Saturday, April 21, 2007

Low Tech Paper Making Fun

One of the stumbling blocks for those of you wanting to recycle your paper trash is the inconvenience or the expense of getting a mould & deckle. You either have to buy a kit which would set you back by at least US$20 or make your own kit with 2 identical sized wooden frames from an art shop or framers, then staple gunning the mesh to one of them to make your mould.
Well, while I was still waiting for my box of leftover-in-Singapore stuff together with
my Green Bananas Paper Maker that my wonderful sis is shipping to me, I thought I'd try out a simple contraption.

Having read about it on a leaflet at the local library, I figured I'd give it a try seeing that most of what I needed was either in the house or can be got at the neighbourhood hardware store. The leaflet teaches you how to make basic paper without using the traditional mould & deckle. All it takes is some stiff metal wire, as the support and finer plastic mesh (the same ones for screen doors) as a sieve.

You tightly wrap the plastic mesh around the metal wire and then duct tape (fantastically waterproof stuff) the edges to hold both in place.

And bob's your uncle, you're all set!

For my first batch of paper, I harvested from the carpet of cherry blossoms in the garden to add as inclusions into my paper. And I used magazine pages to be blended for the paper pulp.

Blended a handful of shredded paper and added it to the vat. After 2 blender-full of pulp, I sprinkled in the previously dried cherry blossoms, and gave the mixture a good stir. Now was the moment of truth.

Would it work or wouldn't it?

Pulling the first sheet was tenuous. There was no deckle to hold the pulp mixture on the mould while the water drained. Liquid was flowing all over the place. The first sheet was uneven but complete. Phew! Pulling subsequent sheets got easier as I began to get a feel of the Meckle (a name I affectionately call this hybrid of Deckle & Mould).

Couching the paper was a cinch. And the meckle lifted without a problem and, without any serious tearing of the wet paper. Hurrah!!!

When I completed my post of papers, it was out to the balcony for something heavy to squeeze the water from the wet paper. And since I didn't feel like standing on the post throughout the night (yes, I'd put on weight since coming to Canada), the paving stone would have to do. And it worked quite well too. Nothing like using things around the house to complete a project.

The paper dried to a an off-white with brown inclusions. Not the most Scarlett O'Hara of papers but it had a salt-of-the-earth rocky quality about it.

I've made envelopes with it and together with yesterday's batch of basically white paper with Lover's Rose Elixir Tea paper I made yesterday, I've put together a neato notepaper & envelope wallet set. It goes on Etsy tomorrow. Yippee for low tech!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Spaceship Earth

The first time I heard the term Spaceship Earth, it made an engaging and compelling picture in my mind. All the colours of humanity hurtling through black space, inextricably linked together like the crew on board The Starship Enterprise, with one life-support system, one deflector shield and one warp engine. Unfortunately, this Spaceship Earth, has to do without a captain, like Jean Luc Picard, or Kirk even, in his less heady macho moments, as our moral center.

And so we scramble, each person, each group doing as we please. Fighting amongst ourselves to be right and powerful rather then to be good and decent. To accumulate more than our other crew mates while depleting the spaceship its limited resources.

As we are finding out, our Spaceship Earth is is having some problems with its environmental control and it is running out of fuel for its propulsion. How do we warp 9 into the the future now? It's a good thing that, like on Star Trek, that technology & brains are on hand to provide us with tools and ideas to help us out of our more-than-one-hour-per-episode predicaments.

This current episode's dilemma is Climate Change and the rapidly depleting stock of carbon fuels which, while give us all the comforts of life, also heat up the planet.

And as fate would have it, a bright spark on the crew manifest of Spaceship Earth, called Buckminister Fuller, had come up a simple concept that would not only increase our fuel supply, by cutting down the waste of it's distribution but also give us the time to find ways to replace the atmopshpere-heating carbon fuels with cleaner & cooler fuels.

He had different way of looking at the landmasses of the planet. One that link all of them (except Antartica) together. He called this the Dymaxion map. And if we were all linked by land, the so too could our energy grids. Forming a single World Energy Grid.

But the concept was so radical that the Captain Prime ministers, Presidents and CEOs of Spaceship Earth could not take it seriously. After all, for so many years, the Captain Comdrades of the USSR department were fighting the Captain Presidents of the USA department. How could they coorporate to save their Spaceship Earth, as Bucky's (as he was affectionately known) plan required?
But today, after the communist department has disbanded, we must ask ourselves, how can we not coorporate?

There is an ongoing project called GENI (Global Energy Network Institute) which has taken it upon itself to see that Bucky's plan is made known to all the departments on Spaceship Earth and working toward making the plan work.

This is what it says on it's website:

Two decades
ago, the late R. Buckminster Fuller
proposed interconnecting regional power
systems into a single continuous global electrical
energy grid • While this vision is still years away, tech-
nological advances have made the linking of international and
inter regional energy networks practicable today • Transmission
lines allow utilities to level the peaks and valleys of demand. This is
accomplished between East-West time zones, as well as North-South
seasonal variations in demand • The origin of the energy grid initiative
emerged as the highest priority of the World Game™. Its stated purpose
is “to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible
time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or the
disadvantage of anyone.” Research reveals that these major benefits will
result from expanding electrical networks • Increase in everyone’s stan-
dard of living • Reduction of fossil fuel demand and the resultant pollu-
tion • Relief of the population explosion • Reduction of world hunger
• Enhancement of world trade • Promotion of international
cooperation and peace • The purpose of GENI, Global
Energy Network Institute, is to educate all people,
especially world leaders, to the potential
benefits of this global
solution •

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Handmade Paper

Making your own paper can be a heady and therapeutic ride. When you can actually see something that was trash transform into something useful, right before your eyes.
My own journey on the crinkly road of paper started from my youthful need to do something to save the planet. And I wanted to literally see my efforts doing something positive. That's how I stumbled upon paper-making. Back then I thought of it as recycling. We didn't have a recycling programme those many years ago in Singapore. To be able to take things out from the waste stream and ease up pressure on our landfills was a good thing for a girl growing up in Singapore. We are a tiny island about 24km by 48km, with the scarcity of space is indelibly stamped on our psyche.

I found paper to be a very accepting medium into which you could add much. Like leaves, grass and flowers. The paper you end up with has wonderful, colourful inclusions.

Or, if you were inclined to recycled papers of different colours, you'd end up with a lighter shade of the predominant colour. So long as you don't mix too many other colours with that particular one. This sheet one is made mainly from magazine pages.

This one is from yellow pages... A fun thing to do with printed paper is to leave some of the pulp not blended beyond recognition and then sprinkle some broken words or letters on the the pulp before you pull the paper out of the vat.

And this from office waste coloured with a the crushed up pigments from dried out
poster paint tubes (recycling again!).

The pulp that forms paper when it dries also lends itself to being embossed. I did this by drying the pulp on kitschy plastic tablecloths with puffy patterns on it.

Paper pulp is a playful medium that not only lets you add things to it, emboss it, colour it. It also lets you shape it. Laura from Wildethyme used oil splatter screens as deckles to drain the water from the mushed up paper. It makes funky round paper. I've never seen anyone do that before and the results are wonderful. The very roundness of the sheet frames the paper as a work of art.

There are quite a few big box suppliers of handmade paper out there but somehow, I find the sheets from individual paper makers have a different energy to them. They are more textural and perhaps these people tell the story behind what went into the paper, these sheets are more beautiful to me.

If you are looking for special handmade papers for your crafting or scrap booking projects here are some Etsy paper makers.

Wildethyme has a brilliant and informative site with artful recycled and plant fiber papers.
Disturbedpenguinpoo has value for money sheets if you need a lot.
Lazy Sunday Crafts has great coloured embossed papers.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Spade, A Hoe & A Piece of Fertile Ground

Following from my previous post "One Billion Trees" I thought I'd really ought to take my own advice and start planting. No point preaching something if I wasn't prepared to do it myself.
The slight hitch is that I live in an apartment and there are only are two 2.5 m by 1.7 m balconies. Not a lot of space for a tree. Sorry, let me rephrase that, not enough space for ANOTHER tree.

With a faithful & sturdy four-foot something Privet standing solidly out on the back balcony and a graceful weeping Japanese Maple ( just budding and about to sprout leaves) on the front balcony, I think we were close to hitting our weight quota. So I've decided the best thing to do is to plant grasses and flowers instead.

You know, one of the most wonderful things about living in a place with four seasons is the pace of things. That you get to see things change quickly. You see plants grow from tiny pinhead sized seeds to five-foot tall Honeysuckle climbers with coral orange flowers. Then, in a few months, they fruit and you get to harvest the seeds. To start all over again next year.
Can't really do this within the time frame of a year in the tropics. But, I digress....

The thing I can do at this time and in this space, is to plant grasses and flowers. To grow green leaves to help feed the planet with oxygen whilst taking away the carbon dioxide and to feed the human spirit with the bursting colour and beauty of flower and foliage. And then plant trees wherever I can, whenever I can.

Last year, I'd harvested the seeds of sunny Californian Poppies, blood red Poppies, purple Geraniums, Vanilla scented Heliotropes and really tall grasses, whose species I don't know. But they looked so densely bushy with those tall gorgeous flower heads, I couldn't help but pick up the seeds from the paths during an autumn walk at the The Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver.

Let us hope they grow up and grow well.
And as they sprout and grow, I will water them, feed them, hope for enough sun and clement weather. And I'll take heart from a song I remember John Denver singing on Sesame Street so many years ago. It's called The Garden Song and I believe it goes like this...(click on this link to hear the melody)

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down

Pulling weeds and pickin' stones
Man is made from dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
'Cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature's chain
To my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Plant your rows straight and long
Thicker than with pray'r and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care
Old crow watchin' hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down

'Til the rain comes tumbling down

Monday, March 26, 2007

One Billion Trees

I turned on the radio in the middle of a BBC interview last week. Owen Bennett-Jones was on with his programme called The Interview. Had no idea who he was talking to or what it was about until I heard "Plant a Billion Trees". Now that caught my imagination. It turned out to be an interview with Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and environmental activist whom I'd never heard of (shows you the depth of my general knowledge!). There was something down-to-earth and compelling about the way she spoke. I listened on and was happy.

Following is the BBC's website's write up on that interview. Click on the link is you want to hear the full audio version.

<span class=Wangari Maathai is the first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize">
Environmentalist and politician Wangari Maathai

"Dig a hole and plant a tree!"

Wangari Maathai is an environmental activist, a Kenyan government minister, a Nobel peace prize winner. Her despair at the chronic deforestation evident in her home country, when she returned after 15 years abroad, led to a simple act: she began to plant trees.

To date she has helped local women plant over 35 million trees in Kenya and she is challenging the global community to plant a billion trees by the end of this year.

The connections she has made between deforestation, hunger and political unrest have brought her powerful enemies as well as international acclaim; of Daniel Arap Moy, the former Kenyan President, she says:

"He sure didn't like me much, did he!"

I've always believed that one of the simplest thing a person could do to help the planet remove the CO2 in the atmosphere and lower global temperatures was as easy as to plant a tree. And if you only have a balcony or a window, then plant flowers, herbs or shrubs. Just plant something. Anything.

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

The symbolism – and the substantive significance – of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on Earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis.
Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

Much of the inspiration comes, I'm sure, from the book (and later Oscar winning animation) titled The Man Who Planted Trees.
The story about a shepherd who revives a desolate ecosystem of a secluded valley by single-handedly planting a forest over a thirty year period. And what did he do?....why he planted 100 acorns a day.

Wangari Maathai has an organisation called the Green Belt Movement working in conjunction with UNEP, the United Nations Environmental Programme to get people all over the world to pledge and then plant at least one billion trees in 2007.

If you'd like to get involved, go to the UNEP's Plant a Billion Tree website by clicking on this link

There is a space on the on the top right hand corner that tells you the target, how many people have pledged to plant and how many have already planted trees. Currently the tally stands at 1,819,898,686 pledged and 1,008,033,579 trees planted.
Looks like we've hit the mark. But several million more can only help rather than hurt.

It's a really comprehensive site with links to organisations around the world involved in tree planting and even has technical instructions on how to successfully plant your own tree.

"If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed.
If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree
Chinese poet, 500 BC

"The best friend on Earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically,
we have one of the greatest resources of the Earth."

Frank Lloyd Wright

"They are beautiful in their peace; they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust.
They teach us, and we tend them.
Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor

"Though a tree grows so high, the falling leaves return to the root. "
Malay proverb

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
Greek proverb

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."
Martin Luther

"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"
John F. Kennedy

"Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness."
Kahlil Gibran

"A tree is our most intimate contact with nature."
George Nakashima, woodworker

"A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great. ... Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree."
Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao

"Plant trees. They give us two of the most crucial elements for our survival: oxygen and books. "
A. Whitney Brown

"To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals."
Mikhail Gorbachev

"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. "
John Muir

"The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings."
Buddhist Sutra

"People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world which cannot sustain people. "
Bryce Nelson

"Reforesting the earth is possible, given a human touch."
Sandra Postel and Lori Heise, Worldwatch Institute

Friday, March 23, 2007

Showcase of Neat Recycled Paper thingy-ma-jigs

I've been patient and quicked- fingered enough to nab an Etsy treasury.

Just doing a little to give some exposure to recycled paper products.
These crafters have wonderful things apart from what I've shown here.

Story Tale Design just starting out on etsy and has lovely stuff.

A snapshot version of it is here

But if you want to see a better and infinitely clearer version just click on this link.

Just remember the treasury is an ephemeral thing...will only last till Sunday noon-ish.
So, get clicking !

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How to Make Paper

The Materials

* Deckle (or any square frame with a wire/plastic mesh stretched across it)
*Mould ( another square frame of the same size of the sieve)
* A pair of stiff boards slightly larger than the sieve
* Smooth drying cloths slightly larger than the sieve
* A sponge
* A blender
* A tub or basin large enough to fit the sieve
* 50g or so of waste paper

The Method

1. Shred the waste paper and soak for at least 4 hours. Soak overnight if you plan to make paper the next morning.

2. Place a handful of shredded paper into the blender and fill with water to make up 1 litre.

3. Blend for about 15 seconds or until the pulp looks like wet cotton wool. Pour the pulp into the tub. Repeat until all the paper is used up. Add 2 more litres of water into the tub.

4. Place the mould over the deckle with the netting in between them. Dip the furthest end of the frame into the pulp mix. Level into a horizontal position. Make sure the frames are deep enough for the mould to be just covered with pulp.

5. Lift the frames from the mix keeping it level. The remove the mould and let the excess water drain.
6. Place a drying cloth over the pulp. Flip the deckle onto one of the stiff boards with the cloth beneath the pulp.

7. Use the sponge to draw out the excess water from the pulp. Gently knock the deckle netting to dislodge the pulp as you slowly lift up the sieve.

8. Repeat steps 4-7. Pile each finished sheet, separated by a drying cloth,on top of each other until you've used up all the pulp.

9. Place the second board on top of the finished pile. Place any heavy object on the top board to squeeze the excess water out. You could try standing on the pile if you want to feel more involved in the process :)

Paper Pointers

Some ideas to help make your new found skill more colourful, varied and fun

* Before you throw away the bottle with that last bit of perfume, add some water into the bottle and then pour the solution into your pulp. This nicely scents your paper.

* Stale potpourri, shredded and pulped with the paper will not only add scent but colour and texture to your papers.

* Should you want to be able to use markers or fountain pens on your paper remember that you first have to size the dried paper. This is easily done by lightly painting or spraying each sheet with gelatin or starch and then letting the sheet dry. Ballpoint pens, however, are fine on unsized paper.