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Hand Papermaking for the Art of Origami

By Michael G. LaFosse, Origamido Studio

Check out this step-by-step tutorial on the complex art of papermaking!

Materials

Only the finest archival plant fibers are used for origami papermaking. Clockwise, from top left: abaca, gampi, flax, and cotton rag. Gampi and the flax shown must first be cooked in a mild alkali and then thoroughly rinsed before beating. Other dried, semi-processed fibers must first be soaked in water before beating. Beaten fibers may also be blended to impart qualities of each to the resulting paper. Each design requires a recipe of materials and processes that are calculated for exacting results.

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Beater

Measured amounts of water and fiber are added to a beating machine, called a Hollander, which circulates the plant material between a metal-bladed drum and a metal bedplate, refining the stock into a uniform pulp. Bedplate-pressure and circulating-time enable us to control of the paper’s ultimate texture, strength, thinness, and sheet-forming properties.

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Adding Color

Color may be applied to dried paper, however we prefer to add the color directly to the pulp, to color it throughout. We use artist-quality, permanent pigments for long-lasting color in our final origami creations.

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Scooping Sheet

We add a measured amount of pulp to a large vat of water and agitate it until it is evenly suspended. We mostly form sheets in the Western style by scooping a papermaker’s mold through the water. The mold is composed of a frame-tensioned screen with an additional, removable frame (deckle) that corrals a specific amount of the pulp slurry onto the screen. Sheet-thickness is a function of the concentration of pulp added to the vat.

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Draining

The mold is removed from the vat and held level as water drains, leaving an even layer of wet pulp fiber on the screen. (In Nagashizuki-style papermaking, the mold may be dipped again and again, building up the thickness of the sheet. Nagashizuki-style papermaking uses a different type of mold with a removable bamboo mat. The vat water includes the addition of a viscous liquid that makes the fibers flow more slowly and evenly, allowing for the multi-layer dipping technique to be accomplished.) Both styles of hand papermaking are used in Japan.

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Fresh Sheet

Here, the frame has been removed from the mold, exposing the full area of the screen surface to ready the removal of the freshly-formed, but wet sheet of paper.

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Onto Felts

The mold with its layer of pulp is pressed against the surface of a sheet of wet felt. The sheet of pulp will adhere to the felt, releasing from the screen, which is dipped once again in the vat to form another sheet.

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Off Screen

The screen is easily lifted free from the layer of pulp. Another wet felt will be applied over top and the process repeated until all of the pulp is formed into sheets.

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Pressing

The stack of wet felts and pulp is placed between boards and pressed under tons of pressure. Pressing removes most of the water and improves the hydrogen bonding between the fibers in the sheet of paper.

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Remove from Felts

The pressed, but still moist sheets are strong enough to be removed from the felts. They are placed between blotters and corrugated cardboard sheets for final drying.

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Drying

Alternating layers of corrugated board, blotters, and pressed sheets of pulp form a ventilated stack, through which air may be forced, drying the whole batch of paper in twelve to twenty-four hours, depending upon the relative humidity. Thinner sheets dry sooner.

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Dry Sheet

Crisp, dry sheets are removed from the blotters when dry. The sheets are evaluated and sorted for use in our studio and for sale to origami artists around the world.

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Bat from Paper

This particular batch was made for the folding of my origami bat! We make a special batch of paper for each project so that we impart all of the desired qualities to the paper used for a particular project: color, texture, relative thickness, folding qualities (soft or crisp) and the archival benefits.

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