Ts'ai Lun, formed the first paper in the year A.D. 105. To this day the precepts and methods of Ts'ai Lun have remained much the same with large machines and sophisticated equipment employing the same principle. The very formation of paper fiber has undergone no change in almost two thousand years.


Excerpted from The Art & Craft of Handmade Paper by Vance Studley. Copyright © 1977 Litton Educational Publishing. Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Handmade Paper,
2. The Method of Making Paper,
3. Materials, Tools, and Equipment,
4. How to Make Paper,
5. Projects,

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