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The Paper Making Process

The art of making handmade paper is no simple task, it takes time, patience and a commitment to quality.

The process here at the KZN/Dragonfly Project starts with us having to hire a "taxi" in order to collect shredded from those who have been kind enough to store it for us. We can only transport 10 plastic sacks at a time which enables us to make about 300 sheets of paper.

Once we have checked that the paper is both clean and is free from unsuitable paper, it is placed into the mashing machine, together with water. The mashing process takes about three hours, before all the paper is reduced to a smooth pulp, only then can a dye be added. The dyes are highly concentrated, so great care has to be taken to ensure that the desired tone is achieved, only once the dye has completely penetrated throughout the pulp, can it be transferred to the screening vat.

Depending on the size of the sheets being made, a screen is lowered into the solution and then slowly removed, these screens are made of a fine silk mesh, which allow the excess water to drain away. Once the water has drained, the remaining thin layer of paper pulp is transferred to a piece of fine cotton material. This is repeated 10 times, with each layer being placed on top of the previous, a final piece of cotton is placed on the top. These 10 layer are then placed in a press, made from an old car jack, this will remove all the excess water.

The final step is to take 2 layers, side by side and place them on a piece of corrugated cardboard, these are stacked, up to 50 high, in a rudimentary drying rack, with fans circulating the air, the reason as to why corrugated cardboard is used.

This process, from start to finish normally takes 3/4 days, hence we will only produce approximately 200 sheets per week. With the new range of Wall Plaques it is now our first priority to improve the way we dry the paper or acquire an additional drying rack.

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