Homemade paper can be made from trees on your farm, garden plants or recycled paper.
Papermaking has a long history dating back to Ancient Egyptians, who pounded certain parts of the papyrus plant into a stable writing surface. Many plants, from rice to trees, can be used to make paper, and today, both recycled material and your own garden can supply materials for artisan paper that you can use for pleasure or even profit.
Photo courtesy Lane ParksConsider using homemade paper to create value-added products.
Lane Parks and his wife, Susan Ferrel, oversee a the Madrona Center, a nonprofit, rural gathering place in Washington State that caters to eco-farmers, gardeners, fine artists and others. Among various other crafts, they make handmade paper and use it for various projects, including fine-art books with covers and/or pages made with their handmade paper.
The hand-bound, homemade paper journals have contributed significantly to Parks’ personal income. They sell well at local bookstores and other gift and art outlets, so much so that the profits are used to help fund the Madrona Center.Value-added Homemade-paper Ideas
Handcrafted paper is like any art or craft in terms of turning a profit. If you can plug in to a niche market, as Parks and Ferrel did, you might create a regular income stream.
You might also consider handmade paper as inspiration for an indirect income source:
- Hold papermaking classes on your farm, with an emphasis on some of your own crops.
- Display homemade-paper products for the sale at your farm stand, a retail outlet or a local bed-and-breakfast.
- Create specialized labels for value-added food products.
- Add a personal touch to gift baskets filled with other products you make and sell from your farm.
Recreational Homemade Paper Ideas
Even if you’re not aiming for income, there are countless projects for putting your homemade paper to use. These include:
- stamped calling cards
- folded favor boxes and bags
- stationery sets
- greeting cards
- place cards
- guest books
- framed art, with or without your own art or calligraphy
Some paper artisans even embed viable garden seeds within their handcrafted paper invitations. Recipients eventually can plant the invitations directly into the ground! (Get party designs here that include invitations and place cards, which can be printed on homemade or plantable paper.) Items like these can be used as gifts, customer thank-you cards or little bonuses added to your farm’s CSA shares.
Making Homemade Paper
Upon visiting Parks' homemade-paper workshop, one quickly discovers that homegrown crops and native plants can be used to make a signature paper.
Handmade paper starts with the base fiber that makes up the bulk of the paper. The bulk of paper crafted at home is usually comprised of either recycled paper or purchased papermaking fiber, such as cotton or hemp. As experience mounts, you may recycle cotton scraps into handmade paper or even grow the bulk fiber for paper.
After you establish the bulk of the paper, add smaller amounts of other decorative materials. Parks uses various wild and cultivated plants to add color and texture to his paper. These materials from your own garden, farm or woodlands will add textures, flecks, colors and sometimes even scents that will make your homemade paper one-of-a-kind. You can try adding Bachelor's button petals, dried lavender and even spinach leaves, though these are just three examples of natural materials that you can use.
Beginning papermakers can start with less technical papermaking methods—papermaking is similar to cooking as far as being an exact science, so you improvise and experiment until you develop a method that works for you. Like putting together a new cake recipe, you eventually get faster at the process.
Click here for a handmade paper recipe. »
About the Author: Barbara Berst Adams is author of Micro Eco-Farming: Prospering from Backyard to Small Acreage in Partnership with the Earth (www.microecofarming.com) and The New Agritourism: Hosting Community and Tourists on Your Farm (www.newagritourism.com).