It’s one of those parts of modern life that is so… normal. It’s everywhere. But when’s the last time you thought about how paper is actually made? Or its potential to help the planet?
Have you ever opened a book, flipped through a magazine or been handed a resume where you’re surprised by just how good the paper feels? The weight, the texture, the color, and the sound of it all working perfectly together to create, elicit, and support a certain tone, where the paper could tell a story all by itself if it had to.
There’s a lot more to this medium than wood pulp and machinery, so let’s take a look at the beautiful craft of papermaking from one of the last studios to create it by hand in England: Gangolf Ulbricht.
If an item is produced with care and love, you can feel it. There’s just going to be a notable difference between a piece of printer paper, and one that’s handcrafted; where you can see the fibers, feel the differing weights, the variations in color and the attention that went into it. Think of it like a lasagna (or any of your favorite homemade foods), you’re going to like the one created by your loved one a heck of a lot more than the one you picked up in the freezer section.
It’s an often overlooked product, and though we use it every day, most of us aren’t sure what can go into the process, or what’s even possible with this medium. Paper is way more diverse than what’s in our school notebooks. It’s a channel for creativity–whether you’re the one putting your words or images onto it, or actually creating the textile. The potential is seemingly endless. (People are even making it out of elephant poop!)
We can see the pure creativity and craftsmanship that goes into the creation of the surface, that a lot of us create on, in this gorgeous film from Kings&Kongs as they visit the studio of Gangolf Ulbricht.
Don’t you just want to reach into the screen and touch it? Maybe it’s just me.
You can be brought through Gangolf Ulbricht’s whole process in more detail by visiting their site!
It seems the more care that is put into the formation of the paper only enhances the end product, adding yet another layer to our already intricate compositions.
Paper connects us. Whether it’s holding the laws of an entire nation or is scribbled on, folded up and passed around a classroom; it’s a surface that can shape our lives. It’s the keeper of our known human history, the stories that create themselves in our heads, and those secrets we don’t dare whisper out loud. So why not make it beautiful?
Aside from the process of completely creating paper by hand, did you catch what’s really special about the paper that comes from this studio?
No trees are used.
“Only wood-free fibers from specially chosen suppliers around the world are used as raw materials (cotton, flax, hemp, Manila hemp, and rags). These are characterized not only by fiber length, but also by their purity and shades of color. Textile fibers are the traditional raw material in papermaking and correspondingly result in a better quality paper.” 2
What do you think would happen if the demand for handmade paper actually increased? If this emotive, tactile paper was desired by a majority, how would it influence what we create? And could it actually end up having an effect on the well-being of our planet?
Here’s where that elephant poop comes in…
Take a look at what this zoo in Prague, alongside many other communities around the world that interact with elephants (and other fiber-filled poo producers), is doing to alleviate their waste production.
This awesome article from BBC expands on this — discussing how elephant dung paper is opening up business opportunities in Kenya alongside reducing deforestation. We aren’t sponsored by them, but if you’re interested in purchasing your own paper products made from poo, want to know more about the production, or are just looking to see a whole bunch of puns, POOPOOPAPER may be what you’re looking for:
“The poo we use comes from a variety of different fiber-eating vegetarian animals such as elephants, cows, horses, moose, pandas, donkeys and others – all of which eat a lot, poo a lot and generate a plenty of fiber-filled waste material which serves as the base of our pulp mixture from which we craft our papers.” 4
Like I said, the potential with paper is seemingly endless.
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” — Robin Williams
Looking for more amazing crafts?
Take a look around our creativity category to explore the work that other amazing humans are bringing to this world!
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- “The Papermaker.” Vimeo. Kings&Kongs, 19 July 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2018. <https://vimeo.com/226119564>. ↩
- Gangolf Ulbricht. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2018. <http://papiergangolfulbricht.de/en/studio/>. ↩
- “Elephant Poo Paper.” YouTube. Uzoo, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 May 2018. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl3nnaFZdp4>. ↩
- “Elephant POOPOOPAPER Classroom Kit.” POOPOOPAPER. POOPOOPAPER, n.d. Web. 01 May 2018. <https://www.poopoopaper.com/en/>. ↩