By: Kiana Tahiri
The earliest found fragments of paper date back to China in the second century BC. It is believed that a man by the name of Ts’ai Lun collected bark from a mulberry tree, pounded the fibers and created a sheet of paper out of its pulp. Later, the quality of paper was improved with fibers such as cotton, hemp, and old fish nets. Paper soon spread to the rest of the world with the help of the silk road. During this time, people only transcribed on silk or bamboo however, this was very expensive and unpractical. Bamboo would take up so much room on the silk road and silk was very expensive and only a few could afford it. Paper became the perfect substitute and quickly spread with the help of the silk road.
More fibers were used to make paper and it had spread to Korea. In the 6th century, Koreans made paper out of mulberry, bamboo, rice straw, seaweed, and rattan. After this, paper making was soon introduced to Japan by a Korean monk. Other fibers that were used to make early paper included hemp, linen, and cotton.
Currently, paper can be made from a plethora of plants and the natural fibers. In order to make paper from plants, the first step is to harvest the plant materials and cut them into ½ inch to one inch pieces. Next, they need to be cooked down with an alkaline substance such as soda ash and water. This dissolves any unwanted starches and sugars. Often times, it will also turn the concoction into a black paste. It is recommended to use a 2:5 ratio when cooking soda ash and plant materials. Bring this concoction to a boil and then simmer for up to two hours. The plant material will be ready when it separates along the grain. Next, the water from the pulp will need to be strained. Cheesecloth bags work perfectly for this. Sometimes, pulp will need to be rinsed out a few times with water in order to get all of the dirty residue out. After this, the pulp must be blended with hot water in order to separate and smooth out the fibers. Fill up a blender ¾ of the way up and add the ball of pulp. Finally, the last step to finish the plant based pulp is to add a thickening agent such as formation aid. Formation aid makes pulp thicker and makes it adhere to the water. This will also preserve the plant pulp so that it will not go bad. After this, the pulp is finished and ready for making sheets of paper!
In conclusion, paper making is a sacred art. Through paper, so much history has been transcribed and kept through the ages. Paper was made more available through the silk road and was used more than silk because of it’s inexpensive materials. I am happy that there are still people making paper and practicing this ancient process.
"Hand Papermaking with Plants (Illustrated Infographic)." Paperslurry. N.p., 04 Aug. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.