Written by      

New Zealand Geographic readers who enjoyed learning about papermaking (Issue 9) can now make their own paper, using an inexpensive paper recycling kit developed by a Dunedin couple.

The kit contains a simple “papermaker’s sandwich” (two outer frames and a fine mesh which goes in the middle), drying boards, a sponge and an instruction book. Using this equipment, virtually any waste paper (newspaper, photocopied paper, computer paper, even junk mail) can be ripped up, pulped in a blender and turned into A5 sheets of attractive craft paper.

The applications are endless, says developer Liz Abbott, who has been making paper for six years.

“Homemade paper is great for stationery, Christmas cards, envelopes, children’s masks, sculptures, decora­tions… Add perfume to the pulp and you get scented paper. Add glitter for pizzazz—”

“Add chocolate sauce for edible paper?” I enquire.

“Why not,” she laughs. “Anything’s possible!”

One of Liz Abbott’s specialities is making three-dimensional paper sculptures, including collages and even paper earrings.

Unlike most boutique papermaking, which uses the Western method of rigid screens and presses to squeeze water out of the paper pulp, Abbott’s method draws on traditional Chinese papermaking skills, where a flexible net is used as a carrier for the pulp. The mesh and pulp is placed on cardboard, and the water sponged out; no heavy pressing is needed.

The entire process can take as little as an hour, although the longer the preparation of the pulp, the more homogeneous the final paper sheet.

Liz Abbott and former school-­teacher Peter Harris have formed a company to manufacture the paper recycling kits, which went on sale in August 1991 for $39.95.

Says Harris, “We all throw out about three trees’ worth of paper each year. Maybe our kit will help people look at their rubbish in a new light.”

More by