Picture books are ideas made of words and art.

They are also objects made of paper, cardboard, glue and ink.

Last week I visited a papermaking workshop in San Agustin Etla. The workshop is in an old building beside a river, in the hills about ten miles from the city of Oaxaca in Mexico.

It is a peaceful and shady place.

The paper is made from cotton pulp. It is mixed with other natural materials such as the fibers from corn husks, bast, mica.

Sometimes it is tinted with cochineal, annatto seeds, indigo or other   natural dyes.

The cotton is soaked and pounded in a machine, forming a pulp.

The pulp is lifted out from the bucket in a wood frame with a screen set into it.

The water drains out leaving the pulp behind.

The paper is released onto a tin sheet, where the moisture is pressed into felt blankets.

The sheets are hung to dry.

When a page is completetly dry it is peeled off of the tin sheets.

The paper is ready. It is waiting for ideas, words and art.

18 responses to “Paper

  1. Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Can you describe how that paper feels? It seems luxurious!

    • The paper is very different in texture and weight from sheet to sheet because each page is made by hand. I notice a lot of difference from commercial paper when I write and draw on it because it is unsized. Some of the paper that they make has blossoms or fibers or mica in it.

  2. I LOVED this. Thank you.

  3. Julie, our paths must have crossed in Oaxaca, as we’ve just come home. Although I didn’t go to Eta on this visit, I have gone a number of times both to see the paper making and the exhibits, which are always rewarding. Thanks for bringing the memory back. And isn’t the view amazing!

    • Hola! Yes – the paper making taller and the museum are both such amazing places – I even like them when they are empty. But there are SO many amazing places around Oaxaca – you can’t see them all every time.

  4. wonderful!

  5. Wow wow wow!!! Thank you for sharing this! It’s a fascinating process! And yes, to echo Cathy’s question: how does it feel?

  6. Love the distinctiveness of each paper and the way it is cre

  7. Inspired two thoughts–we have a friend who has been making paper from Japanese Knotweed which is very invasive here so a great way to use/reuse this plant.
    When I was in college I interned at Hammermill paper company and would give tours of the plant from the trees to the pulp to the finished paper. Not as wonderful or elegant as hand-made paper but an interesting process and something to witness on a large scale.

    • Julie Paschkis

      At the Oaxacan paper making workshop there was a lot of pounding and beating of the rougher substances – that could be a satisfying procedure with invasive species.

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