For our second workshop of the year, we looked at recycling used paper into new paper and creating forms using wire meshes. The approach of the evening was divided between shredding paper, blending it and creating a watery mixture of paper fibers that could be reassembled into sheets as well as forms.
Tools and Ingredients:
- Old newspaper and posters
- Large tub of water
- Screen printing screens
- Washcloths / towels
- Large flat tray / plastic sheet
Preparing the Recycled Paper
For this workshop, we began by shredding old newspapers and papers. We used scissors, hands, and an electronic shredder. Regardless of the method, the key thing about preparing the paper is to make the pieces finer so that more cellulose can be released when the paper blends with the water.
Blending the Paper
Once we created the desired amount of shredded paper, the next step was to blend it with water. The proportions are quite flexible at this stage because the goal is to create a watery mix of paper pulp that can be strained and dried via evaporation.
The Mixing Process
- Place the shredded paper loosely into the blender. Don’t compact it!
- Pour water into the blender up to the line.
- Blend carefully and pour the contents into the tub of water.
- Repeat the process using a mixture of watery paper pulp and shredded paper.
Creating Sheets and Forms
Once the paper and water have been mixed thoroughly, we begin the paper making process by dipping the screens or wire meshes into the tub of water.
- Mix the water rapidly then submerge the mesh into the water. Play with the speed and duration to explore different paper thickness
- Alternatively pour the mixture directly onto the screens and wire meshes.
- Have fun and test the boundaries of what is possible!
Making and Drying Process
- Place the towels on the flat sheet
- Place the meshes on the towel to absorb the water
- Begin drying the other side with another towel (optional)
- Let the paper dry completely
When it comes to drying, the key thing is that the thickness of the paper directly determines how long it takes to dry. Depending how thick the paper is, it could take a day or more.
Separating the Paper from Mesh
Paper making relies on evaporation, so in general, there is a high risk of tearing your paper if it’s completely wet.
When screens are used to make paper it is possible to let the paper completely dry before removing it from the screen. However, the wood frame can make it slightly challenging to remove the paper. To aid the process, the paper can be removed after it has partially dried but still damp.
Removing from screens (damp):
- Turn the screen upside down so that the paper is facing the tray
- Tap the screen with your fingers, a small piece of wood, or scrap material
- Be careful not to rip the screen by tapping on it to separate the paper gradually.
For separating the paper from the mesh, it is best to wait for it to completely dry. This allows the paper to take the form the mesh completely and to be more easily separated.
Removing from meshes (dry):
- Carefully pry the mesh away from the paper along the edges
- As you progress along the edges, flatten out the wire mesh
The grey paper was the newspaper of the day, the white was the offcuts of the printing lab, and the orange was our own poster! Stay tuned for the next for the next Open-Crit and be sure to bring a project to share!