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Creating Specialized Paper

This week we had two special things happen at once – for one thing, we had our first batch of really fantastic weather here in St. Louis; it was around 80 degrees all week, and though we did get some storms, we had a lot of hours of sunshine, too.

The second, and more important thing, was that we received a rare and exciting type of order – one of our valued customers ordered our folio-sized sheets (23”x35”) of handmade, fern-embedded paper.   Most of our orders are for our small products – our wedding invitations, our blooming floral ornaments, our eco-friendly paper cones. But every so often, about once a year, we get an order for the really, really big sheets.

These large sheets have a lot of uses – they make for a unique and colorful matte paper for art framing, they have enough give to make for excellent letterpress stock, and they can also be “parent” sheets for any number of uniquely-sized projects like bookmarks, invitations, or even business cards. This particular client uses these sheets as liner pages for signature books.

Thanks to the warm weather, we had perfect conditions to take the show outdoors, as Alvida walks us through the process of how this fascinating stock is made.

First, we take fresh green ferns and make cuttings in a variety of lengths – the fresher the plants the better, as they retain more of the color that way. That’s true for our fern-embedded sheets, and for our flower-petal line of products, like our Floral Expressions invitation stock.

Alvida floats some of the fern fronds in a vat of water, alongside a fairly-generous portion of our paper pulp. Alvida and our other employees have been doing this for years and years, so they know exactly how much to add in.

Next, we dip a screen into the water, scooping up enough of the mixture to cover the entire screen. This is trickier than it looks – you have to do it just right to get uniform coverage and thickness across the entire screen, so it lays flat, looks right, and can be used for projects.

Then, we dry out the sheets – we have a drying room, but when an order is for hundreds of these sheets, it really helps to have a nice sunny day so we can spill out into the parking lot a bit.

Once the sheets have dried, Alvida carefully separates the paper from the screens, taking care not to tear them. The resulting paper has a fine deckled edge – the slightly uneven end that you will only find on fine, handmade papers.

Projects like this are a lot of fun for us – it’s paper-making at its finest, a process we’ve honed over decades of practice. There’s really nothing better than spending a sunny day making great paper. If you’re interested in ordering some yourself, drop us a line for more information.

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