The Tale of Handmade Paper The Tale of Handmade Paper – RESHA

The Tale of Handmade Paper

Author - Divyashree Thacker
handmade paper

Picture  Credit -

To understand the art of handmade paper, it's best to start at the beginning.

Paper was invented in China around 105 A.D.

Working with pulped cellulose fibres created from plants like the mulberry shrub, mixed in a vat of water, the original papermakers captured the fibres on a screen, creating a thin and flexible sheet of paper. From China, paper-making spread to Vietnam, Tibet, Korea & Japan. It wasn't until around 751 A.D. that papermaking began to travel to the Western World.

In Western style paper-making rag fibres from linen and cotton textiles were used to create paper.

Prior to this, in the 9th century in Europe, people were mainly writing on animal skins, or parchment. With Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the moveable type printing press in 1456, the use of paper greatly increased. In our modern lives it's hard to imagine a world without paper.

paper making process handmade paper process

Picture Credit - (left) (right)

Today, one of the most exciting aspects of making paper by hand is that it is a sustainable practice. Unlike machine made papers that are made from wood pulp, handmade papers are primarily made from "tree-free" fibers like cotton, abaca, flax, and hemp.

In traditional papermaking it is common to grow the plant materials from which you make paper. For example, in Japan, papermakers grow Kozo (mulberry bark), and Gampi (a bush), to use as the main materials in their washi papermaking.

Paper making in Rajasthan dates back to 1520s when mughal emperors encouraged this art and established a paper industry here.

It was Maharaja Jai Singh II who bought this art to Jaipur and set up a paper business in Sanganer on the outskirts of the city. Today, the name of Sanganer has become synonym of the handmade paper. The humpbacks in Rajasthan are getting a boost from unexpected quarters on the road to survival: stationery made of poop. The credit for popularising paper made of animal waste in the country doesn’t go to the makers of Camel Charisma, though.

handmade paper making

Picture Credit -

That has to go to Haathi Chaap founder Mahima Mehra. The story behind the brain- wave is messy. Mehra, a paper merchant based in Delhi and her Jaipur-based business partner Vijayendra Shekhawat were walking up to a shrine atop the Aamer Fort in 2002, when this idea struck them. Once the paper sample was tested, manufacturing stationery items seemed like an obvious next step in the process of working with elephant poo paper.

The procedure isn’t very different from camel poo stationery. Collected from street corners, elephant dung is taken to a paper-making unit and washed thoroughly. Then the excreta is pulped with small amounts of cotton till it reaches a fine consistency. Subsequently, the appropriate amount of pulp is put into large vats with water and large wire meshes are dipped in to pull up thin layers of pulp. Once naturally dried, the paper is pressed between rollers to smoothen it and it is ready to be used.

The north east isn’t far behind when it comes to producing paper made of poop.

The founder, Mahesh Bora also realised that Rhino dung has many properties similar to elephant dung. And this was the genesis of Elrhino, a paper-making project, in 2013. Elrhino’s factory in Assam, which uses droppings from the one-horned rhino to make paper and paper products.

white and brown handmade papers

Image Credit -

Monami foundation in association with Lok Pashu Palak Sansthan Sadri, Rajasthan has been working with the local community to improve the quality of life. Helping women in the region to be more empowered with sustainable income.The camel poo paper is made of the dung comes from the camel herds owned by the Raika and grazing in the Aravalli Hills. As the camels eat a very varied diet – consisting of 36 different trees, shrubs, and grasses, the dung paper is extremely biodiverse.

The foundation helps by working with IIT, Roorkee to improve the quality of the paper and then also link LPPS with buyers.

The collection includes a variety of products. These acid free handmade papers can be put to multiple usages.

Books with blank pages, portfolios, diaries, Stationary set, Photo frame, wrapping papers, Business cards, Letterheads, Envelops, Rough pad, Office Folder Pen Stand, Photo frame, Magazine stand, Coaster, Paper weight, Dustbins Briefcase, Telephone Index cum Diary, Handmade greeting cards, boxes of many different shapes and sizes, pencil boxes, sheets of paper and more. These items make great utility and great gifts. Paper shopping bags are another item much in demand. It is not only very useful, but also helps to reduce the use of poly bags.

handmade paper

The process of making paper begins by reducing cotton waste to pulp. Flower petals and other accessories are added to the pulp which is then transferred to large tanks. Big trays of fine mesh are submerged into the water to take out the pulp from the bottom of the tank, which is then covered with a piece of muslin. The sheet of pulp is added to a pile.

The pile is then pressed to drive out most of the water. The resulting sheets are peeled off the muslin and left to dry. The final result is handmade paper which is graceful with embedded various products. They may be further ornamented by different craft accessories.

Many contemporary artists make paper to use as material for sculptures, drawings, or even as an art piece on its own.

Paper-making has also increased in popularity as a craft for making wedding invitations and handmade books. No matter the desired end product, paper-making is something that anyone can learn and enjoy. It's a little like cooking, in that there are ingredients, and you put them together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Every piece of handmade paper is unique to its maker. Variety of accessories and creative minds have lead to a large number of handmade papers, which are not only exotic, but also make the products irresistible. Paper with flower petals, silk paper, mulberry paper, banana paper, drawing paper, mottling paper, coloured paper, batik paper, crinkle paper, textured paper, moon rock paper, embroidered paper, stitched paper, embossed papers, printed papers, batik paper are just few of them as the range sees no end. Zari, thread embroidery, hand block printing, embroidery printing, tie & dye, hand painting and other such patterns on these handmade papers add to their grace and charismatic look.

Thumbnail Picture Credit -