Last year, I decided to get a little greener with the way I live. Our house is a 1922 tudor inspired house with original windows, meaning it is beautiful, but incredibly inefficient. Heat/air seeps through every crack, most of our electricity is still knob and tube, and don’t even talk to me about our energy consumption as a family! Long story long, I made a decision to utilize technology via Alexa, Smart Things, Hue, etc. to cut down on our consumption. Yes, we could just walk upstairs and turn off a light, but it was much more pratical for my kids to have a fun way to do that versus a time-consuming less interactive action. By doing this, as well as capturing rainwater for our chickens, less baths, quicker showers and energy efficient appliances, we cut our consumption down to 75%! That may not seem like a lot, but for us it is huge!
On to the purpose of this post: as a designer and a printer, the amount of paper waste is staggering. Having worked in the industry for over 10 years, I cant tell you how many times dumpsters of paper designated for recycling were actually taken to the dump, simply because of human error. All of that scrap could have been reused or recycled, and now it sits in a landfill. After watching this for so long, I became an avid recycler and made it a point to ensure that every possible piece of waste that could be RRR, would be. As time went on, however, I realized that I could be doing a bit more. Recycling still takes energy to process, and though it is much better than in a dump, I started wondering what more I could do. That was when I looked in my recycling bin, and saw scraps of beautiful paper that were only being tossed due to their size. I had my mission: save the paper!
Lucky for me, anything a human could ever want to know is available in tutorial form via YouTube. You can literally learn how to make mud houses, people. It only took me a couple of quick videos to get the jist of it, and I was off.
I started by emptying my recycling bin and sorting my scraps by color. I could put them all together, but I wanted to see if the pulp would retain its color, and I also just didnt want brown paper. I gathered all of the remainder scraps of this gorgeous matte red color, Bordeaux. This paper is so lovely, and I am not surprised that it has been on trend for a few years. After I had all of my pieces together, I ripped them into 1″ square sections, and threw them in a bucket.
While you’re doing this, boil some water, or turn your tap onto high, and collect anough water for your paper scraps to be entirely covered. If you want to be more energy concious, soak the paper in cold water, though it will need to sit overnight to fully absorb the water.
While you are waiting for the paper to soak, now is a good time to prepare your paper “screens”. I happened to have 220 mesh from screen printing, and some old canvases that I was planning to chuck anyway, so I stripped them and wrapped them in mesh.
You don’t have to use this fine of mesh, but I wanted to have as smooth of paper as possible. I then duct-taped down the inside edges so the paper wouldnt get stuck in between, but I honestly dont feel it did much good. The more I used the screen, the more the duct tape separated from the frame and made it much more difficult. TL;DR: don’t duct tape.
After about an hour, come back to the bucket with an emulsion blender(you can use a hand-held one, but it might not chop the pulp down as fine), and blend the paper until it comes down to the smallest paper fibers you can get. USE GLOVES TO CHECK PULP CONSISTENCY! Otherwise, you could potentially dye your hands red.
When you are satisfied with your pulp, transfer it to a container that can accomodate your screen, with enough extra room to move around. I didn’t get a picture of this, but here is a great tutorial by Dieu Donne that shows it much better than I ever could.
You then place your frame with the exposed wood up, and dip it into the pulp, moving it back and forth for an even coat of pulp. Elevate the frame on something to catch the drips. Once the paper is not sopping, turn upside down on either a towel, or in my case, another screen with the exposed frame facing down.
Set the paper on a towel at a 45 degree angle, and allow 24 hours to dry. Moving or messing with the paper before it is dry can lead to cracking and ruin the structural integrity of your paper.
If you have done this a few times, it is more than okay to start experimenting with texture and additives to your paper. Some people like to add seeds, so that it can be planted as a fun attribute to your invitation, but be aware that most ink/toner is not environmentally friendly.
I had some pretty roses that were basically dead, so I decided to chop them up and add them to my paper!
These might by my favorite so far!
Here are the papers I have made so far! Cheers!