Preschool – Adult: Recycled Paper Making

Materials: Scrap paper, blender, mould & deckle (frame with a screen to catch the pulp), sponge, towels, and felt (and/or couching sheets), and wide plastic bin.

Goals: Introduction to paper materials and recycling. Exploration and integration of found objects.

For Deeper Material Exploration:

  • Focus on creating paper sheets with an even thickness and defined edges.
  • Add different colors to multiple bins of pulp and scoop the pulp directly onto the deckle, creating a paper painting.
  • Create “Unicorn Paper” using glitter, pastel pulp colors, and other found materials that combine to create sheets of sparkling joy.

Paper making is a very soothing, repetitive (or meditative), and rewarding process that can result in a wide range of creations including thick paper sculptures, fibrous and translucent sheets, and drawing papers full of cotton and luxurious texture. In my drawing practice, I cut down my sheets from a large roll of archival paper, and usually have small scraps leftover. A great way to reuse these scraps is to blend them back into a pulp and create new sheets for sketches, for book making, or for standalone works of art.

I was excited to introduce paper making to my preschooler and believed that he would really enjoy the process since there is a similarity to the process of baking (there are ingredients, a blender, scooping, and creating), and there is an opportunity to integrate found objects and to play with the shape of the paper, thus personalizing the final product to his interests. Disclaimer: He is 3, did not nap, and was not feeling this part of our paper and book making project. I recommend trying this with the 4+ age group, with a well-rested 3 year old, or trying this for yourself.

For set up, you will want to have your materials out. I used two screen printing frames for my mould and deckle, with the mesh cut out of one to create the mould. To start, run the paper through a shredder or tear it into approximately 1″ squares. Fill 1/3 of the blender, I recommend an inexpensive one, with paper, then fill it the rest of the way with water. Blend the paper into a pulp, as pictured above, and pour it into a vat/plastic bin. I repeated this process 4x, then added 2 blenders full of just water to my bin.

Now you can start pulling paper. The deckle (screened frame) will need to be screen side up, and the mould (frame without screen) will go on top of the screen. It is important to not have the deckle upside down, because you will have a really tough time sponging out the extra water and getting the sheet of paperoff in one piece. With one hand, stir up the pulp so that the paper fibers are moving when you dip your mould and deckle into the bin (this is called creating a slurry).

Moving the mould and deckle together in one direction through the slurry, scoop the pulp up. As you pull the mould and deckle up, slightly wiggle them left and right and front and back, interlocking the fibers of the paper, then hold the mould and deckle still as excess water drains. You want to have an even layer of pulp reaching all four sides of the mould. Once the water slows, you can gently remove the mould, leaving the pulp on the deckle to drain.

After a minute, flip the freshly pulled sheet of paper face down onto your felt/couching sheet (pronounced coo-ching), and gently sponge the extra water off through the back side of your deckle. Once enough water is sponged off, the paper will be ready to separate from the deckle. Pull the deckle up from one side. If the paper is having trouble detaching, sponge again, and/or try slightly and quickly jiggling the deckle side to side to jar the paper loose.

The paper will need one to two days to dry depending on temperature and humidity. The paper, still on the felt or couching sheets, can be stacked with a felt sheet on top and pressed using a wood block and weight. This will squeeze out excess water and speed up the drying time.

I made a few plain sheets of paper as well as a few with dried flower inlays (they can be added to the slurry or directly to the sheet after it is pulled). We played with cookie cutters, creating rabbit and heart shaped pages. Rosemary, coffee grinds, and glitter are a few of the exciting materials I’ve seen mixed into hand pulled papers, and you have endless options for making your paper unique to you or your preschooler.

I imagine my preschooler will paint the shaped paper with watercolors and fixed to homemade cards to be sent to our family. Tomorrow, we will bind the plain paper into a small sketchbook/nature journal. I imagine that we can use the journal to trace leaves and make prints with flowers or other natural interesting shapes.

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