The Paper Making Process

Striving to make a work of art in which materials, process, and image are harmoniously combined, Ilse has developed the techniques required to make fine papers. Since 1992, she has refined her paper-making methods in the belief that the paper she prints on is an integral part of her creative process.

Making the Paper

Figure 1: Mashing the bark

Mashing the barkTo make the paper, Ilse uses the inner bark of the Mulberry tree, which is imported from Thailand.

She soaks the bark overnight to soften it, then cooks it in sodium carbonate for up to two hours, depending on the degree of softness required. Next, to blend the fibers, Ilse beats the softened bark with a wooden or rawhide hammer on a stone surface. To create the paper pulp, she mixes this material in a large vat containing several gallons of water combined with a gelatinous agent.

Figure 2: The Deckle Frame

Lifting the frame

Lifting the frame

A deckle-framed, nylon-screened mold is immersed in the vat of pulp. When Ilse removes the mold from the vat, the water drains through it leaving the pulp behind. She then takes off the deckle to expose the formed sheet lying on the screen.

Figure 3: Couching

Next, she “couches” the screen on a drying board. A technical term, “couching” means that in one motion the fragile pulp is flipped over and placed face down on the drying board. Ilse carefully peels off the screen, leaving the pulp sheet on the board. She repeats this process until the wood pulp has been used up, placing the boards with the fresh, wet pulp sheets outside to dry in the sun. Ilse can only make paper on sunny days.




CouchingThe sheets dry quickly and must be rotated occasionally to drain and dry evenly. It is a busy process, forming the sheets and tending to the drying at the same time.

Figure 4: Pressing the Paper

finished-paperWhile still damp, the sheets are placed in the binding press with a felt blanket. This part of the process removes excess moisture and binds together any areas of the sheet that may have been separated by bubbles in the molding stage. Finally, the finished sheets of Third & Elm hand made paper are loosely stacked to air and to await printing.