In Milton on the Sunday of "The Settler's Fair" 1998 - Oct. 4 - a group of people made the world's largest sheet of handmade recycled paper. The paper was 1.7m x 0.8m in size, about the size of a dining room table. We had a screen (or mould, to use the papermaking term) made from some old materials - a galvanised iron pipe frame with scrap mesh welded and sewn onto it and scrap wood for the lid or deckle that goes on and around the topside of the mould.
We set up a round mini swimming pool in the Milton Cultural Centre's courtyard and added litres and litres of water then litres and litres of waste paper pulp that had been beaten by a kitchen blender and a 1950's electric washing machine.The waste paper came from Deering Street Printers, local businesses and the how-to-vote leaflets from Milton's Polling Centre for the Federal election held on Oct 3. Children added leaves and petals to the pulp.
About 8 of us got into the "vat" cum swimming pool - Pam Gray co-ordinated the event and Michelle Dunn, Janie Murray, Mitzie McKenzie-King and Christopher, there were other children who'd come to help. We put all the materials together and stirred the pulp with our feet and our hands.Then we all took hold of the mould with the deckle on top and submerged them into the vat of pulp where we were standing.. When we pulled up the mould and deckle with the first sheet of paper on it we weren't happy because it was patchy and uneven.
Our second attempt was fantastic - the pulp was even and it was just the thickness we wanted. We drained all the water off, had lots of photos taken, took the deckle off and then left the mould with the wet paper on it leaning up against the Milton mural on the Chemist's wall to dry in the sun.
Two Shoalhaven councillors, Pam Arnold and Pat Mason witnessed and authenticated the attempt and the photos on this web site and in the local newspaper add to the validity of the world's largest sheet of handmade paper.
Now ..... here's some info about paper, recycling.
Paper is a mass of millions and millions of fibres. Fibres are thin, almost-hair-like bits of plants. When beaten with water they mesh together to make what we call paper. Just as a tree or plant can support itself and is strong, so too paper, made from the fibres of trees and plants are strong just by themselves. Paper is considered to be the seventh Wonder of the World.
Paper making began in China in 104 AD (ie about 1,896 years ago) using bamboo for pulp and for the screen you have to use. Paper was also made in Egypt using the plant papyrus. Egyptians slice the triangular papyrus stems very thinly and then they lay them down by slightly overlapping each strip and then hammering the strips until they mesh together. The Chinese made paper by beating up piecesof bamboo after they'd been soaking in water + wood ash for a long time and then they sieved the beaten pulp with a flat screen or sieve.
Until less than 200 years ago all paper was made by hand using easily-cropped plants like bamboo, Nepalese daphne, water hyacinth, hibiscus etc. Then a Frenchman realised that wasps' nest were just like paper. He saw that the wasps gnawed into tree trunks and chewed up the inside bit of the tree to make a pulp just like for paper making.
Because the printing press had been invented and developed there was a need for lots more paper. Even using all the old rags and old ropes (made from hemp fibre) to make paper there wasn't enough so the Frenchman's discovery lead to the cutting down of masses of trees just to make paper.
This discovery happened during the industrial revolution so making pulp from trees became mechanised and before long, the chopping down of trees became the bulldozing of forests. Of course, because there seemed to be so many trees there seemed to be an unlimited possibility to keep making paper from trees. And the more paper there was the cheaper it became and the more it was "needed" by printers and publishers.
All the paper makers went out of business and even now there are only about 6 papermills in the world where paper is made by hand. None of them are in Australia. One, in England, at Wookey Hole, is now part of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
What's happening now.
There is a new interest in making paper by hand; partly it's an interest in history and the old ways of doing things, partly it's an interest in art and the work of artisans and it's partly due to renewed common sense particularly about re-using things and recycling.
We recycle things because it makes sense - common sense. There is no need to throw things away (anyway, there's no 'away'). Most things we and use can be re-used, repaired and eventually recycled. Paper can be recycled many times but first it's important to re-use it. Re-use the other side of photocopies that don't turn out right. Keep a pile of scrap paper for notes, messages, drafts, children's drawings, etc. Open envelopes carefully so that you can re-use them by either crossing out the address on it or covering it up. We might not need to buy envelopes for years if we do that. Envelopes require alot of paper and energy to make so it's definitley worth re-using them. You can fold a letter so that the other side becomes the envelope - all you have to do is put a stamp on it.
Making recycled paper ( industrially or by hand) requires using far less energy and water than using trees to make paper.
How to make recycled paper by hand.
Recycling paper is very easy. Firstly it's easy to find 'waste' paper - printers have "off-cuts", offices have waste paper and most of us have newspapers and advertising leaflets that we don't want. To make pulp from this waste paper all you have to do is soak the waste paper in water for a day or two and then tear it up and beat it with an egg beater or a blender. This is usually called 'pulp' - a mixture of paper and water. Then you add the pulp to a tub of water and seive it with a screen (a wooden frame that's the size of the paper you want to make with wire stretched very, very tightly across it). What you end up with on the screen is a very wet sheet of paper. You let it drain for a minute or two and then transfer it to a wet cloth by turning the screen over onto the cloth.Then, just cover that wet paper with another cloth and scoop up some more pulp.
You make a stack of wet papers with cloths in between and then all you have to do is to get more of the water out by sqeezing the stack between two bits of board with clamps around them. Then you dry the paper by spreading them out on the cloths or transferring them onto smoothe surfaces such as doors and windows. Once the paper is dry you peel it off the cloth or the smooth surface and its's ready to use for writng, drawing or painting, unless it's crinkled and you can just press it again.
MILTON'S SETTLERS FAIR
MUM's MILTON ULLADULLA HISTORY SITE
Text from Pamela
Photos taken by my Mum
Webpage and scanning by Michelle Dunn (CLICK HERE FOR MY WEB PAGE)
5 October 1998