Turning junk mail into art.
WOULD YOUR FAMILY think you'd flipped if you pressed lawn clippings into scrap paper and called it art? Would your friends say you're batty if you shredded last year's Christmas cards, baked them in the oven, and gave them as this year's gifts? Such behavior may sound bizarre, but the elegant results will quickly turn raised eyebrows into appreciative smiles.
Back in the second century A.D., when the art of papermaking was developed in China, paper was used only for sacred texts. Today, we use paper the way Shaquille O'Neal goes through Pepsi. Making paper at home is a creative way to reuse some of this excess. You can leave your mark on these sheets before writing a word by scenting your stationery with pine needles or wrapping your presents in sheets dotted with wildflowers.
HOW TO DO IT
The process is simple. You need:
* a papermaking frame
* scrap paper (a few more sheets than the number you plan to make)
* a blender
* a deep pan or tub (e.g., a dishpan or a cat's litter box)
* a sponge
* an oven or a sunny day
* a flat, dull knife (e.g., a butter knife)
Making a Frame
The papermaking frame can be bought as part of a papermaking kit, sold at many art, gift, or stationery stores for about $25. Or you can make one yourself. Find an unpainted straight-edged wooden picture frame and remove the glass, or nail together four 1-by-1s into a square or rectangle with inner dimensions matching the size of the sheet you'd like to make. Next, tightly stretch fine aluminum or plastic screening over one side of the frame and staple it securely to the frame's sides.
Making the Pulp
You'll need a flat surface. Spread newspaper over the work area to make cleanup easier.
To make the pulp, tear three sheets of scrap paper into 2-inch squares and put them in the blender. Fill the blender the rest of the way with water. (If your blender is small, you may need to do this in two or more batches to prevent overflowing.) Mix for about 20 seconds, until the paper is a smooth pulp. Empty contents into the pan.
Put the frame screen-side down in the pulpy water (if necessary, add water to the pan to completely submerge the frame). Use your hands to spread pulp evenly across the screen. Make sure the screen is completely covered so you don't end up with holes in the sheet. Then gently lift the frame out of the pan, taking care not to shift the pulp. It's best to keep the pulp as thin as possible--if it's too thick, it takes longer to dry and will feel more like cardboard than paper.
While holding the frame above the pan, press the pulp gently with a damp sponge to squeeze excess water out of the sheet. Wring out most of the water from the sponge and continue pressing it against the pulp until you've covered every spot on the sheet.
Drying the Sheet
Put the frame into the oven (set at 225 |degrees~) for about 20 minutes, or set it in the sun to dry. When the sheet is completely dry, carefully pry a corner of the sheet off the frame with the edge of the knife. Slip the knife between the sheet and the screen, gently loosening the entire sheet from the frame. Don't try to peel the sheet off with your hands or you're likely to tear it.
After mastering the basic technique, you're ready to experiment with colors and ingredients. Mix different colors of scrap paper in the pulp, or add flower petals, glitter, small bits of ribbon, spices, or tea. Larger pieces of plant material can be boiled to soften them before being added to the blender. You can press wildflowers, leaves, lace doilies, or other larger shapes into the pulp before drying. You can also make patterns in the paper by pressing textured surfaces into the damp sheets.