The story behind our papers

We mainly use 2 types of handmade papers for our pictures and gift bags, a cotton rag paper and a Himalayan paper from the Nepalese mountains.

We use these because we love the quality, texture and colour of the papers and we love the ethics behind the company who supply us.

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Our paper suppliers

Our paper suppliers support WaterAid projects in India and Nepal. WaterAid is an international organisation dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people. Water Aid uses low cost technologies to achieve practical results. Find out more at www.wateraid.org/uk

Our suppliers and their mill recognise the value of water. Papermaking is totally dependent on water and their supply comes from their own bore well and from their rainwater capture system. None of it is wasted.

First the “virgin” water is used for white papers, then it is recycled for light, then dark coloured papers. After all this the water is used again in a cylinder mould production of paper for the local market.

No chlorine, bleaches or harmful chemicals are used in any of their papers and the final run-off is pH neutral and has been passed for irrigation use by the state authority. They use this water on their own organic farm where this year 3-4 tonnes of mangoes were grown (among other things) – some of these will end up in smoothies on the shelves of European supermarkets.

The mill in India directly employs 47 men and women from 3 local villages and indirectly provides work for bookbinders, printers, envelope makers and the carpenter who makes the moulds and deckles.

Papermaking in India

In India the idea of making handmade paper from recycled cotton goes back to the time of Gandhi and the independence struggle of the 1930s. Gandhi sought to revive village based industries not only to create jobs in the rural areas but also as a way of asserting economic independence. This was why Gandhi wore khadi, a hand loom shawl, and dhoti made from handspun yarn – products of village industry.

Small scale papermaking continues to be supported in India as a means of generating employment in the villages, where most of India’s people still live. India has readily available training and an infrastructure of intermediate technology appropriate to village conditions. As many as 22,000 people work in small scale papermaking, 30% of them women (Khadi & Village Industries, Comission 2003).

Small scale papermaking has big potential as a platform for sustainable rural development.

Cotton Rag Paper

This paper is made in a mill in India from offcuts from cotton T-shirts which arrive in massive jute sacks from hosiery mills. As well as making paper from recycled cotton they also make paper from recycled jute (yes, those same jute sacks) and from tropical crop residual fibre, banana leaf and sugar cane. None of these papers are made from wood pulp and there is no impact on India’s increasingly threatened forest resources.

Himalayan Mountain Paper

In Nepal and Bhutan the harvesting of lokta bark in the Himalayan forests provides much needed work for local people in the hill areas. The bark is stripped and the plants are cropped above ground level allowing them to regrow from the radial root. They can be reharvested after 3 to 4 years.

This is a sustainable and renewable forest resource.

On a more personal note

Before I began my card and art business I seem to have found the time to spin, weave and dye. I aimed to spin whatever fibres I could lay my hands on, and was introduced to cotton which I loved from the start, especially spinning it with a very simple spindle.

Early on I acquired a “book charkha” and was hooked. Charkha means wheel and is India’s generic term for any spinning wheel. Later, while in Australia a larger charkha found me, so I am now the very lucky owner of 2.

The book charkha was designed and then manufactured by Gandhi’s co-workers and followers as part of his “khadi movement,” to promote self-sufficiency in cloth-making.